Local IT demand will only be created if the users themselves are IT literate

SHABBIR H. KAZMI, Special Correspondent
July 02 - July 08, 2007

PAGE: Does Pakistan occupy any visible position on the global IT map?

SHAHIDA SALEEM: The Global IT industry is projected to be over US$ 200 billion, with India's current exports accounting for 9% of the total. Pakistan currently stands at US$ 100 million. Despite the low numbers, Pakistan has become increasingly more visible as a potential IT source over the past 2-3 years, especially with costs rising in India.

PAGE: Does the country produce credible software for local as well as global customers?

SHAHIDA SALEEM: Pakistan has had several major international as well as local success stories of Pakistani software companies such as Si3, Netsol, TPS and others.

PAGE: Is the country capable of producing IT literate/savvy professionals?


PAGE: Is the curriculum being following by the IT educational institutions capable of producing world class professionals?

SHAHIDA SALEEM: Pakistan has several world class institutions producing very good caliber professionals. Unfortunately they are not enough. A comprehensive long term plan needs to be implemented by the Higher Education Commission for serious long term growth of the industry, combined with key infrastructure, finance and market support. In addition, local IT demand will only be created if the users themselves are IT literate. As such, in addition to focused IT professionals, Pakistani educational institutions need to focus on providing core IT literacy skills.

PAGE: Is specific attention being given to educate females?

SHAHIDA SALEEM: No, in fact this is an area that requires much more focus by the government at all levels. Generally, women's training programs reflect common gender stereotyping, with little thought to long term impact or industry demand. In addition most gender based training programs have focused on micro enterprise, or cottage industry rather than true long term entrepreneurship development.

PAGE: What role is being played by women entrepreneurs in the IT industry?

SHAHIDA SALEEM: The IT industry has a higher percentage than other industries of women entrepreneurs; however that percentage is still very low. Given the proper training, IT presents a tremendous opportunity for women entrepreneurship, even more so because in many cases, business can be conducted without ever leaving the home, a major obstacle to working for many of Pakistan's women. In addition various international case studies have proven that IT/ ICT based business can be successful even in remote rural areas. ICT based women enterprises have been specifically focused upon. A recent example comes from a village area where 5 village women together formed a small business called digital graphics, simple digital photo studio that has become their major source of income.

PAGE: What are the key activities of Dotz technologies?

SHAHIDA SALEEM: Dotz technologies focus on integration and utilization of technology in various social development areas such as education, health, and poverty alleviation. The activities range from software/application design, to complete program formulation and management. Projects include applications such as e-Sehat, which is an application designed to connect patients in rural areas to doctors in major hospitals.

Shahida Saleem is the Founder and President of d.o.t.z Technologies, Founder and Director of the Catco Group of Companies (1991), Chairperson Standing Committee on Technology, Federation Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industry, Founder and Director International Society for Technology in Education Pakistan, and Director Pakistan-US Business Council.

Shahida's primary area of expertise is social development using emerging technologies. She has 20 years of international management experience and has pioneered several social development initiatives in Pakistan, targeted at creating holistic solutions for achieving the Millennium Development Goals. Her projects are focused on key nation building areas including education, trade & business development and women's empowerment, where Information & Communication Technologies (ICTs) are used as enablers.

As a highly respected and valued member of both the US and Pakistani business communities and as an acknowledgement of her unconventional, holistic approach, Shahida has been invited to share her expertise on many boards at the institutional, national and international levels. Currently, she serves on the Advisory Board of The Center for International Private Enterprise (CIPE) and the Prime Minister's Advisory Team for Educational Policy Planning, Implementation & Management. Shahida also chairs the FPCCI Standing Committee on IT and is the Vice Chairperson for FPCCI Standing Committee on Education. As part of the Board of Directors for Pakistan Post, Shahida is working on the integration of IT to improve the postal services in Pakistan.

A frequent speaker on social development issues, Shahida has represented Pakistan at various national and international events, and has been the recipient of several prestigious awards including the Woman Entrepreneur of the Year award (1998). Shahida holds a BS/MD degree from the City University of New York.