INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY PENETRATION IN PAKISTAN
Apr 06 - 12, 2009
Use of Information Technology, particularly in developing countries, has expanded rapidly in recent years. Information technology penetration rates differ distinctly between developed and developing countries and across developing countries. A profound analysis of the expansion patterns and contributions of information technology in a number of countries like China, India, Malaysia, Taiwan, Philippines, Singapore, and South Korea, reveals that rapid socio-economic progress in these economies significantly accelerated due to proficient and cost effective access to information.
The computers came to Pakistan in mid 60's when second-generation computer was installed at Karachi. Presently, there are over 1800 mainframe and minicomputers, about half of which are in the government sector. The growth in the number of computers during the last ten years was over 50%. This has been possible due the governments moderate import policy and reduction/removal of duties. According to an estimate, there are roughly 1500,000 new computers in Pakistan. While this seems a miserably the small numbers, it represents a three-fold increase compared to last few years. Analyst predicts that this number will increase 4-5 times in the next three years.
The Internet market in Pakistan is showing positive trend. According to estimates, Internet subscribers are more than 300 million on the globe and Internet growth rate is 100 per cent per year. Internet took only five years to reach 50 million users.
The government of Pakistan has taken initiatives to extend the Internet in the country. For this reason, Internet accessibility has been made available at local call charges just by dialing 031. Within few years, almost 95 per cent of the population will be on line and 450 cities will be connected to the Internet. PTCL is decreasing the higher charges of leased lines for the ISPs. International leased line charges have been decreased five times in the last three years. Currently, 53 per cent reduction has also been made. PTCL is also decreasing the domestic leased lines charges. PTCL has recently decreased the bandwidth charges by 25 per cent. On the other hand, to enhance the data processing rate, the government has taken steps to ensure using of 128 kilobyte per second (Kbps) loop line by the ISPs. For the time being, ISPs are using the 64Kbps loop line for the data communication. More advanced technologies are available now and advanced countries and most of the regional countries are using them.
The government of Pakistan has launched an incorporated program to promote Information Technology. Under this program, new IT Universities, including virtual University and Institutes are being established under the public and private supervision for the promotion of IT in the country.
Pakistan has just 2.34 per cent telecom density, which, compared to other regional countries, is low but still greater than India. Sri Lanka is having telecom density equal to 2.84, China has 8.62 percent, and Malaysia has 20 percent penetration rate.
PTCL is targeting to increase it to 5.6 per cent. Cost of the computers is a factor defying spread of the Internet. In the last few years, although there was spiky decline in the prices of computers, still these are not in the reach of the common people. A significant obsession for the spiky decline in the computer prices is the free competition in the world markets. Developing countries, such as Pakistan, are really benefiting from the unbranded computers and violation of copyright laws. Unbranded computers have lower prices compared to the branded ones. China, Taiwan, Singapore, and some other regional countries are producing inexpensive computers and accessories. On the other end, due to the copyright violations, computer software is accessible at very nominal rates. It is disappointing the software development market in the country and people find less magnetism in the software development due to the less return for their efforts.
Computer illiteracy is another constraint to the spread of Internet. People are not familiar with the use of computers. Unfamiliarity with English language is also causing slow Internet subscription. Recently, the government has decided to develop Urdu soft wares, which will lead to increase in the computer usage and ultimately Internet subscription will increase.
A market survey shows the gap between the information technology penetration ratio of theory (University sector) and practice (Enterprise sector). IT penetration ratio is calculated by dividing total number of computers in a place with total number of users. The result shows that information technology has penetrated more in our enterprises (63%) as compared with the university sector (26%). This gap shows that our education sector needs to have more penetration of information technology.
The dilemma in Pakistan is the flight of intelligence to foreign countries, as more and more software experts are leaving the country. Developed countries are attracting the young Pakistan's IT experts. This situation will obstruct the government to attain the proposed IT goals and until now, no serious efforts have been made to stop the brain drain.
Information technology market in Pakistan is moving in positive course but there is a need for positive steps, such as constructive use of the Internet technology by individuals. A market survey shows that most of the people are using Internet for the entertainment and fewer use it for productive purposes. It is the need of the time to use the modern Information Technology to acquire modern knowledge and produce skilled labour.