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Definition of Information Technology

According to NDCC 54.59.01 Information Technology means the use of hardware, software, services, and supporting infrastructure to manage and deliver information using voice, data, and video.

To further define information technology and what should be included as far as the IT budget, the following information is provided:

Information Technology includes:

  • all computers with a human interface
  • all computer peripherals which will not operate unless connected to a computer or network
  • all voice, video and data networks and the equipment, staff and purchased services necessary to operate them
  • all salary and benefits for staff whose job descriptions specifically includes technology functions, i.e. network services, applications development, systems administration
  • all technology services provided by vendors or contractors
  • operating costs associated with providing information technology
  • all costs associated with developing, purchasing, licensing or maintaining software

Agencies may wish to include other costs at their discretion. For example, an agency may wish to include digital cameras in their IT budget even though they can be operated stand alone. Data entry personnel may be included if they are considered part of the technology staff. Costs that are excluded above may be included if they are an integral part of a computer applications or would be difficult to break out because the costs are included with other information technology costs.

Examples of Information Technology:

  • Telephone and radio equipment and switches used for voice communications.
  • Traditional computer applications that include data storage and programs to input, process, and output the data.
  • Software and support for office automation systems such as word processing and spreadsheets, as well as the computer to run them.
  • Users' PCs and software.
  • Data networks and all associated communications equipment such as servers, bridges, routers, hubs and wiring.
  • Peripherals directly connected to computer information systems used to collect or transmit audio, video or graphic information, such as scanners and digitizers.
  • Voice response systems that interact with a computer database or application.
  • Video conferencing equipment.
  • The state radio communications network.
  • Computers and network systems used by teachers, trainers, and students for educational purposes
  • "Open" computer systems that monitor or automate mechanical or chemical processes and also store information used by computer applications for analysis and decision-making, such as the Metasys building management system.
  • All operating costs, equipment and staff time associated with supporting the technology infrastructure of the agency, possibly including items excluded above, such as video equipment used for technology training that is included in the information systems cost center for the agency.

Examples of items excluded from the definition:

  • "Closed" computer systems that monitor or automate mechanical or chemical processes, such as the fire alarm system in the capitol building.
  • Audio-visual equipment which can be operated as a standalone piece of equipment, such as televisions, tape recorders, VCRs, video cameras, and overhead projectors. Stand-alone video editing equipment is excluded.
  • Copy machines and fax machines.
  • Licenses or subscriptions to electronic information provided to users in lieu of books or magazines.
  • Salaries of staff who use technology but are not directly involved in developing, implementing or supporting technology as documented on their PIQ. Data entry staff, staff who digitize drawings, staff who do desktop publishing are excluded. "Power users" who use advanced features of spreadsheets or word processing software are excluded.
  • Data entry services


Table 1 Using Data and Information

 

 

In brief, data and information may be:

  • "Captured" – extracted from the environment (e.g. by sensors such as digital cameras or devices for detecting specific chemicals), or
  • Input – deliberately introduced into the system by human agents (e.g. through keyboards, pointing or drawing devices, or microphones);
  • Stored – held in some recording medium – which may be fairly permanent (e.g. CDs) , or much more volatile (e.g. memory held in RAM on a computer chip) -- from which it may be retrieved;
  • Transmitted – communicated over a distance to a point where it can be received by other users or devices – which requires communications media (such as cables or the radio spectrum) and peripheral devices (such as radio receivers and modems);
  • Processed - transformed (especially by means of mathematical or logical operations performed on data represented in digital form - in the case of contemporary computing devices, performed by means of instructions encoded in software);
  • Output – in the form of informational outputs as in the case of printed text on paper, audio output, or more particularly
  • Presented in Visual displays – where the symbolic output is presented as a variable image on a screen or projection of some sort;
  • Used for actuation – where the output controls some device in order to effect physical or chemical operations (e.g. a robot arm, an automated power generation system).

 

Tables 2-4 From Ancient to Modern Information Technologies

Table 2 Preindustrial Era

Traditional "Information Technologies"

(up to early Industrial Revolution)

Processors

While the notion of a programme was elaborated in the early C19th in the context of Babbage and Lovelace’s work on mechanical computers, in practice all operations were carried out by human beings following specific routines (e.g. with early calculating machines)

Storage

Data stored in the form of signs crafted into materials by human expertise – even when this is aided by machinery such as printing presses allowing for large scale reproduction (i.e. multiple retrievals) of stored material.

Transmission

Stored signs (e.g. written texts) transported by physical means, or else signals conveyed over distances through auditory or visual signals by human skills.

Visual Displays

Nothing equivalent to modern displays; physical media may be used as temporary repositories for impermanent signals crafted by humans (e.g. blackboards).

Inputs

Input devices are determined by the specific technology; range from pens to drumsticks.

Output devices

Output devices are also determined by the specific technology, representing the original information in analogue form as encoded by the human operator, and ranging from parchments to rows of abacus beads.

Actuators

Nothing equivalent to modern actuators, though mechanical valves and switches to regulate, e.g. the flow of water, have a long history.

