TARIQ AHMED SAEEDI (tariqsaeedi@hotmail.com)
Dec 10 - 16, 2007

Despite there are over 100 universities and number of institutions offering Information Technology and Computer Science programs in Pakistan the lots being churned out in there are to require compatibility with ongoing metamorphism of IT sector. Few advocates of real growth of IT sector want an ever changing curriculum of universities and institutes offering computer science programs and immediate activation of Sindh IT board. They think provincial IT Board is merely indulged into routine and crammed affairs, what they referred, least interested to encourage research and development activities. The weakened link of academia and industry is worsening the situation to a greater extent. In spite of government's repeated statements, this relation has yet to be strengthened. There are two pronged issues related to feeble academia-industry link. First, institutes are not obliged to be in contact with corporate sector in order to know updates on latest development. Second, IT companies have to incur an out of pocket expenses in recruiting and training of students passed out from universities/institutes. There are hardly few universities which have state of the art facilities to arrange on-campus training. Along with, after completing their education, these students find themselves in a stranded circumstance. There is no concept of exchanges that can help students finding jobs, if so but on papers. In other provinces especially in Punjab IT Board funded by government is actively organizing training and development workshops. Job fairs are often held to abridge gap between employers and job-seekers. This board is also responsible to monitor educational standards of IT institutes. Its vision is to make Punjab the hub of Information Technology and to promote economic growth in the IT sector through the implementation of e-Governance policies, IT education, and creation of Software Technology Parks. The Punjab Information Technology Board was set up as an autonomous body with the mission to develop IT as a major agent of economic activity, and to promote its use in the public and private sectors for increasing efficiency and competitiveness. Conversely, in Sindh consolidated efforts are not being invested to reinforce development of IT sector and to refine talents for the betterment of nation's economy. However, mushroom growth of computer training institutions in the province is destroying education standard unabatedly.

Academia-Corporate Link: Evanescent linkage has been witnessed following media hype which turned focus of universities and corporation towards affinity building. So called memoranda of understandings were signed among stakeholders. Seminars and conferences unfolded to assert necessity of the subject emboldened. But, it didn't last long generally. Very selected universities adhere to lend students to organizations for training and to co-operate in research and development activities. The linkage is not only important to induct graduate into industrial workforce, but also to take assistance of practically involved experts in designing study materials. Here, the situation is fairly reverse to the spirit. Typically, internships are considered to clinch grade point. Rather, in some institutions students don't even bother to do that. It is evident that many graduates are conferred with degrees without accomplishing mandatory internships. Strong link implies number of mutual advantages. IT and IT-enabled Services offer lucrative opportunities for Pakistan to join the ranks of the developed world. To pursue refined talents and innovative applications, international and local awards are organized. The reward to winner accounts in millions. Additionally, it increases chances of exposure. ICT award is a similar contest among local IT companies. The short listed best innovative products afterwards are promoted to Asia Pacific ICT award. In last award, two Pakistan's IT companies have won awards on financial and communication applications among 150 contestants. The scale and pace of growth in this sector is faster than in any other industry. The State Bank of Pakistan in its statement for the year 2006-07 reports the export figures of software and IT-enabled services US$116 million which shows a consistent annual growth. SBP adopted BPM 5 Reporting system to report the IT exports revenue, which restricted the export figures to US$116 million only. In India, the Reserve Bank of India follows the BPM 6 Reporting System, which raises its exports to billions of US dollars. BPM 6 includes sales to multinationals, earning of overseas offices & salaries of non-immigrant overseas workers to export revenue. Using the MSITS Reporting System, Pakistan IT Industry exports are estimated at US$ 1.4billion while the industry size is estimated at US$ 2.8 billion. Pakistan IT exports growth in each of the last few years has been more than 50%. Indian IT Industry is one of the fastest growing sectors of the Indian economy. Indian IT Software and Services Sector has reported a quantum jump of 31.4 per cent, posting aggregate revenue of US$29.6 billion during 2005-06. The software and services sector is projected to grow by 25 to 28 per cent to approximately US$31 billion during 2006-07. The growth in the software and services exports was 33 per cent during 2005-06 aggregating revenue of US$23.4 billion as against US$17.7 billion in the last fiscal. The domestic market grew by 24%. The total employment in the sector is estimated to reach the 1.3 million mark in 2006-07.

Corporate Scenario: Total number of IT companies registered with Pakistan Software Export Board is close to 1082. Out of which 384 are in Karachi, 276 in Islamabad, 353 in Lahore, and 60 in various other localities. The government has been developing the IT sector in Pakistan since the last few years. Incentives offered to IT companies include tax exemption till 2016, establishment of IT Parks with low rent, foreign ownership of equity invested in IT and 100% repatriation of profit allowed to IT companies. It is said, government is not at all subsidizing in real terms to IT companies. Incentives are for export oriented products only and not for domestic ones. IT Parks have not been established. PSEB internship programs have resolved to manage workforce demand-supply while IT companies have to bear all brunt of increasing overheads, which they incur to train fresh graduates. Small IT companies should be financially supported in this area. Government's special attention is needed to explore and develop world class talents in IT industry of Pakistan.