(Opportunities and Challenges in Limelight)
IT industry worldwide is witnessing an enormous boom and IT professionals have left no opportunity untapped in the quest to inculcate IT in all possible avenues. In every industry competition has urged the policymakers, professionals and prospective new entrants in the industry i.e. students, startups, investors to sharpen their insights and skills likewise to reap the benefits from this futuristic and most lucrative industry. New software, applications, IT tools and programs are making waves in the industry and dynamically facilitate all stakeholders.
Some prominent IT jargons that catch our attention in Pakistan normally are SAP, CMMI, react, Agile, PHP, C++, etc. Now, the question is; Are we preparing students equipped enough to fill up the gap in the IT industry? We have software engineers, hardware engineers, IT professionals, IT graduates; so do they have enough skills to compete and absorb rapid changes in the IT industry? It would not be wrong to say that anything related to IT surfaced today may become obsolete tomorrow or in some cases, if self-sustained due to its dynamic paradigm to absorb futuristic changes, may survive for relatively long term.
IT industry needs constant growth and if you lost pace you lost the race. Pakistan’s IT industry is confronting many such challenges despite, wide pool of opportunities. Candlelight after thorough assessment and review from many stakeholders has highlighted areas that need immediate attention. The identity of respondents, in this case, will be kept anonymous.
- IT Policy
Digital Pakistan policy is the stepping stone towards IT-enabled Pakistan. Digitization is essentially required for a country to transform the economy from currently underproductive and unregulated stream to digitally synchronized ecosystem. Tania Aidrus, has been appointed to lead the Digital Pakistan program by the Government of Pakistan. Prior to this role, she has served as the Google Executive. The incumbent government has exhibited a keen interest in promoting IT reforms in the country but the years of abysmal and sluggish pace on which the IT sector was operating might take a long time to sail in the right direction.
- Government Ineptness
The government remains indifferent to the IT sector for a long time and currently, some moves can be observed to promote the IT industry. In past policies have been drafted and implemented as well but owing to sheer political influence, it remained in haphazard. Sustainability of policy is the biggest challenge confronted by Industries all across Pakistan and in particular, the IT sector is the major victim. This lackluster industry has lost pace and glamor due to the ineptness of ruling governments.
- Abysmal Condition of IT Infrastructure
Industries flourish when they have access to up to date infrastructure. IT industry thrives on a very basic lifeline i.e. internet. Internet connectivity is the biggest challenge in Pakistan. Importing large IT setups and equipment does not fulfill any good cause of business unless internet streams are undisruptive. If IT companies manage to secure good internet connectivity by paying hefty amounts another dilemma of energy crisis i.e. load shedding impede their work and progress.
Some provinces are lacking way behind in terms of IT sector due to the perception such as law and order, insecurity, gender segregation, lack of human resources, Insufficient IT infrastructure, the unwillingness of government institutes to promote IT are the prime concerns of IT businesses for not indulging in activities there. Key examples are Balochistan and KP.
- Immobilization of Resources
Resources concentration such as human resources is limited to some main cities and towns. Similarly, the IT industry in cities like Islamabad, Rawalpindi, Lahore, and Karachi is flourishing at a very good pace but nevertheless, other cities are catering near to none activities of the IT industry. This is due to the location of educational institutes and market access. All the renowned institutes are situated in these few cities and similarly, IT parks, national incubation centers, big IT companies have their offices in these cities because there are in a better position here to attract human and other resources.
Similarly, due to an IT ecosystem developed in these cities although at a very small scale but it allows businesses to productively serve more local clients here due to IT awareness. Not only human resources but the ease of doing business, access to stakeholders, banking channels, suppliers, vendors, infrastructure, accessibility to clients, etc. are the numerous other reason for resource immobilization.
- Fund Deficiency
The government has revitalized the hope of the IT industry by promising a handsome allocation of budget on the IT sector. But it needs proper implementation, accountability, and sustainability of projects for future prospects. IT Funding should be backed by a thorough evaluation of key IT industry variables i.e. contribution in Imports and exports of services, employment opportunities created by Industry, the inclusion of IT in the economy, training and development of IT graduates and similarly IT training programs for general masses to get acquiesced with required IT skills. Also, the latest IT certifications and skills are scarce. Funding must enable youth to equip them with the latest IT industry requirements in order to contribute to the economy overall. Tax relaxation has also been granted by the Government of Pakistan (GOP) to IT companies doing business with international clients and this is encouraging.
- Non-Cooperative State Institutions
State institutions actually form a political setup. And the stability of reform by political setup is possible if policies by institutions are governed and promulgated in an orderly and sustainable manner. IT companies in Pakistan found it very cumbersome to file their income returns and taxes. And in many cases, companies are warned and threatened about the initiation of Audits by authorities dealing with revenue. And if companies fail to respond short notices their accounts are being charged for penalties. Similarly, if they have participated in government project their payments are delayed to the indefinite time period and many suffer financial distress and deteriorating cash cycles. Funds allocated for uplifting different facets of the IT industry often fell prey to incompetent authorities and bribery, nepotism, lack of merit are prevalent in the institutions.
Some have reservations that boards appointed by Government to empower the IT sector in numerous capacities are bidding in Government projects and once they win they execute it in house, which means the benefactor is the competitor itself. Small and medium companies due to lack of proper evaluation schema and weightage remain outside cards and are left with little chance to acquire projects. The concept of a joint venture between small and large companies is the least encouraged.
Next Episode of IT Industry Guide will contain information on the Focus of IT Businesses in Pakistan.