Software

Nothing equivalent to modern software, though detailed lists of instructions for human craft workers again have a long history.

Systems

A wide variety of systems accomplishing specific purposes with specific underpinning technologies developed more out of practical experience than from codified scientific knowledge. Use often restricted to those with skills that were highly specialised in their era (e.g. reading and writing).

Supplementary Technology

Clockwork used in some early automata and calculating machines, but in general the main power sources are human effort.

Table 3 Early Industrial Eras

Information Technologies in the Electrophysical Era

(mainly first half of twentieth century, but some major advances on earlier systems developments in the later nineteenth century are necessarily mentioned, and there is similarly some blurring of the end date.)

Processors

Programmable mechanical computers envisaged by Babbage but not created (Analytical Engine); valve-based computers of huge size and low power (by present standards) created toward the end of this era.

Storage

Analogue storage of data, by physical and chemical means, and then increasingly by electrical and electronic means (e.g. the shift from vinyl recordings to magnetic ones on audiotapes).

Transmission

Development of telecommunications and broadcasting technologies, involving metal cables and radio spectrum, with rapid increases in geographical reach of systems.

Visual Displays

Motion pictures utilising projectors used mainly for entertainment purposes; cathode ray tubes developed for display of television signals and for specialised industrial and military applications (e.g. radar) – but early computer output in form of printed paper (teletype).

Inputs

Wide range of specialised analogue data capture devices introduced – microphones, cameras, temperature and pressure sensors, etc. Complex data captured in highly device-specific form, and limited scope to apply more generally; some very simple on-off signals in the form of electric currents could be produced by sensors.

Output devices

Much use of paper media for photographs, texts, etc; other specialised outputs such as loudspeakers for radio and recording systems, TV and cinema screens, etc.

Actuators

Electronic technology, coupled with more sophisticated mechanical engineering, allows for more complex control of devices, but this is not governed by substantial information processing.

Software

Some industrial era "software" developed to control specialised equipment such as knitting machines; first practical computer software developed at end of this period, and initially required manual setting of switches.

Systems

Many specialised systems, but active information processing systems only emerge at the end of the period, remain extremely rare, large, and cumbersome, and are applied to highly specialised purposes (e.g. military cryptography).

Supplementary Technology

Electricity grids established and provide the relatively large amounts of power required by most of the electrical and electronic devices described here (though some battery-operated valve-based electronic devices like radios).

 

Table 4 Late Industrial Era

Information Technologies in the Microelectronic Era

(second half of twentieth century, especially last quarter of century, and beyond.)

Processors

Rapid progress in microprocessor systems based on semiconductor technology in Integrated Circuits, allowing for large-scale manipulation of data in digital form.

Storage

Storage media of numerous forms developed for digital data: semiconductor memory devices, magnetic media (digital tapes, floppy and hard discs), optical media (CDs, DVDs, etc), and many others.

Transmission

Optical fibres allow for transmission of larger volumes of data; cellular systems allow for more efficient use of radio spectrum, as does the broadcasting of material in digital form; satellite communications allow for increased global reach and access to remote areas. Data communications grows more rapidly than conventional voice communications, and with the development of the Internet a world-wide computer system is effectively established.

Visual Displays

Cathode ray tubes remained dominant in twentieth century, but were increasingly complemented by a variety of flat screen technologies for lightweight portable devices (and specialised products like watches, calculators, etc.). Projector s for large-scale presentation of digital material.

Inputs

Keyboards used for a vast range of devices (some specialised devices require specific input systems – e.g. flight simulators, video games consoles); "mouse" and other pointing devices also popular in personal computers and some remote control devices; growing use of voice input. Many sensors used in specialised industrial, medical, environmental and other applications.

Output devices

Wide range of printers introduced, though little challenge to paper as the recipient medium; audio output used as signalling system in computers.

Actuators

Many specialised actuators in industrial and medical applications. Some consumer appliances (e.g. automobiles) host numerous actuators (e.g. for motor and braking control).

Software

Extensive development of programs – e.g. operating systems software, languages for writing applications, generic and industry-specific applications software, etc. Software engineering is an established discipline, with elaborate systems, tools, and libraries of components for software development. Still much software production remains craft-like in practice "Dataware", - informational content presented in interactive digital formats (e.g. CD-ROM encyclopaedia) – also becomes a major activity. Like other digital information products, while production costs may be high, reproduction costs are minimal.

Systems

Successively mainframe, minicomputers, desktop and laptop (and other portable) computers develop and gain increasingly huge markets. Embedded computers (and associated inputs and displays) incorporated into a wide range of devices. "Convergence" of devices like computers and telephones, computers and televisions.

Supplementary Technology

Semiconductor devices have relatively low electricity requirements, and battery technology for portable devices is improved, but more demanding devices continue to push limits of power availability. Electricity grid still major source of power. Standardsbecome critical as need for interoperability grows.

