BETTER LATE THAN NEVER
For sure success in the days to come, IT sector has to become one of the most dynamic sectors of investment in Pakistan
By KHALIL AHMED
Dec 05 - 11, 2005
Information Technology is not restricted to only computer technology knowledge. It has gained a pivotal significance in every walk of life. Laloo Prasad Yadav and such people oppose the importance of information technology citing the perils of unemployment etc. but such people are scarce. Franklin D. Roosevelt (1882-1945) had said, "A conservative is a man with two perfectly good legs who, however, has never learned to walk forward". IT has assumed unprecedented importance in the global village.
Kofi Annan on 17 May, World Telecommunication Day, had said, "While it took telephone three quarters of century to reach 50 million users, the World Wide Web achieved the same feat in only four years."
The ease provided by Internet, Data Communication Network Services, Cellular Mobile Telephone Services, Card Pay Phone Services, Vehicle Tracking System and Close User Group for Banking Operations, was beyond the imagination of humanity till the advent of IT.
The United States led in IT and Europe followed it. Pakistan was complacent in response but now plenty of efforts are being made to cope with the rapidly changing global scene. Pakistan has been quite prompt to give Computer Software and Information Technology the status of industry.
In the contemporary electronic era, e-government system has become the need of the hour. E-government system helps streamline the flow of information between officials and citizens, cut operating costs and boost economies.
The current Pakistan government is resolute to embark on e-governance and a paperless environment in all ministries and departments. This five-year plan of e-government implementation would help our country meet the global challenges in keeping pace with international practices. Performance, decision-making and efficiency will be enhanced. However, as nothing comes without price, we will have to see the cost incurred for the implementation. The notion of e-government has become inevitable globally but the cost incurred against implementation and training employees is also a subject to take care of.
The government has decided to offer contracts worth over US$50 million by the end of 2006. India observed Year of e-governance in 2002. In 2003, Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee drew up US$560.6 million e-governance plan for 2003-07. It was predicted that government's IT spending would increase by 15 per cent a year over the next five years. At the moment it is foreseen that Indian e-govt spending is to hit US$3.3 billion by 2009. The planning for e-government is an excellent idea in case it is handled prudently keeping all pros and cons in view. There are approximately 370 million e-voters in India which has brought transparency in the electoral system. Such practices if brought about would prove a milestone in the history of Pakistan and would be a welcoming effect.
The benefits of information technology are manifold. Some of the recent developments by the government due to the information technology are worth-mentioning. Pakistan's Hajj application automation process project worth US$508,000 would provide convenience to general public in case it does not become an expensive white elephant. The recent official launch of electronic filing of income tax returns for the tax-year 2005 by the Central Board of Revenue is worthwhile since it would facilitate the taxpayers. This would save the taxpayers from the predicaments faced earlier due to the manual process. The distance learning program offered by Allama Iqbal Open University has not prevailed as predicted. Since its establishment in 1974, AIOU has not left any overwhelming impact on the masses. In this modern world, such an approach would not get popularity. The launch of Virtual University seems prudent and may prevail. With massive advertisement campaigns and two television channels, VTV1 and VTV2, Virtual University seems to have gathered momentum.
Like all other delays we delayed conducting India-Pakistan IT Summit. This step should have been taken long ago for better cooperation and exchange of technology. Pakistan Software Houses Association (P@SHA) took a constructive step organising the first ever India-Pakistan IT Summit in Pakistan last year in collaboration with NASSCOM, India's software and IT industry association. Such initiatives would help both the countries in the area of research & development and in discovering opportunities for progress.
The global healthcare IT market is estimated to be worth $50 billion a year. Information technology to date in healthcare has been used for billing and hospital admissions. It can be used in maintaining electronic records and for data transfers. A recent study reveals that computerized medical records could save up to $81 billion per annum. The information technology experts of our country need to look into this lucrative opportunity.
India announced an income tax of over 36% on foreign firms involved in software, R&D and customer service operations in India last year. This is an excellent opportunity for Pakistan to attract foreign investors since skilled and educated labor force is available at low wages. Through investor-friendly Information Technology policy of Pakistan an investment of $150 million was attracted in 2000. We need to render invaluable services to our country by making concerted efforts to see leading IT companies like India's Tata Consultancy Services, HP Globalsoft, i-flex, Oracle, Mphasis, Xansa, NIIT, Computer Associates, Zensar Technologies, Mindtree Consulting, Wipro Infotech, Nucleus Software, Newgen Software Technologies etc.
For sure success in the days to come, IT sector has to become one of the most dynamic sectors of investment in Pakistan.