Role of Information Technology in the Economic Development of Pakistan.
The importance of information technology in the present world can not be underestimated as it has dominated almost all the fields of business and industry including the service sector and one having no touch with this technology would not be able to make any progress in the century to come.
Instead of discussing the role of this technology in the economic development of Pakistan, it would be more appropriate to say that there would be no desired economic development of any country without fully adopting this technology. If Pakistan wants to come in line with the progressive nations of the world it would have no alternate except to strive more and more for the development of Information Technology which includes (1) Computer Technology (2) Communication Technology and (.3) Robitics.
Information Technology as Foreign Exchange Earner
Needless to mention that we are in groaning need of foreign exchange to cater to our many needs. At the moment our foreign exchange reserves have not yet crossed the limit of even $2 billion and that too, is due to a number of debts and loans extended to us by a number of loan giving agencies, which in their turn would also drain our national resources to a great extent.
Through the development of this technology we can well be in a position to earn a lot of foreign exchange which would not only suffice our needs but also add much to our foreign exchange reserves and thereby we would be able to get rid of foreign debts which are to the tune of $30 billion with an annual addition of $1.5 billion as debt service charges and US$2 billion as a result of Balance of Payment deficit.
The scope of earning of foreign exchange can be guessed from the fact thatthe potential global software market at present is estimated around 1000 billion or one trillion US Dollars which is increasing by 25% per annum. India, the only one country of the world exports softwares more than $2 billion peryear and it has a plant to increase this export to $10 billion by the end of 2003 A.D. India would not stop here but would cross the figure of $50 billion by 2010. Now a days India has the honour to be one of the leading exporters of the softwares.
Against this, Pakistan, at the moment, is expoiting softwares hardly to the tune of $40 million and by 2003 it might go to the extent of $750 million given the present pace of progress in this field.
There is groaning need of the hour to accelerate the pace of development in this field so that more and more foreign exchange can be earned for the country and it is not impossible nor so much difficult. What the government has to do is to make out certain policies and investments and talents would be pouring in automatically with the passage of time.
Our total export target for the current fiscal year (1998-99) is US$10 billion and we are panting and gasping in getting that target too. The result is that we are pleased even if we get the figure of 8 billion dollars during this year. Why?
We have much potentials for the export of our sugar, rice, cotton and even the electricity. Yet we are unable to achieve the desired target of exports. The question is of fast communication as well as qualitative and quantitative improvement with the help of this technology which can go a long way in increasing our exports manifold opening thereby the door of prosperity. Otherwise, primitive methods of cultivation as well as trading shall not lead us to anywhere.
One must be aware that this technology is much helpful in improving the quality of our goods which can well be competent in the international market with reasonable prices.
It is generally observed that a lot of non-traditional items are being offered world wide on different web sites making a gigantic business. We have also no dearth of such non-traditional items. All what we have to do is to adopt this -- the fastest communication media. If this is done, volume of exports of commodity or even of manpower would not be a problem.
Creation of Employment
And [ldots] if we become self-sufficient and well-equipped in this technology we can fetch a fair share (far more than $10 billion) from the 1000 billion or one trillion dollars business of the world. Is it not the point to ponder with due seriousness?
The first and foremost attribute of this technology is to create employment. This can be adopted by a layman as a small and individual profession on very low profile simply to earn bread and butter for the family and can be done as very large and giant scale industry to absorb a number of qualified engineers.
In India, at present, there are about 2,00,000 software engineers and there is a plan to increase this number by 20,000 per year. While in Pakistan there are hardly 2,000 software engineers and this number may go upto 5,000 by end of the current century.
But the alarming fact is that there is a huge demand of about 25,00,000 I.T. Manpower in the world. USA and Japan need about one million I.T. personnel each while demand for rest 500,000 software manpower are required by Canada, European and other countries.
Isn't it the irony of fate that on the one hand our youth is running here and there for the employment while on the other, in this field there is an acute shortage of persons with required qualification?
Awareness of the Government and Masses Toward this Technology
At last the Government of Pakistan is convinced in giving impetus to this industry and therefore all the possible relieves and incentives have been given by it for its promotion such as duty free imports and other relieves in the taxation.
The Ministry of Communication, Government of Pakistan has set up PAKISTAN SOFTWARE EXPORT BOARD which is entrusted with the challenge to fast-track the development of the software industry in the country and put Pakistan on the map of software producers of the world. The primary and most significant task entrusted to the Board is the formulation of a national software policy framework to facilitate the rapid development of the software industry in Pakistan.