 

 

Table 5 Generations in new IT

Successive Information Technologies in the Microelectronic Era

· precise chronology will vary from element to element, and according to how far a technology’s development and diffusion needs to proceed before inclusion. But a rough dating would be:

· 1st Generation: c1950; 2nd Generation c1960; 3rd generation: c1970; 4th generation: c1985; 5th generation: c1995

Processors

  • First Generation: vacuum tube valves
  • 2nd Generation: stand-alone transistors: 32k memory; 200 thousand instructions per second
  • 3rd generation: Integrated Circuits
  • 4th generation: VLSI
  • 5th generation: ultra- large-scale integration, RISC (reduced instruction set) systems
  • and beyond…: new chip architectures e.g. parallel processing, eventually perhaps biochips, optical chips. 3-D chips.

Storage

  • First Generation: Magnetic drums
  • 2nd Generation: magnetic core memories
  • 3rd generation: semiconductor RAM, magnetic disks
  • 4th generation: bubble memories
  • 5th generation: optical discs (CDROM, DVD)
  • and beyond…: vastly powerful memory systems of all sizes.

Transmission and Telecommun-ications

  • First Generation: traditional telephone
  • 2nd Generation: digital transmission; pulse code modulation
  • 3rd generation: introduction of satellite communications; microwave systems; networking; optical fibres; packet switching; telex
  • 4th generation: ISDN (Integrated Services Digital network); packet switching data communications; some development of videotex and similar telematics systems, take-off of fax (business use)
  • 5th generation: ATM, Intelligent Networks; take-off of Internet e-mail and World Wide Web; cellular mobile voice and data communications
  • and beyond…: Internet telephony, take-off of video communications

Visual Displays

  • First Generation: basic cathode ray tube (CRT) displays
  • 2nd Generation: colour TV
  • 3rd generation: flat screens for small devices, enhanced Visual Display Units
  • 4th generation: flat screens for portable devices, large CRT displays
  • 5th generation: large flat screens, video projectors, widescreen and enhanced TV
  • and beyond…: virtual reality displays, both portable and large-scale

Inputs

  • First Generation: manual setting, punch cards
  • 2nd Generation: punch cards
  • 3rd generation: keyboard entry, command line prompting, scanners and plotters
  • 4th generation: mouse and other pointing devices, "windows"-type interfaces, digital cameras and microphones
  • 5th generation: some natural language input
  • and beyond…: more sophisticated visual and speech inputs

Output devices

  • First Generation: teletype
  • 2nd Generation: large typewriter-like and matrix printers, plotters
  • 3rd generation: small dot matrix printers
  • 4th generation: laser printers, inkjet printers, speakers
  • 5th generation: colour laser printers, hi-fidelity loudspeakers
  • and beyond…

Actuators

  • First Generation: simple physical and electromechanical switches and valves
  • 2nd Generation: electronic switches, power chips
  • 3rd generation: basic computer controlled machine tools, robotics
  • 4th generation: advanced manufacturing technology, machine tools, robotics
  • 5th generation: chematronics, mechatronics
  • and beyond…: nanotechnology devices of many sorts and at various size levels

Software

  • First Generation: machine code, autocode.
  • 2nd Generation: high level languages
  • 3rd generation: very high level languages; structured programming methods
  • 4th generation: fourth generation languages (4GLs); widespread use of packaged programs for huge range of applications; object-oriented languages
  • 5th generation: visual programming, Internet delivery of programs
  • and beyond: widespread use of expert systems, neural net systems, and other sorts of "intelligence" within programs and to produce new software.

Systems

  • First Generation: computers large beast with perhaps with 2kilobyte memory, and very low processing speeds.
  • 2nd Generation: mainframes still dominant
  • 3rd generation: timesharing systems widely used by large organisations; minicomputers; memories of 2 megabytes, processing speeds of 5 mips (million instructions per second)
  • 4th generation: microcomputers, Personal Computers; distributed systems with Local Area Networks (LANs); 8 meg memory, 30 mips processing speed
  • 5th generation processing speeds of giga and tera instructions per second; increasing
  • and beyond: High levels of systems integration, access to information networks by numerous devices in practically any location. Vastly powerful chips embedded in numerous communicating devices.

Supplementary Technology

  • First Generation: mains electricity
  • 2nd Generation: materials science applied to semiconductors
  • 3rd generation: space technology important for communications satellite launch; issue of standards posed as devices required to intercommunicate and share data,
  • 4th generation: small rechargeable batteries for portable devices, optical fibres for telecommunication infrastructures
  • 5th generation: lightweight, long life rechargeable batteries, low-energy chips and energy conserving software
  • and beyond: application of biosciences and nanotechnology?

 

IT: the great opportunity


 

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IT: the great opportunity

 

By Prof Atta-ur-Rahman


On an average, just one IT professional can generate at least $30,000 of exports per year. In order to have an export of over one billion dollars, we need to have about 40,000 IT professionals fruitfully employed in Pakistan. It is our target to start producing 100,000 IT high quality graduates in Pakistan each year in order to have multibillion dollar exports.

