OTTAWA: Pakistan’s IT sector is poised to grow exponentially in the coming months and years with Pakistan’s IT exports growing from USD 2.1 billion to an approximate USD 3.5 billion this fiscal year.
The IT industry in Pakistan is burgeoning and the government is taking the right steps for its further growth, including enhancing number of IT graduates from 25,000 to 50,000, setting up software technology parks in large to 2nd tier cities, improving access to capital by IT companies, reducing tax disputes, enhancing financial structure of IT companies and listing them at the stock exchange.
These were some of the views expressed at a webinar organised by the Consulate General of Pakistan Toronto on the theme of “Pakistan Canada IT Cooperation: Connecting the Dots”.
The objectives of the webinar were to provide a platform for interaction between Pakistan origin ITC professionals in Canada and IT industry and academia from Pakistan. The panelists of the webinar included Mr. Osman Nasir, Managing Director, Pakistan Software Export Board, Mr. Barkan Saeed, ex-President Pakistan Software House Association, Mr. Hassan Naqvi, President, CM Inc., Canada, Dr. Shakeel Ahmad Khoja, Dean School of Mathematics & Computer Science, IBA, Karachi, Mr. Kewan Khawaja, Co-founder and Co-CEO, M/s Techlogix, Mr. Jahan Ali, CEO of Mobile Live, Canada, Mr. Raheel Qureshi, founder and Partner M/s iSecurity Consulting, Canada, and Mr. Hassan Ramay, Managing Partner GoSaaS Inc. It was attended by a large no. of IT professionals/companies from Pakistan and Canada.
In his opening remarks Mr. Abdul Hameed, Consul General of Pakistan, Toronto, stated that it is widely believed that Pakistan has the potential to claim a much higher share of the market than it currently enjoys. He also shared the statistics about the size and growth trajectory of ICT sector of Canada, and highlighted the key sectors within the ICT sector which witnessed high growth and the top ICT players in Canada.
Mr. Osman Nasir, MD PSEB, said large technology parks are being set up in the mega cities, in addition to establishing software technology parks in second/third tier cities. He further mentioned that steps are being taken for increasing access to capital by IT companies, reducing tax disputes, enhanced understanding of the financial structure of IT companies and their listing at stock exchanges, through relevant stakeholders. Mr. Barkan Saeed, Ex-President PASHA, presented an overview of the ITC industry in Pakistan.He mentioned that the government plans to increase the number of IT graduates from current 25,000 to 50,000 in a couple of years. He was of the view that, in 2022, the exports from IT sector would touch USD3.5 billion, from USD2.1 billion in 2021. Mr. Barkan also highlighted the initiatives being taken, such as, Special Technology Zones (STZs), where companies would have exemption from local and international taxes and import duties on import of equipment, the cash reward scheme for companies which would be linked to growth, boot technology camps for university students, and incentives for industry leaders to teach in universities.
Mr. Hassan Naqvi, President CM Inc., said the quality and skill of Pakistani IT professionals was high. However, he opined that the major issue hampering Pakistan’s growth in North America is of perception. He shared the view that one way for perception management is to combine it with tourism. Once people come and see Pakistan they will love it, and will like to visit again. Same is true about Pakistani computer experts Dr. Shakeel Ahmad Khoja, Dean IBA, shared the view that many universities in Pakistan are facing the challenge of ensuring quality of IT courses being offered. He informed that IBA is teaching both core courses (which provide for the foundational basis), and applied courses, which are industry driven. He stressed the need for huge investment in development of high quality faculty in the country.
Mr. Kewan Khawaja, CEO Techlogix, recommended that more Pakistani delegations should visit ITC events in Canada and North America and with change in traditional sales model, CEOs from Pakistani ITC companies need to attend and speak on international events to mark their presence. He also underscored the need for increasing the Research & Development budgets of Pakistan’s leading universities, LUMS, FAST, NUST, UET, GIK, and improving the quality of education and training at their feeding colleges.
Mr Jehan Ali, CEO M/s MobileLIVE, shared the opportunities in Canada ICT sector, and mentioned that as a great majority of the companies in Canada are small companies, their major challenge is cost effectiveness, which can be addressed by Pakistani ICT companies. He further stressed the need for ensuring basic ethical code by the vendors, and urged the universities to introduce courses in business ethics.
Mr. Hassan Ramay, stressed the need for specialization by the Pakistani ICT companies, instead of marketing and going for work in all sectors such as AI, Cloud, Big Data, etc. He highlighted the shortage of quality IT professionals and suggested to train non-computer science people with specialized skills.
Mr. Raheel Qureshi, highlighted that there is a major talent shortage globally in the ICT sector, leading to globalization of the positions. He underlined the importance of understanding the global technology landscape and planning for development of required resources in next 12 to 24 months in the new ICT sectors, such as, data lakes, GCP, Cloud, architecture, business intelligence, GCP, etc. He also suggested for development of vendor record/portal for smooth vendor sourcing, and facilitating international bidding. The webinar ended with the Q&A session where the panelists responded to the queries raised by the participants.