INTERVIEW WITH ASIF MUHAMMAD IQBAL BEGA, ADVISOR TO THE MINISTER OF INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY, GOVT. OF SINDH

KHALIL AHMED
(feedback@pgeconomist.com)
Aug 22 - 28, 2011

PAGE: TELL US SOMETHING ABOUT YOURSELF.

ASIF BEGA: I am chairman information technology & digital library, sub-committee Karachi chamber of commerce & industry and advisor to the minister of information technology, Government of Sindh, and also Joint Secretary of PAK ICT Consortium.

I completed MBA and am running one IT company in Pakistan.

I have one sister company in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. I am managing director of Asif Textile Trading Co.

PAGE: HAS INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY IMPROVED THE CORPORATE EFFICIENCY IN PAKISTAN?

ASIF BEGA: Yes, information technology (IT) is dramatically changing the business landscape. Although organization cultures and business strategies shape the use of IT in organizations, more often the influence is stronger. IT significantly affects strategic options and creates opportunities and issues that managers need to address in many aspects. IT creates new opportunities for innovation in products and services. Services, which used to be delivered in person, can now be delivered over networks.

PAGE: IT IS SAID THAT USE OF IT HAS BROUGHT CHANGES IN THE LIVING STANDARDS OF COMMON PERSONS AND THAT IS WHY ITS DEMAND IS INCREASING DAY BY DAY IN THE COUNTRY. WHAT DO YOU SAY?

ASIF BEGA: Technology runs in the veins of society. It is the fuel that drives our lives. It is an integral part of daily life. It has definitely benefited society. It has brought luxury in the life of common persons. The automation brought about by technology has saved human effort and time to a large extent. It has brought distant places closer and simplified information access. Due to this, the demand of information technology is increasing day by day in the country.

PAGE: HOW DO YOU SEE THE FUTURE OF IT COMPANIES OPERATING IN PAKISTAN?

ASIF BEGA: The information technology burst has provided Pakistan a dream for future in which IT can be used to improve the standards of our people. It can help us develop our lives better. Government of Pakistan has been taking deep interest in making the IT industry of Pakistan a strong one. Government should give some good packages for export oriented IT companies and should implement procedure for trade development authority of Pakistan (TDAP) to promote export of IT.

Chambers should be given representation in federal ministry of information technology as well as TDAP and Pakistan software export board (PSEB). The first and foremost need is to develop human resources in the field of IT. Currently, Pakistan has lesser number of people than the actual required count in order to compete worldwide. We are in need of producing thousands of high quality IT graduates every year. Keeping this purpose in mind, many initiatives have been taken to increase the capacity of existing institutions and to build the new ones. These universities will impart education related to IT field. New higher education programs have been introduced. There are quite a few hundreds of software houses in Pakistan and the count is increasing rapidly. These software houses are working to make Pakistan a bright mark in the world of IT. They are producing many useful products, which have modernized the processes of traditional industries and also increased their productivity.

IT has enabled our export industry to become more competitive in international market. As we see, computer has become a significant part of every walk of our lives and many processes have become automatic now. All the big shopping malls have computerized billing system now. Almost every organization keeps its data in computerized form. Students, both from basic and higher education, seek help from internet and prepare their assignments on computer.

Computer and internet awareness is also increasing and the trend of e-commerce is emerging fast. People, whatever field they belong to, consult internet for any queries that come into mind.

Moreover, government of Pakistan has opened computer labs in many school and colleges to promote awareness of IT. Many countries prefer outsourcing work force within Pakistan because they find Pakistani IT persons intelligent, hardworking, and committed. They provide their services at low price, which enables us to bring in good investment opportunities in our country.

This scenario is also helpful in creating job opportunities. On the whole, the future of IT in Pakistan is very bright. Our IT policy has given Pakistan special courage to compete in today's world of IT. It has enabled Pakistan to stand amongst the top countries with respect to IT and it is improving day by day. With the same dedication and good planning, it will continue to grow in future. Information technology is on the right track in our country and its future is also very bright.

PAGE: GIVE YOUR VIEWS ON TAXES ON IT SERVICES?

ASIF BEGA: In my opinion, the government should stop permissions for import of foreign applications packages that have been developed by the local Pakistani industry as well. As an example, Pakistanís local IT firms have developed excellent packages for ERP, core banking, trading, exchange systems, etc. The policy should categorically make it mandatory for organizations to evaluate the locally available packages first before importing any package from outside world. In today's scenario, organizations are ending up paying very high costs to these foreign vendors when they can find reliable alternate available locally at much lower cost. There is a need to recognize software development as an industry, reduce the trade deficit and increase the foreign exchange reserve through information technology and services, and establish ethical standards for use of IT.