Information Technology has opened up vast new avenues for developing countries such as Pakistan to use the creativity of their young through education and training and to make fuse use of their talented youth for national development.

In the last five years, we have seen explosive advances in this field. From a few hundred thousand pages which were on the Internet in 1994, there are now over a billion pages and these are being added to at the rate of about a million new pages a day! Electronic commerce, at present, is estimated to be about $70 billion and will increase some 20-fold over the next 24 months. Information Technology is often thought of as software exports. This is incorrect since in this day and age, it is all pervasive. In a recent report published by the US department of trade and commerce, it was stated that about 50 per cent of the acceleration in growth of the US economy during recent years was because of the integration of Information Technology in various industries, thereby dramatically improving the efficiencies, productivity and resulting in substantial cost benefits.

The United States has led in IT and Europe is following in its footsteps. Japan had initially ignored this important field, but has now realized its mistake and has launched a 5-year programme to catch up. Things are changing at a tremendous and mind-boggling pace in this field. Those countries which do not make use of this opportunity are likely to be left behind, thereby deepening the digital divide which already exists. At present, Pakistan is well placed with 140 million people, the majority of whom are below the ages of 30 and many are English speaking. We need to train a critical number of our youth in this important field and to provide them with opportunities at home to use their skills for a variety of IT-related programmes so that the country can forge ahead quickly. What is particularly attractive about Information Technology for countries such as Pakistan is the rapidity with which it can be adopted.

Other technologies usually involve massive infrastructure investments, sophisticated technologies and a critical number of highly qualified professionals. Let me take the example of the pharmaceutical industry, for purposes of comparison. It requires a huge effort involving medicinal chemists, pharmacologists, toxicologists, engineers, etc, to come together and a cost involvement of about a billion dollars before a single new drug can be marketed at an international level. Only the major world's pharmaceutical industries possess the vast technical and financial resources for drug development - that is why not a single new drug has been discovered and marketed independently by any of the third world countries. The field of Information Technology is largely free from these constraints. The key factor is training of human skills and providing them with opportunities for commercial development. When I took over as the federal minister for science and technology, I was surprised to discover that Pakistan had no IT policy or action plan. I, therefore, immediately called a meeting of IT professionals and gave them a 4-week deadline to come forward with the two documents: first the IT Policy and second, which I consider to be very important, an IT Action Plan which relates each clause of the IT Policy document with a corresponding actionable item in the IT Action Plan. These actionable items should be both time-bound and money-bound, so that it is quite clear what is to be done and how much it would cost. The first meeting of the IT Advisory Group was held on April 1, 2000, within two weeks of my taking charge as federal minister for science and technology and the first draft of the document was in my hand by April 28, 2000, reflecting the tremendous enthusiasm and hard work of the group members over this period of time. The Group comprised mainly private sector individuals since I had already decided that the IT policy must revolve around their needs and their vision. In this sense, therefore, it was a different policy. For once, it was not the government imposing its views on the private sector but the private sector itself coming out with what they felt was the way forward. Hence, it was need-driven from day one. I also established an Overseas Strategic Advisory Board in San Francisco, USA, headed by Masood Jabbar, President, SunMicro Computers. Other eminent personalities on the Board included Safi Qureshey, formerly head of AST; Sohaib Abbasi, senior vice president of Oracle and a number of other eminent IT professionals in USA. A similar group, called "Dareecha" was also established in New York under the leadership of Farrukh Zafar and both groups have been constantly advising us of what needs to be done.

Policy document: The "Policy Document" was made open to the public through Internet and went through some 20 different revisions over the next several weeks. It was finally approved by the Cabinet for implementation last summer. However, we did no wait for the IT Policy and Action Plan to be approved, but went ahead quickly to implement some of the key recommendations, as time was one commodity we could not afford to lose. Most importantly, the deliberations brought out the fact that Pakistan did not have the quality and quantum of human resources necessary to make a dent in this important field.

Export potential: According to one estimate, on an average, just one IT professional can generate at least $30,000 of exports per year. In order to have an export of over one billion dollars, we need to have about 40,000 IT professionals fruitfully employed in Pakistan. It is our target to start producing 100,000 IT high quality graduates in Pakistan each year in order to have multibillion dollar exports. However, as stated earlier, such an effort will only be useful if we can ensure quality of the output, if we are able to retain them within the country and provide them with suitable job opportunities and enabling infrastructure. It was clear that we had to invest massively in the development of our human resources so that we could develop the requisite number of highly trained IT professionals at different levels.

It was, therefore, decided that 60-70 per cent of the budget assigned by the government for the IT sector should go into the field of human resource development. We, accordingly, initiated a broad based programme including strengthening of our computer science departments so that we can produce a large number of highly qualified graduates, MScs and PhDs. Some 31 computer science departments in our universities are in the process of being strengthened. We have also embarked on a large number of short term training programmes to develop the basic computer skills of persons.

