To compete with the growing economies, Pakistan needs to bring its workforce to the international educational standards, incorporate new technologies and lay intense focus on building an information-based economy by upgrading the technical and managerial skills of its people.

SADAF AURANGZAIB, Senior Correspondent
Dec 18 - 24, 2006

No invention has ever influenced human beings as computer has. In less than seven decades of its existence it has managed and materialized the concept of a global village. Technologies like Computational Intelligence, Neural Networks, GeneticAlgorithms, Data Communication & Networks, Telecommunication, Databases, and Evolutionary Computing, etc. collectively offer the business community a broad set of tools capable of addressing problems that are much harder or virtually impossible to solve using the more traditional techniques from statistics to operations research.

Running a country and putting it on the track of development is a very complex task and might require decision making on the basis of the country's past experience and present situation which is obviously available in the form of data. Today's best technology to manage and process data is the Information Technology. Information Technology implementation is one of the ways to fulfill and execute the development factors on the right way, which will help the nation grow in peace and prosperity, which will create a momentum that will result in the development of the country.

Information Technology has brought about a revolution in economic growth of most developed and emerging economies through its strong restructuring impact on economic activities and processes. IT is influencing every aspect of human life be it trade, services, manufacturing, government, education, research, entertainment, culture, defense, communications, etc. It has been a catalyst and a change agent of the present time and is expected to play this role even more in the coming decades. Talking about the role of IT for the economy, we can see that a dramatic transition in the global economy is taking place. The globalization movement, which involves new economic world order and trade arrangements, has put developed and industrialized nations in the forefront of commerce. Then there is the shift taking place from the oil-powered economy to the technology-driven economy followed by digital economy. In both movements, the wealthy economies and affluent sections of society in these economies will control the origination, maintenance and continuous growth in the decades to come.

Information Technology can open up this corridor of opportunity. In a major foreign-policy speech at the University of Nebraska on December 8, 2000, President Clinton had pointed out that there are 700 high-tech companies in Silicon Valley headed by Indians, and called for an end to the "cold war estrangement" between the US and India, and the start of a systematic, committed relationship. Indian IT, in other words, is even making a positive impact on US foreign policy, at least as perceived through Indian eyes! There are, of course, many IT companies in the US headed by Pakistanis as well, and the IT sector in Pakistan too is flourishing. However, Pakistan seems to have lagged behind in its marketing of these skills. This is surely an area that we could cooperate in, particularly since the Indian IT industry is starved of qualified people. One area in both countries that does need special attention is IT education. The IT sector is highly labor-intensive, and the lack of trained professionals could easily squander the positive international image that we have painstakingly built up.

In Pakistan, computers came in mid 60's when second-generation computer was installed at Karachi. The growth in the number of computers during the last 10 years was over 35%. This has been possible due to government's liberal import policy and reduction/removal of duties. From the IT revolution, a new kind of economy namely 'K-Economy' has emerged in which knowledge, creativity and innovation play an ever-increasing and important role in generating and sustaining growth. In this economy, knowledge is the most critical factor of production and generates more wealth than other traditional factors of production, land, labour and capital.

The Medium Term Development Framework of the Pakistan government lays emphasis on transforming the existing economy to a K-based economy in least possible time. The major achievements regarding various E-Governance initiatives are: (a) Urdu Lexicon has been developed which will increase the use of Internet by the common citizen's manifolds. This will extend the benefits of IT Technology to the rural population in Urdu language. (b) The Automation of National Assembly and Senate. This will improve the efficiency of the government by integrating the core functions on an electronic platform. (c) Provisioning of Hardware and Licensed Software in 31 divisions of Federal Government was completed. Deployment of Network and Fiber equipment in 28 divisions was also completed. (d) Fiber Deployment for connectivity of 52 major entities of Federal Government with NTC was initiated. (e) Internet Services were provided to 7 divisions of the Federal Government. (f) The facility of Machine Readable Passports has been provided to 28 Regional Passport Centres and 10 foreign missions. The project is being implemented by the Directorate General of Immigration and Passports. (g) A Police Record and Office Management System is being designed to improve the functioning of police all over Pakistan by the introduction of IT. The project is being implemented by the Pakistan Police Bureau (h) A project for Personal Identification Secure Combat and Evaluation System is being implemented by FIA to computerize the record of people entering and leaving Pakistan through land, sea and air routes. (i) A project for automated finger print identification system is being implemented with the assistance of US government to combat terrorism and crimes by capturing fingerprints of all criminals by the police through digitization in a database. (j) A project for the establishment of a motor vehicle registration system is being implemented by the Chief Commissioner Office in Islamabad. (k) The Pakistan Computer Bureau is working with the Ministry of Education and Provincial Education Departments not only for improving the quality of education but also for the provision of I.T. In the Public Sector Development Programme 2006-07, an amount of Rs.3,727.411 million has been earmarked for the development of Information Technology sector. Substantial funds are allocated for the implementation of E-Governance, development of IT Industry and Human Resource. It is anticipated that such significant investment will spur research & development and expand employment opportunities. It is estimated that 107 IT projects will be implemented by various ministries and divisions in the financial year 2006-07. Major thrust will remain on e-governance as nearly 50% of the total IT projects are for e-governance.

Important new initiatives include:- (1) Automation of District Courts and Case Management System in Punjab, Sindh, NWFP, Balochistan and AJK. (2) Land Revenue Records Management System in Rural Areas of ICT. (3) Automation of TCP. (4) Federal Government E-Procurement System. (5) E-Office Replication at 41 divisions of the Federal Government. (6) Federal Government E-Procurement System. (7) Computerization of Police Stations.

The Pakistan government is making such policies that are promoting information technology. Pakistan's economy is still largely based on the low-tech, low-value industries in different sectors that have long been fully mechanized and running very efficiently in developed nations and, therefore, do not attract premier revenue from world markets.

The world economy has already moved from low-value basic industries to a fast paced high-value information based economy. Many countries have taken concrete steps to rejuvenate their stagnated industrial base by rapidly moving to the new-age technologies to produce products and services that are in great demand in the world markets.

Information Technology is the current choice of many developing and developed countries to upgrade their economies and become competitive in the global market place. The IT-based economies have streamlined the most complex economies of the world and enhanced the productivity to an optimum level. To compete with the growing economies of the world, Pakistan needs to educate, train and bring its workforce to the international educational standards, incorporate new technologies and modern management practices into its industry, and bring intense focus on building an information-based economy by upgrading the technical and managerial skills of its people.