PAKISTAN AT THE CROSSROADS
PAKISTAN IS BECOMING THE HOT NEW OFFSHORE IT DESTINATION
AROOJ ASGHAR (Arooj.firstname.lastname@example.org)
Oct 05 - 11, 2009
Telecom and IT have been developing side by side in many countries including Pakistan. Telecom sector, however, remains one step ahead in making its roots in the system. The telecom sector provides the bandwidth, which is the backbone for the IT sector to flourish. The full impact of the global recession on the IT services and telecommunications sectors is still emerging. Worldwide information technology spending growth is expected to come down further in 2009 and 2010.
In Pakistan there was an increase of over 40% in the number of internet users in the past year that reflects the growing interest in information technology in the country. It is particularly encouraging because it allows a greater proportion of the population access to a cheap and very quick way of communicating with the rest of the world. The sector comprises of more than 1000 IT & ITeS companies operating in Pakistan, of which many are either ISO certified or CMMI apprised. The industry employs a workforce of over 100,000 professionals, which is also growing exponentially. Many Pakistani companies have developed and are exporting world-class products, which are acknowledged leaders in their domain.
Internet is literally an infinite source of information and knowledge and because of that it can be very empowering for users. This particular benefit is especially important in Pakistan where wider access to education, knowledge and information is vital for progress. The most fundamental measure of IT readiness is the telecom infrastructure and the reach of network services and the bandwidth consumption in Pakistan has increased from 800MB in 2003 to 2,500 in 2007. It is an encouraging factor that software, hardware and technologies are also getting cheaper day by day. So, people are buying more and more personal computers (PCs). Another reason for the expected speedier IT growth is that today the businesses are competing against the global forces. To remain competitive, the country's businesses must adopt latest technologies, which provide quality controls and operational efficiencies.
The promotion of information technology and Internet use has contributed to a rapid growth in this field. However, it needs to be pointed out that an increase in the number of net users has not meant a corresponding increase in the quality of service provided by the internet companies. Besides, many internet service providers (ISPs) have not passed on to consumers the benefit- in the form of lower prices -of reduced government rates for purchasing bandwidth.
These days in terms of IT awareness, most private schools are well equipped with IT facilities and the government has also provided computer labs and staff to 1,100 government schools. People have access to information as they never have before, for satellite television, radio, print and the internet cast between them, a net that leaves hardly any person out, however remotely they may be located.
Information technology has evolved as a field of umbrella sciences, bringing innovative solutions to the already established fields of human endeavors. From defence, medical, education, business to public and social services, IT has helped in achieving numerous breakthroughs by providing sophisticated new approaches and solutions, such as introduction of electronic financial solutions and digital signatures. Large private sector organizations are using state-of-the-art IT solutions as IT usage in the business sector in Pakistan has proliferated and even small establishments today are using IT for competitive advantage. Use of IT in the public sector has also grown significantly and the IT spend by the government has registered a healthy growth. Citizen services like online Income Tax filings, computerized national ID card, electronic gateway to Pakistan Customs, database on poverty alleviation at Pakistan Baitul Mal, have made a remarkable difference and passed the benefit of IT enabled services to all strata of society.
India is 4 times bigger in size and 7 times bigger in population than Pakistan. It is a huge IT market, which attracts the international companies. Pakistan has the potential to become a new IT hub after India. Pakistan is the hot new offshore information technology destination. Pakistan has given tax exemption on income from export of computer software and related services until 2016. China wants to develop relations in IT sector with Pakistan and our cooperation in the IT field would further grow to counter Indiaís influence in this sector. Thousands of young Pakistanis are getting overseas work offers through internet. They contact the foreign IT companies and organizations, offer them their services and get work from them.
Pakistan's IT sector is one of the fastest growing sectors in Asia, and we need a concerted effort to document and disseminate information about the vibrant IT sector in Pakistan to relevant international bodies and forums. The government should chalk out a sensible course for the growth of IT in Pakistan. The government could increase its tax revenues and socio-economic growth by checking software piracy and promoting the sale of legal software.
It is interesting to note that the computers came to Pakistan in mid 60's when second-generation computer was installed at Karachi. Now even after the lapse of four decades Pakistan economy is still largely based on the low-tech, low-value industries that have long been fully mechanized and running very efficiently in developed nations. In order to put its economy on track to compete with the growing economies of the world, Pakistan needs to quickly take steps to train and bring its workforce to the international educational standards, incorporate new technologies and modern management practices into its existing industries, and bring intense focus on building an information-based economy by upgrading the technical and managerial skills of its people.