More jobs: The first batch of about 3000 data feed operators were trained and all got jobs within a month of the completion of their 8-week training. The next batch of 9000 persons is in the process of being trained across the country. A major programme in the field of training in medical transcription has been initiated. In the first instance, a nationwide programme has been launched to train the trainers in this field while the second phase of this programme involving training of medical transcriptionists themselves has also begun.

Interestingly, the availability of these trained medical transcriptionists is resulting in an important phenomenon - a large number of medical transcription companies in different parts of the country have emerged, thereby illustrating the fact that if the requisite human skills are available then the economic activity also follows. A national programme to re-train our unemployed science graduates, medical graduates and engineers in IT related fields through short courses such as JAVA, XML, C++, etc. has also been initiated. Through this programme a large number of the educated unemployed in the country can be provided fruitful opportunities for jobs.

We have also decided to set up several new IT universities but at the same time we decided that we will not invest government funds in construction but make use of existing campuses wherever they exist and convert them into IT universities. This is an important cornerstone of our policy since real progress is achieved not by constructing buildings but by unleashing the creativity of our young through a challenging educational system. For this we must develop quality institutions through the induction of highly qualified faculty members and through creation of world class libraries and facilities.

Accordingly, two existing institutes - COMSATS and FAST - were granted charters and they are in the process of being upgraded. Another organization, Petroman, which has some 11,000 students and 22 campuses across the country is being taken over by our Ministry and is being developed into a full fledged university. A large campus near Lahore which has 400,000 sq ft covered area located on some 300 acres of land is also being taken over for conversion into an IT university. Two universities in the private sector are also in the process of being developed.

Distance learning: The most exciting education programme, however, is the establishment of a Distance Learning University which will allow us to train hundreds of thousands of IT professionals in different parts of the country. Under this distance learning programme, high quality TV programmes will be prepared and then broadcast through the television across the country. It will also provide an opportunity for women to join this Distance Learning University and, sitting at home, take courses in various IT fields. A 3-hour slot has been made available on PTV for beaming these programmes. Another 6-hour slot will be provided from March 23, 2001, by Shaheen TV while a full fledged TV channel for IT and other science and technology programmes is also being established.

Quality testing: At the roots of these efforts lies the question of quality. Unless we can ensure a certain level of quality, the whole effort could be wasted. The government has, therefore, decided to set up a National Testing Service and a National Accreditation Council. The National Testing Service would test the standards across the country and provide a national scale on which the students from one institute can be graded against another institute. The National Accreditation Council would critically review the IT institutions and accredit those institutions which have adequate faculty and infrastructure. The government will urge the public to enrol students only in such accredited institutions so that certain basic minimum standards are assured and that they get paper value for the money which they are paying in the form of fee.

The present situation is quite alarming. Pakistan produces some 9,000 graduates in the field of Information Technology but a large percentage of these are substandard. We are, therefore, determined to quickly improve the standards of IT education. For this purpose, we are in the process of hiring faculty from abroad. We have already advertised for faculty in Financial Times in UK as well as in major IT related journals. Higher salaries are being offered and suitable faculty members will be inducted into our IT institutions so that quality of the IT education can be improved.

Building highways: It is also important to develop the necessary infrastructure and fast and large information highways could be established, far most important than cement highways. Pakistan now has about 100 per cent optic fibre backbone and we are in the process of spreading fibre from this backbone to various cities. Fibre rings are being laid around the major towns and cities of Pakistan so that high-speed Internet access can be made available quickly to key business and education localities. The last mile high-speed Internet problem is being addressed through using DSL and ADSL technologies which allow some 200 fold increase in transmission of information on existing copper lines. In rural areas wireless technology is being employed to spread Internet to places where the telephone system does not presently exist. Till August 17 last year, Internet was available only in 29 cities of Pakistan.

In a dramatic expansion, PTCL has succeeded in spreading Internet to over 325 towns, cities and villages within a short span of 4 months and by the end of December 2000 some 325 towns, cities and villages had been provided with Internet facilities covering about 80 per cent of the country. This expansion is unprecedented in the history of the growth of Internet in any country of the world and PTCL gets all credit of having done this in such a short period of time. It goes to show of what we Pakistanis are capable of if we set our mind to it!

A series of Internet kiosks are being established across the country at all major airports, railway stations, post offices etc. About 1,800 Internet kiosks are being established in different petrol pumps whereby a whole network of Internet facilities will become available across the country even in remote areas where a person who has no resources to buy a computer can walk into an Internet kiosk to receive or send an e-mail message, down load information from across the world, tap into the huge information bases in libraries, etc.

