ECONOMIC SIGNIFICANCE OF IT EDUCATION

TARIQ AHMED SAEEDI
(feedback@pgeconomist.com)

Apr 23 - 29, 20
12

Economic significance of information technology education is acknowledged worldwide with both developed and developing countries taking measures and making investments to develop hi-tech and skilled workforce to meet the great global demand of software and hardware solutions.

Pakistan's IT industry prime product is software. The hardware engineering especially for consumer market is not considerable at international level. Software are however solving the technological problems of enterprises as well as consumers in local and international markets.

There is a shortage of skilled and trained IT workforce in the country. Over the years, a number of private institutes that are primarily offering IT and telecom programmes or having IT as one of their disciplines have been established.

Generally, almost all private institutes offer IT bachelor and masters programmes. IT experts emphasize the need of opening up of more IT universities to increase the hi-tech workforce.

Since the fee structures of these institutes are not affordable to majority of the population, public sector universities accommodate the inflows of graduation enthusiasts nationwide. Unquestionably, a horde of young population cannot reach to the basic qualification of admission in private and public sector universities, standing out of the benefits of academic training in information and communication technologies.

According to the United Nations development programme, an estimated 103 million population or 60 per cent are under 25 in Pakistan. Such a huge portion cannot be beneficial for the socioeconomic developments or so to say come out of economic backwardness if not given proper and quality education, be it formal or informal.

India has set the examples of giving informal education to people to help them improve their living standards and familiarize them with the income opportunities. The model can well be emulated here in Pakistan to explore windfalls of information and communication technology sector.

Vocational training, as far as computer short courses and diploma programmes is concerned, is perpetuating mechanically without innovativeness and adaptableness to changing IT landscape.

The outputs of computer diploma programmes or short courses of e-commerce, social commerce, or myriad of other ever-evolving fields can produce unprecedented outcomes. Quite contrary to other technical disciplines that may/must need capital-intensive equipments to give practical exposure to students, IT enabled services including development, designing, or marketing can be delivered with relatively low investments on infrastructure comprising of low-latency broadband internet and performance-oriented desktops or laptops.

In this regard, public and private partnership can play an effective role. These vocational and technical training institutes can partner with small and medium IT companies to deliver the services to the foreign clients. The companies can use studying workforce in vocational and technical training centres to lay hands on, work on, and complete projects without directly bearing the costs of developing team.

Due to shortage of trained and skilled workforce, local software houses are to hire persons with little or no exposure to real IT world scenario. Even after academic learning, sometimes they need to go through on-the-job training to understand the business models.

The global IT industry is witnessing emergence of divergent subfields. One of them is 'cloud computing' or 'software as a service (SaaS) model.

The companies due to massive increase in IT budgets are avoiding installation of software or purchasing of it to perform critical tasks such as customer relationship management (CRM) and enterprise resource planning (ERP). ERP functions include expense and employee performance management. What they do instead is take services of cluster of computers (cloud) and get the critical tasks completed. SaaS is also deployed to manage financials, emails, office suites, and so on and so forth.

In addition to that, when a company takes on rent software as a service, it also needs recurrently software maintenance and technical support services. In short, it is a new field springing up on the fast expanding virtual world because of its inexpensiveness and efficiency.

According to a report, most of the SaaS buyers are based in North America. The regional revenue is forecast to reach $9.1 billion in 2012, up from $7.8 billion in 2011, according a world's leading technology research firm Gartner. It is worthwhile to note that global SaaS revenue is projected to go up 17.9 per cent to $14.5 billion in 2012.

SaaS applications are being sought after world over for simple reason of data backup to sophisticated technology solutions of accounting or human resource management. Even small IT software houses in Pakistan are capitalizing on changing IT landscape maintaining the essential data of hospitals and universities based in some part of the United States, thereby ringing up income in dollars.

Gainsaying is the fact that it is only one aspect of resourcefulness of the IT industry. The neighbouring India is fast morphing into a world's global sourcing hub for IT enabled services and business process outsourcing because of low development and infrastructure costs, large English-familiar population, and skilled and technical workforce. It has a flourishing knowledge process outsourcing (KPO) industry that generates most of its business from U.S. and UK. Indian IT industry is generating $110 billion revenue, according to Nasscom

The eorld's renowned technology companies are getting their flagship brands manufactured in Asia. China's largest private concern Foxconn is supplying parts to Apple, HP, IBM, Lenovo, Motorola, Nokia, etc. Foxconn Shenzen plant manufactures majority of the hardware of Apple, which is the world's biggest company in terms of its market capitalization of $565 billion, outpacing Exxon Mobil with $408 billion.

Globally, tablets are springing up ideal means of computing. Albeit not at par with laptops or desktops, global shipments of tablets are scaling up dramatically year over year. Research firm IDC forecasts 106 million shipments in 2012. This implies a 54 per cent growth compared with 69 million tablet computers shipped worldwide in 2011.

In the tablet market, Apple enjoyed a significant 58 per cent share compared with 39 per cent that is collectively occupied by all android devices including Amazon's Kindle Fire. The Cupertino-based company recorded sale of 37.04 million cutting-edge iPhone 4S in 14 weeks through 31st December 2011.