ITCN AND FIRST IT PARK

  By SYED M. ASLAM
Aug 19 - 25, 2002

A couple of events last week are expected to give the much needed boost to the IT and related industry the biggest and the only port city of Pakistan, Karachi. The city hosted the prestigious ITCN Asia 2002 Exhibition for a second consecutive year from 10-12 of this month while it also had its first ever IT Park the same week.

The above developments, when viewed in the context of the city's lagging performance in the field of IT, are all the more important as they have the potential to bring a positive change in the economy of the city with regard to IT. Despite housing the largest number of software houses Karachi's share in the overall software exports remain un-proportionately low. Despite being the biggest consumer of IT-related products and services be it the hardware, software, internet, etc. the city's economy has failed to benefit from any and all inherent benefits.

NATIONAL IT PARK

The establishment of the first National IT Park in the city was announced by the Managing Director of Pakistan Software Export Board, Suhail Shahid, at a function primarily attended by IT entrepreneurs on August 13. Technology Parks, he said, play an utmost vital role in the development of any IT industry and the importance of the same is also true for Karachi which remained devoid of such a facility till recently. "The establishment of the Technology Park in Karachi was all the more important as 70 per cent or about 480 companies registered with the PSEB are located in Karachi."

The National IT Park is housed at newly-built Caesars Towers on the major road, Shahrah-e-Faisal, spread over top five floors of 15-floor building. The centrally located location close to the business and trade centers in the heart of the city offers a total covered area of over 320,000 square feet to facilitate IT entrepreneurs to set-up customized offices. Caesars Towers is renamed the National IT Park offering the space to the IT entrepreneurs on both rental and ownership basis. The un-limited space rental fee is Rs 22 per square feet while it costs Rs 1,500 per square feet if an entrepreneur wants to acquire it on ownership basis. The price for the both includes security and janitorial services and full standby generator facility round the clock. Though the building is centrally air conditioned, an entrepreneur has to pay extra for the facility if he chooses to use the facility.

Suhail said that PSEB will be establishing a second IT Park in the financial district of Karachi and a third in Defence area soon. "What's unique about the IT parks in Karachi is that they will also houses a model Call & Data centres for the first time ever in the country so as to help encourage value-addition. PSEB will also establish an advisory council to provide free of cost information to the software and IT companies pertaining to such important matters as mergers and acquisitions."

The PSEB, Suhail said, has also initiated an industrial automation programme. "A total of 550 industries will be automated under this plan in phases 50 in the first phase and 500 in the second. Some 81 software houses have already applied with the PSEB to offer their services under this programme while about 19 SMEs are in the process of applying for this job. Around 180 industrial units have shown intent to benefit from the programme."

ITCN ASIA 2002

The marketing director of ITCN Asia, Syed Atiq-ur-Rahman, said that the event has helped conveyed a positive image of not only Karachi but also Pakistan. "This is primarily so as the event made a good news from a country from which good news are never made a good copy.

"A total of 330 stalls were occupied of which 40 per cent belonged to foreign exhibitors while the remaining belonged to local companies. Around 560 foreign delegates expatriates and foreigners including those belonging to neighbouring countries visited the exhibition. The great demand for space is evident from the fact that we were unable to accommodate 62 companies due to lack of space. A total of 350,000 visitors, including 105,000 trade and business visitors, visited the exhibition while a total of 30 MoUs and agreements were also signed during the three-day event. About 37 large media groups covered the event."

Atiq said that event also proved to be an economic boon to many other sectors of the economy. "Some 50,000 people worked for the event directly while another 20,000 were associated with it indirectly for as long a period as six months. All the four-star hotels were booked to the capacity during the whole duration of the event while it also gave a boost to the tourism industry. Not only the sales of such items as carpets, leather and gift items went up but also the sales of bouquets."

Atiq said that the event not only sent a positive image about the city and the country but also helped bring a positive change in the economy of the city with regard to IT. He claimed that 40 per cent space of ITCN 2003 exhibition scheduled to be held from August 9-11 next year has already been booked a year in advance.