Why Pakistan? One question that we have been constantly addressing ourselves is "Why Pakistan?" Why should anyone invest in Pakistan when there are opportunities in countries such as Thailand, Singapore, UAE and other countries in the region. The answer is simple. We have to make it so financially attractive and so easy for investors that they are drawn magnetically by the huge investment opportunities available in the country. We, therefore, decided to remove bureaucratic hurdles for investment as well as create an extremely lucrative environment for investment. One key factor which we addressed was the issue of bandwidth costs. These were over $100,000 per megabyte per month about a year ago, and they have now been reduced to only $3000 per megabyte per month, making us by far the cheapest in the region, far cheaper then India, Singapore or UAE or for that matter any other third world country. This measure was accompanied by a large number of incentives which we have given to promote the IT area. These include 0 per cent income tax for the next five years on software houses, 0 per cent duty on computers and computers parts, the ability of software companies to retain 35 per cent of export earnings in foreign currency accounts, 50 per cent rebate on the income tax of IT professionals, the ready availability of loans to software houses on the basis of contracts which they have signed with foreign companies without the need of having any collateral, etc. These measures have transformed the entire country into a kind of export processing zone, and Pakistan is today the hottest place in any third world country to invest in the field of Information Technology.

The excitement and interest that these measures have created are reflected from the results which are now beginning to come through. In a major article, entitled "Pakistan's IT Push Paying Off", published in a Singapore newspaper, it was mentioned that Pakistan has now taken key measures to rapidly became a major player in Information Technology and the kind of incentives that we have given were highlighted. A 50-million dollar Venture Capital Fund has been created in the USA by a group of Pakistani IT professionals and entrepreneurs.

Foreign in vestments: Investments of over Rs12 billion have been announced in the last five weeks alone in the telecommunication and IT sector because of the steps that we have taken. Oracle is investing Rs120 million for setting up operations in Sindh, similarly CISCO has decided to set up a series of networking academies, IBM is investing in setting up 10 IBM training centres. CERN (Geneva) is in the process of setting up a large computer centre in Islamabad.

The first Call Centre has been set up in Lahore and started functioning last week, as a result of the decision of the government to allow Call Centres to be established freely in the country. A major telehousing project and a Voice-over-IP project are being set up under the auspices of PTCL. The opening up and liberalization of the sector is hence generating tremendous excitement among investors because Information Technology is the hottest growing world industry at the moment and the incentives and measures which we have taken have generated world wide interest.

We are in the process of setting up marketing offices across the world. A business incubator has already been established in Singapore, another marketing office and business incubator is being established in San Francisco, office space has been taken up in Tokyo to set up a number of business incubators there and a business incubator and marketing office is being established in London. These will provide our software companies with opportunities to establish marketing linkages with companies abroad.

A major programme has been also launched to promote e-commerce in the country. Internet merchant accounts have been allowed by the State Bank of Pakistan and a time frame has been given to the National Bank of Pakistan and Habib Bank of Pakistan so that e-commerce can become a normal mode of trading within this year. The necessary e-commerce laws have also been prepared and are now in the process of being vetted by the Law Division so that e-commerce laws can be implemented in the country.

A project for the electronic governance has been launched which includes a programme for training of government officials and computerization of the government so that a paperless government is possible. This will ensure transparency in procurement procedures as well as the ready availability of all relevant information to government officials.

A revolution is in the offing. I am determined to make it happen quickly. However, it is only a beginning. We have a long long way to go. I am confident in the creativity of our youth. All we need is the facilitating environment and I am confident that we will forge ahead, and Inshallah Pakistan will be a power to reckoned with in the field of Information Technology within 3-4 years.



Prof Atta-ur-Rahman, the winner of the prestigious Unesco Science Prize, is the federal minister for science and technology, and director, HEJ Research Institute of Chemistry, University of Karachi.

Vision for the future

 

By Syed Tariq Niazi



The Information Technology revolution has given us a vision of the future in which we can use technological tools to enhance our civil society, enrich our lives by tapping the broader social benefits of the Internet, and move beyond the digital divide to digital opportunity. Our vision builds on the work we have done to promote the growth of the Internet and to create a safe and secure online environment.

According to latest figures, by September 1999, 200 million people around the world are connected to the Internet. Recent developments in broadband technologies will continue to make access to the Internet faster. In particular progress in bandwidth intensive graphics, along with streaming audio and video, will stimulate the development of new applications.

In addition to phone and cable lines, communication companies are investing in the full range of technologies that may provide increased broad band availability. The opportunities for the future are immense and include delivering mobile broadband over the broadcasting spectrum allocate for digital television, delivering mobile broadbands over cellular networks and direct fibre connections to homes and offices. E-commerce has the potential of transforming the way we live, work and shop. The new information age demands new approaches to old problems.

Electronic commerce, the ability to carry out transactions over the Internet, can make a tremendous difference in people's lives. People are saving time and money, locating hard to find items and becoming entrepreneurs themselves- all through the Internet. The adoption of Internet-based electronic commerce by the business community is making a tremendous difference in how business is conducted, fundamentally altering firm behaviour and industry structure. In short market led electronic commerce has made the transition from principle to action.

The IT revolution is the fastest emerging revolution seen by the human race. And the Internet surpasses all. Electricity was first introduced in 1873 and it took 46 years for it's mass scale use, telephone introduced in 1876 and took 35 years for mass use. Television introduced in 1926 took 26 years for mass use. PC introduced in 1975 took 16 years, mobile phone in 1983 took 13 years for mass use while the web introduced in 1994 took only 4 years for mass use. While in the United States 57 per cent Americans have Internet access, it is said that only 0.6 per cent people living in the developing countries can access the Internet.

