ICT NEEDS GOVERNMENT ATTENTION
TARIQ AHMED SAEEDI
Dec 28, 2009 - Jan 03, 2010
As the new technologies are evolving in the world, information and communication technology sector in Pakistan is transforming its shape to the extent to reflect changes and emergence of new fields. Despite this adaptation process is apparently sluggish the persistency with which this process is taking place indicates that ICT would turn out a leading contributor to real economic growth in near future. Telecommunication sector is the major driver of internal and foreign investments. However, its economic contribution has not resulted so far in growth of real sector driven by manufacturing activities. A service sector, telecom instigated GDP growth from consumer side. The growth momentum of information technology enabled services (ITeS) is remarkable, thereby creating relatively high employment opportunities. According to an estimate, it has an average 50 percent growth rate. According to PSEB, Pakistan's global IT revenue will touch $9 billion by June next year. Significant revenue of this sector goes unnoticed because of the non-registration of several small and large IT companies engaged in online outsourcings services, software designs, graphics and animation, etc. Call centre is another emerging field in the country being recognized by multinational companies for handling of entry-level calls. This is useful for call traffic management for FMCGs, hospitals, etc. Increase in call traffics enhances the need of software managers.
Telecom sector is growing at a substantial rate. Cellular industry in particular peaked near maturity mark in 2009. However, its players are still to get hold of upcoming technology launches such as 3G in the face of stiff competition, and to harness broadband services at infancy stage. Presently, Pakistan has 63 percent teledensity growing at an average annual rate of 5.4 percent. The broadband subscriber base is growing at substantial rate because of speed and price of this internet service offered to them. According to Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA), broadband subscribers grew 146 percent to 413,809 during last fiscal year. Price advantage of broadband is attracting customers. There is a huge market for broadband services for Pakistan as penetration level is still 0.26 percent while mobile penetration is 58 percent.
PTA and State bank of Pakistan is preparing a regulatory framework for giving an access to mobile phone users of banking. This would help users to do banking transactions on mobile phones. The numbers of mobile phone users reached 94.3 million by the end of June 2009. Government collected Rs112 billion taxes from telecom sector during FY09 while total revenue from the sector Rs327.8 billion, a 20 percent up as compared to preceding fiscal year. Local Loop (LL), Wireless Local Loop, and Long Distance International made 34 percent of total telecom revenue. PTA lunched WLL services in AJK and northern areas 82 percent population of which is covered by mobile services. Telecom sector has received so far $1.7 billion investments in infrastructure expansion and other setups by local and foreign companies. There are six cellular service operators in the country covering 90 percent of the country. Though pressure exerts on government to reduce taxes on import of mobile sets, yet the same is not in action to make investors invest in secondary sector for in house supply of telecom equipments. In July-June 2009, telecom imports grew 20 percent to $1.6 billion.
Pakistan Software Export Board (PSEB) registered 100,000 workers in information technology sector. According to the board, IT sector will need 235,000 IT professionals by end of this fiscal year. Only a small number of IT professionals find no problem in getting jobs after graduation. Too, these professionals turn out exportable. Remaining graduates or school letdowns need to prove their experiences in IT field before they are appointed. Needless to mention, first lot hails from premier IT institutes. Money draws a fine line between the two. Those who can afford high fees learning are destined for highly paid job. Second group needs rigorous on-the-job training because of the anemic mentoring he or she went through during study.
Improvement in teaching standards hit snag because of scarcity of quality teachers. Private sector edges out public sector by recruiting learned teachers on high remunerations. A significant segment of country's population cannot afford exorbitantly priced education. Generally, IT education centers under government's purview lack teachers and teaching aids required to produce employable students. Moreover, IT education institutions concentrate in urban parts of the society, depriving rural population or people living in the outskirts of the faculty of science.
Growth of telecom sector was outstanding. It is an undeniable fact equally that it is a source of income for many local vendors who manufacture and sell telecom accessories. In addition to this, there is a transfer of technology. Yet, the transference and employment creation are for commercial benefits of companies more than local economy. Overall, ICT accelerated consumption of imported goods and services. In fact, consumer market is what has attracted companies to land capital.
There is a need that the government must support information and communication technology sector to reduce employment rate, drive economic growth, and obtain global recognition in the sector. By capitalizing on resources that include youth in the country, Pakistan can emerge as contending Asian nation acclaimed in the world for its rapid progress in information technology after India and China. Pakistan has a large pool of working age youth who can be a bane or boon that depends on which direction they are guided to. To promote entrepreneurship or self-employment that is needed to expedite the slow-moving economic growth, one way is to focus on institutional developments. First, outreach of education centers disseminating knowledge of communication technology should be extended.
Participation of the whole society in development of the sector is not possible until IT knowledge diffusion is widespread. A wide disparity in quality of public and private education can be removed by funding to state-run education institutions, which are not maintaining pace with the world's developments because of paucity of funds. Government should increase the education budget from present single digit. It must allocate a separate fund for information and communication technology, which should also be used for curriculum developments and revision, teachers' training and recruitments, and procurements of new technologies and equipments.
A strict monitoring of funds utilization is imperative. Since the concept of venture capital has not gained popularity because of its narrow range, there is need to widen financing facilities for IT and telecom entrepreneurs, most of whom are disappointed in the earlier stage of career by monetary bottlenecks in realizing their business ideas. This is an information age. That for Pakistan implies that a whole lot of new models of developments it can imitate or emulate to utilize ICT resources. IT policy will turn out another failure if not implemented. Nonetheless, ICT should be an important point of discussion in trade policy. Even though, private sector has played a key role in the development of the sector, government should create a trustworthy environment to attract investors and bring local firms in to the forefront through policy documents. It is a time that policy makers put on a modern cap to refashion their mindsets of indifference.
SAMSUNG REVOLUTIONIZES SOS VILLAGE COMPUTER FACILITIES
Samsung Electronics, the global leader and award winning innovator in consumer electronics has successfully completed yet another valuable Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiative in Pakistan, whereby it has technologically modernized & completely renovated the Computer facilities in the SOS Children's Village school at Dodhial in Hazara Division.
Samsung has modernized this previously outdated facility by building two computer labs, each carrying 15 latest computers along with modern facilities and a pleasant ambience, thus today, thousands of children are able to get modern education here. Samsung continues to make extensive deliberations for enhancing the level of education in the remote areas, as it follows an elaborate CSR philosophy, which entails consistent contributions towards social uplift, in every society it operates.
The Public Relations Manager of Samsung Electronics Pakistan, Ms. Rabiya Siddiqui said, "It is a pleasure to see these talented children get state-of-the-Art Computer education. As part of Samsung's traditional social-development program, we aim to foster modern education in underdeveloped regions, by providing impetus to the endeavours of sincere organizations like SOS Villages".
She further added, Samsung firmly believes that it is the right of every child to get quality education. Thus by making this social effort, we have enabled the children of Dodhial village, and a large number of students from its surrounding areas to get quality education at very nominal fees. Samsung has thus contributed towards the escalation of the social, educational and financial progress of the whole region".
SOS Children's Villages is an NGO, active in the field of children's rights, needs and concerns across 132 countries. Founded in 1949, it has also won the world-renowned "Conrad N. Hilton Humanitarian Prize" for extraordinary contributions towards alleviating human suffering. It is one of the biggest NGOs working in Pakistan.
This particular SOS village at Dodhial was founded in 1982. Samsung chose to uplift this facility because, despite an extremely remote location, this facility provides its students with equal-rights, quality education and superior training, from Pre-school through schooling & vocational training. As a result its students exude elevated self-respect and mannerisms.