The Journey of IT in Pakistan
Pakistan currently faces an economic burden which stems from inefficient political policies and global economic crises. The country has not been able to cope up with economic pressures like similar developing countries. It should identify and create opportunities to track itself back to a stable economic state. In the midst of economic unpredictability and uncertainty in Pakistan, information technology and telecommunication industries have harnessed subtle welfare for the economy of Pakistan. It is a one-of-a-kind industry which, with slight input, gives outstanding output in the form of economic development, education and employment along with benefits in areas of investment, banking, security, sociability, marketing, tourism and a number of other areas with unimaginable fruits. This spectra of benefits have not yet been fully utilised by the governments for the welfare of citizens but has yet managed to change the lives and mind-sets of the common man.
Governments have always presented their solid concerns regarding development in the field of information technology for being amongst the core sectors for future economic development and sustainable growth. Where governments started showing interest in IT sector, international investors boosted the coming of IT in Pakistan. Citizens gained access to IT hardware in 1985 when the government officially announced IT imports for commercial usage. The technology storm kept invading the globe due to efficient economic terms it had brought along, which also encompassed developing countries like India and Pakistan in the 90s. The telecommunication boom started when large custom duties were taken off and networks shifted to a completely digital backbone. In the year 1995, ISPs were allotted licenses and internet reached to 3 million homes within 5 years.
Recognising the economic charms of this sector, vivid policies to utilise information technology innovations were developed by the government in the year 2000 which not only invited economic growth but also innovative opportunities for citizens, easing the employment market. A number of modern initiatives embarking IT were proposed by the governments which included benefits in sectors of human resource, IT education, IT training and development, IT infrastructure, general industrial infrastructure, telecommunications, databases, platforms, software industry, development of local software industry, tourism, marketing, networking marketing, hardware industry and training and development on internet.
The three basic divisions of IT in terms of industrial development are hardware/software, telecommunications and human resource. It has been unfortunate that the hardware industry has not yet extended roots in Pakistan. However, hardware trade market in Pakistan has a global recognition. Pakistan is a vital trader of hardware goods from countries like Malaysia, China, Singapore, Japan and Thailand and it also has software trade dealings throughout the world. In the field of electronics and telecommunications, hardware accessories are always readily imported by Pakistan with ever increasing demand which is catalysed by awareness programs for the general public and economic growth in the hardware sector. A number of investors have shown interest in providing hardware and software services, especially in fields of telecom and electronic hardware. In Pakistan, different companies have installed state of the art facilities providing the latest hardware products including solid state devices, latest laptops and PCs, high quality 3D LCDs and LEDs, mobile phones, tablet PCs, high speed wireless internet devices and a never ending list of other gizmos in the technology hubs viz. Lahore and Karachi.
Software industry of Pakistan has served as a paradise for the talented youth. Fortunately, government have taken interest in this outstanding industry and developed programmes which have allowed achieving of extraordinary benchmarks in this industry. Pakistan Software Houses Association (PASHA) laid its foundation early in 1992 with only 9 software houses in the country. In the next fifteen years, 1100 new software houses were registered. According to PASHA, the entire IT industry generates revenues of more than $2 billion, which is increasing each year. Citizens, especially youth, are provided with outstanding opportunities which are reflected by global achievements including a 25th position in fast growing companies worldwide, started by the collaboration of Harvard University and JS bank. The design of World cup ICC official cricket game called cricket power, trade collaboration with Indian ICT industry reaching up to $5 billion, Google collaboration for social programmes granting a sum of $250,000 for Pakistan, pepper.pk success story for best developer of blackberry apps, Nokia's contest winner for applications development in 2011 and many, many more are a projection of how education sector has provided awareness to the youth in the field of software development by being up to date and meeting international standards at all levels.
The most versatile of all the fields in IT sector is telecommunication industry. The telecommunications industry provides products that are used by a multinational enterprise and a truck driver at the same time. Pakistan has kept pace with the worldwide telecommunication innovation and has provided citizens with overwhelming facilities, cheap technologies and extensive networks. When PTCL shifted to digital networks, a new era of telecommunications was pioneered in Pakistan which was based on never ending innovation and development. Shockingly, telecommunication products are cheaper than day to day utilities in Pakistan! Nonetheless, it is apparent that the government has always rightly kept an eye on developments in the telecommunication industry worldwide. Telecommunication industry has attracted a number of international vendors to invest in Pakistan. Recently Pakistan Telecommunication Authority has shown interest in network up-gradation to 3G. Although it is a late move but nevertheless, vendors have shown an overwhelming interest in the matter. Masses have become highly dependent on the telecommunication networks. According to PTA, 70% of the population of Pakistan is a client to telecommunication industry, which is a large number for a developing country. Due to cheap technology and low implementation costs, the telecommunication sector has been the most productive industry in IT for Pakistan.
A common person in Pakistan is aware of different technologies the telecommunication industry provides while an educated person enjoys additional benefits and value added services provided by IT. The education sector has seen sharp deviation towards the IT sector. Much to appraisal, the government has encouraged development of educational institutes spreading education about the telecommunication industry nationwide. There are more than 50 universities where around 6,000 graduates complete their degrees in IT subjects every year. HEC Pakistan describes how research and development has increased overnight in educational institutes of Pakistan. This picture depicts how youth is utilising this emerging field in result of appropriate policies by the government.
It has been observed in the past years that IT industry has successfully retained its state in deteriorating economic conditions and has seen high rates of productivity every year. One reason for that might be the privatisation of the telecommunication industry massively.
Innovations in IT industry include database management, for instance, in hospitals which assists in decision making, banking and accounts solutions for enterprises specifically, tourism, marketing industry including network marketing, internet data solutions, customer care, management
systems, telecommunication systems for high speed data connectivity, wireless sensor networks in automation industry and many more. It is evident that IT industry is the only industry which has always proved successful even when flexibility is lacking in political policies and has consistently persisted. People of Pakistan are facilitated with outstanding standards of IT services. This is one of the few sectors which are a pride for Pakistan.
Notwithstanding the room for improvement, Pakistanis have adapted to latest innovations in the IT industry. However, day-to-day innovations make a never-ending diet of moving ahead to fill the necessary improvement. This is why this industry has motivated entrepreneurs to move sharply towards this industry which provides better employment opportunities, opens new trade horizons and embarks on track of success through education and awareness – a vista, indeed, through one tunnel.