In Pakistan, Information Technology is fast becoming a necessity. With the shrinking global scenario, Pakistan urgently needs to revolutionize its Information Technology infrastructure.

Our vision for the future should see a whole new breed of IT professionals working in various sectors of the country. For this we not only need an infrastructure for development of IT professionals but we also need to develop a conducive atmosphere of Information Technology in the country. This should include computer access and computer literacy at all levels. This can only be achieved by making IT accessible at the grassroots level.

This can be achieved by working on the following strategies:

(a) Creating the awareness and importance of IT in the less fortunate areas.
(b) Persuading all sectors of the society to realize the importance of IT and their specific role to play.
(c) Developing IT awareness institutes in various parts of the country on a war footing basis.
(d) Developing a contributing chain mechanism in which each segment should play its specific role.
(e) Making Internet available to all such areas where it is still an alien's domain.

To achieve these goals an integrated approach between various segments of the society (particularly the IT network ) is needed.

The segments include:

  • Organizations.
  • Computer Institutes.
  • Computer Companies.

Organizations:Large local and multinational organizations should donate their used computers to various newly established IT institutes in the less fortunate areas.

Computer institutes: Already established institutes should play their role by offering their services in terms of providing guide lines in development of course material, remote teaching facilities through their faculty/students.

  • Institute must ensure that each one of their students must teach at least to one youth from low income areas about computers, and their grading should be linked to this. Extra credits should be offered to all the students who educate atleast one youth from the less fortunate segments of the society.
  • Offer scholarships in established computer institutes for further studies for outstanding students smaller institutes.
  • Each established institute must take responsibility of at least five smaller institutes to maintain the quality of teaching.

The emerging global picture has increased demand of IT professionals in the western world. To prevent a massive brain drain of highly competent IT professionals , we need to offer them equal opportunities in the country , whereby there is easy access to knowledge and free flow of ideas. A conducive atmosphere for IT can be achieved by undertaking a massive initiative.

The major goals of this initiative are as follows:

  • Encouraging creation of a procompetative policy and regulatory environment where Information Technology, the Internet and e commerce can flourish.
  • Spurring the development of advanced information infrastructure to remote and urban areas through collaboration with multilateral organizations, NGOs and the private sector.
  • Providing education and training to local entrepreneurs, knowledge workers, policy makers and regulators.
  • Fostering the use of specific Internet applicationssuch as micro e-commerce, distance education and improved access to government services.
  • Implementing strategies: Computer literacy and Information Technology can be promoted at the grassroots level through the network of NGOs, private entrepreneurs and government infrastructure. Besides, it would require:
  • Compulsory computer training at the Primary and secondary school level in both urban and rural areas.
  • Computer training and support centres at community levels.
  • Support to institutions providing IT services.
  • State-of-art postgraduate training and academic activities at the institutional level.
  • Establishment of IT Universities at the Provincial level.
  • Training of key government functionaries in IT technology.
  • Capacity building of all government personnel in Information technology.
  • Development of database in all government departments with easy access to the public, related databases.
  • Development of computer accessibility in all remote areas.
  • Health database for the health department including tertiary care hospitals as well as basic health units.
  • Development of a comprehensive database of Human Resources and talent pool at all levels.
  • Digitalization of taxation records so that tax payers can download and retrieve publications and forms.
  • Development of a competitive and innovative environment promoting e-commerce.
  • Online job postings.
  • Creating one-step access for all citizens to the entire government information.
  • Demonstrate leadership through government use of technology.

We should aim to develop an e-society in Pakistan where all citizens should have equal access to Information Technology so that we can improve the quality of life of our citizens. We should not only develop commercial aspects of e-commerce but also tap the wide range of societal benefits that Information Technology offers.

IT for good governance

 

By Nisar A. Memon


IT must be seen as an investment and not an expense. It requires vision and bold leadership to employ IT as a tool, but it must be coupled with sincere ommitment to good governance since without that IT can be detrimental to the freedom and well being of the citizens. Globally, IT and good governance has come to stay and any delay in its adoption can only be at the cost of the development of the country, thus the choice must be made sooner rather than later

Information Technology and "good governance", being the agents of change, have assumed importance in all the countries of the world in ways more than one, and as such, they are in vogue. The two subjects have gained currency worldwide through the effort of those who are working to improve their societies.

Leaders from all walks of life have turned to IT and good governance in their professional pursuits, and incorporated them into their agenda. Some of them have found comfort and even refuge by relying on these two as part of their communication within their own countries, as well as internationally, in furtherance of their respective positions. No matter who and where, the two subjects have come to symbolize the agenda for change and reforms for development.

IT has received acceptance as an essential instrument for management and development. The domain is information, and technology is an accompanying catalyst. IT consists of hardware and software for solutions. Over the years, IT has transformed from central systems to client server computing, mainframes to servers, terminals to personal computers and local networks to a networked world, all leading to better solutions.