On the other side, the internet system is getting popular and every now and then new internet providers are coming up which is a positive sign that the people are taking more and more interest in this newly discovered information technology. However, there is much room for accelerating its pace.
Taking into consideration the foregoing factors it is imperative that our youth give proper attention to this technology and adopt such a course of education which may help them in getting rid of poverty and acquire a respectable status in the society. Apart from the government, all our NGOs and privately run educational bodies and organizations should take certain concrete steps to divert the interest of our youth toward computer technology which shall certainly go a long way in opening the doors of prosperity and respectable place in the society. This is the work worth doing, of course, through proper thorough planning.
The stalwarts of our various educational institutions and even our masses at large should leave the conservative and traditional thinking and start realizing the things in their realistic and correct perspective, otherwise, ignorance of the importance of the information technology will lead us directly to disaster.
Pakistani students can also learn this technology through individual efforts. It is a three to four years course after Intermediate. But under the newly introduced crash programme there are a number of institutions which offer short diploma courses of around six months to two years and such courses are also extremely important for individual earnings. By acquiring such diplomas one can start earning about five to ten thousand rupees per month even by doing the job at his home. Even the girl students and young educated ladies who do not wish to leave their homes for earning can take this job as a respectable means of bread and butter.
This technology opens the doors of prosperity for even those who do not wish to be employed with certain employer but wish to make/start their own business or professional set up. Even two or three persons can work by sitting in any small room on any programme and they can win the favour of fortune if even a single programme clicks. Recently a number of such instances are available in India. At present the richest person-of the world Mr. Bill Gate belonging to USA, is from the software sector and he has made his fortunes in a very short period too.
But if we want to take up the task on a large scale then we will have to resort to short-term as well as long-term planning. Awareness among the masses, young students in particular should be brought about so that they can be mentally prepared to take up this career. Particularly, the parents of the prospective students should be convinced because in our society parents play an active role in making the careers of their sons and daughters. This can effectively be carried out and should be taken on war footing under well thought career guidance programme in our schools and colleges.
More possibilities should be assessed for utilization of the existing infrastructures of Schools and Colleges for spread of Computer Education, particularly in second shifts and through evening classes.
To bring awareness it is also suggested that general mass discussion should be initiated in various institutions and in newspapers and magazines of the country. Moreover, frequent debates and elocution contests should also be arranged on this subject in the high schools to inspire the high school students. For this purpose, effectiveness of the electronic media can't be over emphasized.
It is high time that we start working in this direction collectively in the same fashion as we moved in our early days under the able leadership of Sir Sayyad Ahmed Khan, Hassan Ali Beg Effendiand Sir Adamjee Haji Dawood for promotion of general education in our masses.
It is also suggested that for this purpose we should establish a mother body which should work for the promotion of software education in the community.
The government seems to be fully aware toward this matter of vital national importance. Moreover, some NGOs are also active to impart computer education to the youths of the country. About 300 software houses are under construction along with a Technological Park on the Super Highway near Karachi as well as in Lahore.
With the completion of the plans in hand in government as well as in the private sector and NGOs the whole economic scenario of the country would be changed.
This would go along way in improving productivity with quality in all spheres of economic life including industry, agriculture and services which is very imperative for survival through cutthroat competition through E-Commerce and the global village of today and tomorrow.
Besides substantial increase in precious foreign exchange earning through export of non-traditional item i.e. computer softwares, home remittance would also increase to a great extent with the increased employments of Pakistan abroad as mentioned earlier.
It must be born in mind that fast and reliable communication is the call of the day and this technology is fully capable to provide this facility to us should we make up our mind and take this field as our career on individual as well as collective level.
Needless to mention that Pakistan has no dearth of talented persons. What actually we need is to make proper investment in manpower with a comprehensive and thorough planning and this manpower in its turn will bestow upon us with national prosperity, honour and integrity in the days to come.
Information Technology (IT) is the language of 21st century and without learning it no progress and prosperity is now possible. IT education and training should be planned in such a way that makes it most effective, most economical and most convenient and accessible to every Pakistani and young Pakistanis in particular. And it is clearly understood that investment in MANPOWER with special reference to the INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY is the best investment for Individual Community and the Nation as a whole and as such it needs possible maximum of our resources to be employed therein as early as possible. Of course, this is the crying need of the hour.