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Computerisation in Pakistan: its various phases.

Computerisation in Pakistan: Its various phases

Computer is one of the advanced and fast - growing technology of the world. Computerisation process which started in 1960 with the installation of IBM-370 computer is now proceeding with a reasonable speed. This process geared up in 1983-84 when the Government of Pakistan lifted the ban on the import of computer and waived all the import duties. By virtue of this liberal import policy, Pakistan could enter into the revolution of Personal Computers (PC) which had started in other parts of the world in 1978-79.

Today, there are over 600 installations of Mainframe and Mini-Computer all over Pakistan. Out of 600, about 100 are mainframes and other 500 computers are mini-computers. Most of the mainframes have been installed in banks, insurance companies, financial institutions and the service organisations involved in higher amount of preparing the utility bills for distribution every month. Almost all the leading computer manufacturers such as IBM, ICL, NCR Data General, DEC, NEC, Narsk Data, Unisys are well represented in Pakistan. During the last five years there is an average increase of 35 per cent in the installation of Mainframe & Mini Computers. Because of enhanced activities in computerisation, computer business is growing in Pakistan these days. Our market is flooded with all types of branded and unbranded computer hardware, with original and pirated software. Today we are living in an era of microcomputer.

According to a very careful estimate today over 50,000 PCs are being used in Pakistan, and about 2000 PCs are being sold in the market per month. It includes stand alone computers, networking and multiuser systems also. Being a Third World country, we have always been an adopter of the technology rather than the creator. Same thing happened in the case of computers. First of all we imported the computer hardware, started using it and then gradually tried to import computer education. History of computer started in Pakistan way back in 1960 when an IBM Mainframe Computer was installed by Pakistan International Airlines for passengers flight reservations. But the computer education could not be started earlier than 1967 when a Fortran Programming course was started by the University of Engineering & Technology (UET), Lahore in 1967-69. It was a significant beginning because there were only 17 mainframes throughout Pakistan.

Since then computer education in Pakistan has passed through different phases and on the whole there is a good progress. History of Pakistani computer education can be divided into three phases:

1st Phase - 1967 to 1975 - Infancy of computer education. During the first phase of computer education, computer use and computer service were limited only for preparing gas, electricity and telephone consumer bills and, preparation of payrolls and inventory etc. In fact the computer facilities were limited to data processing only. The computers were supplied by 3 giant manufacturers IBM, ICL & NCR. These companies used to supply the hardware along with the responsibility of education and training. Formal education of computer was not available in our educational institutions.

2nd Phase - 1975 to 1983 - Computer education on High Level. During this period some of our universities started formal computer education at high level and started offering Post Graduate Diploma (PGD) and M.Sc. courses in Computer Science. On lower level provincial technical boards also started offering certificate courses in computer programming like Fortran and Cobol and data entry operations.

3rd Phase - 1983 to 1991 - Education mostly based on Microcomputer. The quantum jump of computerisation realised worldwide in early eighties, when Microcomputers flooded the markets. One can easily imagine that the number of computers installed worldwide were 9000 in 1960, which reached a number 450,000 till 1978. When the computer revolution started in early 80s the number of computers reached a figure of 2.5 million in 1981. About half of them were installed only in year 1980-81. This computer revolution hit our country too in 1983 when government allowed the import of PC's in personal baggage and liberalising the overall computer import policy.

During this period the computer education was brought to ordinary person from special people, and computer education started at the level of ordinary people. For the sake of our convenience, we can divide computer education in Pakistan in 4 levels, namely: (1) At elementary/school level, (2) At Provincial Technical Boards level, (3) At University level, and (4) At Vocational training and Continuing education level.

At elementary/School Level: Unfortunately, so far there is no prescribed syllabus of computer educations in our schools, few private schools are offering computer education as an extra subject and charging high fee. Each school is following its own syllabus. A private professional body. Pakistan Association for Computer Education in School (PACES) is providing some help to its member schools in connection with course outlines for computer education, preparation of reading material, and training of teachers. Now our Government is planning to set up 120 computer centres throughout the country with the help of United Nations Development Programme & UNESCO. This project would cost about 60 million Pakistani Rupees.

At Provincial Technical Board Level: This second level of computer education is relatively more organised. At this level provincial technical boards are responsible for organising and regulating computer education. Provincial boards have their own prescribed curriculum which is being followed by their affiliated institutions. Private and semi-government institutions registered with provincial technical boards are offering Certificate, Advance Certificate and Diploma Courses. The duration of these courses varies from 3 months to 2 years. Following courses are being offered by provincial technical boards: - Short courses in programming

languages and application packages

ranging from 3 months to 6 months

duration. - Nine months Diploma in Computer

Applications offered by Punjab Board

of Technical Education. - Two years Diploma in Computer Science

based on 4 Modules each of 6

months is offered by Sindh Board of

Technical Education.

Again there seems no coordination and collaboration amongst our technical boards of education. Diploma offered by Sindh Board is of 2 years & that of Punjab is of only 9 months. Naturally, their teaching subjects and curriculum will be different. There are over 60 institutions registered with Sindh Board of Technical Education in Karachi, Hyderabad, Sukkur and Nawabshah. According to a careful estimate over 100 non-registered computer training institutes are in operation in these cities.

At University Level: Teaching of Computer Science as a subject started very late at university level in Pakistan. First Postgraduate Diploma in Computer Science was started in 1973-74 at Islamabad University (now Quaid-e-Azam University). First degree programme in Computer Science was initiated in 1976-77 at 2 universities. M.Sc. at Quaid-i-Azam University and B.Sc. programme at University of Engineering and Technology (UET), Lahore. Later on UET converted it into M.Sc. programme.

According to our information, so far 10 Pakistani Universities and their affiliated institutions are offering Post-graduate Diploma (PGD) courses, B.Sc., BE and M.Sc. courses in Computers. Again the curricula vary from one institution to other institution, and there seems no coordination and cooperation amongst them.
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Title Annotation:includes related article
Author:Saleem, Farrukh
Publication:Economic Review
Article Type:Cover Story
Date:Jun 1, 1991
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