The key IT trend witnessed in the last century was the spread of the internet in the global network environment with e-business transforming the business and government processes, transcending national boundaries and creating a networked world and networked economies. All this was possible due to deep computing, simulation and datamining trends in IT, specially by pervasive computing wherein the chips are getting smaller and are interwoven in the global fabric of computing and communication with its profound effect on commerce and society.

Some of the current and future technology directions that have impacted the use of IT as a tool are: voice and hand-writing - a common interface to computing technology; microprocessor chips at gigahertz speed; magnetic, optical and holographic technologies offering endless storage; breakthrough in plasma monitors; intelligent software personalizing the web; increased bandwidth and new digital technologies with fast access to connected world and e-business creating a seamless global society.

IT trends and technology directions have brought in applications and solutions for socio-economic development and has greatly contributed to good governance. Before deliberating on these contributions, let us turn to the second but most important part of today's subject - good governance. Governance is the manner in which power is exercised by government in the management of the country's social and economic resources, while good governance is the exercise of power by various levels of government that is effective, honest, equitable, transparent, and accountable, thereby leading the way to "the greatest happiness of the greatest numbers".

Good governance has come to be recognized as fundamental to any civilized society. Any system - specially the democratic dispensation - has to be based on strong institutions operated by processes and systems with clearly defined roles and responsibilities. A state, often has three separate branches under a constitution, namely: Legislature, Judiciary and Executive. In anticipation that each of the branches might go wrong from time-to-time and when that happened, the other two branches of state - individually or together - could use their power to get the offending branches back on the constitutional track.

Thus, good governance is synonymous with the rule of law, where the law is derived from the constitution and amended from time to time by the legislative and delivered through the institutions of the executive branch as provided in the constitution, while the judiciary interprets law and constitutional provisions, but not making the law. No matter what is the practice, there is unanimity the world over on the general parameters of good governance.

Governance encompasses the state, but it transcends the state by including in its domain the private sector and civil society organizations. It is civil society that protects the rights of all citizens and connects individuals with public realms and the state. Civil society organizations in developed economies channel citizens participation in economic and social activities and organize them into more powerful groups to influence public policies and gain access to public resources, specially for the poor. They can provide checks and balances on government power and monitor social abuses.

IMF and World Bank have for quite sometimes accepted good governance as one of the criteria for eligibility of loans and prerequisite for growth. IMF is now clearly chartered to satisfy itself on transparency in all financial figures, efficient governance, introduction of tax and institutional reforms, as well as, take notice of other domestic concerns in requesting country.

In summary, the characteristics of good governance as have come to be accepted are:

  • Participation - citizens voice in decision making;
  • Rule of Law - their legal framework enforced impartially particularly law on human rights, legitimacy of government, responsiveness, consensus, equity, accountability, strategic vision and transparency - in processes, institutions and information.In the backdrop of IT trends and technology directions and elements of good governance, let us see the nexus between IT and good governance and see how IT can and has served the good governance.

Legislative, an important institution of the state provides - for the benefit of citizens - the information regarding what is being said, debated and legislated for them. Towards this, IT has been employed to record all the speeches as well as all laws presented and enacted by the legislature basically in the form of texts and scripts but given the current available technology as voice or video recording available on the Internet. This information is of value not only to citizens but also to the new legislatures for learning history as well as preparing their own presentations in the legislative assembly, thus improving the quality of debate as well as avoidance of repetitive statements or time consuming checks and references towards achieving good governance.

Judiciary has long benefited from IT by having case laws available to judges and to lawyers. Libraries for any professions are extremely important in terms of quality of work. The electronic library has revolutionized the world and professionalism. The central database for various reference laws has provided the service to professionals which has in turn brought the speedy and inexpensive justice to the citizens.

In countries like ours, where the strength of courts in terms of judges is restricted and has been identified as one of the cause of inefficiency in delivering speedy justice, the use of IT for administration of the courts and the jails is a major contributor to good governance. Citizens who have been in jails for more than their possible term, if the offence was to be proved, such information when available on computers and freely accessible brings speedy justice and reduced level of administrative costs both of courts and jails. In addition, it brings accountability of institutions and officers towards rule of law. A comprehensive administrative system helps scheduling of cases to bring efficiency and cost of litigation down, resulting in less expensive justice to citizens and making lawyers and judges more productive.

Executive, the major interface of citizens with the state, has the responsibility of planning, execution and monitoring. With a large population and widespread territory, IT becomes a natural ally for planning and delivering the needed services to the citizens. Planning presupposes information about countries' resources such as human, physical, financial and fiscal. Database of all citizens is therefore fundamental to sound planning and delivery of social services like education and health, utility services like water and electricity, infrastructure like roads network are best provided by IT.In addition, economic planning is inconceivable without IT. Economic opportunities for job market supported closely by education planning can help reduce unemployment. All this is considered by citizens as their right, in return for taxes paid to the national exchequer. A comprehensive, clean and correct citizens database leads to effective electoral lists and fair elections for moving towards good governance and in implementing merit based administration where appropriate people are selected for right jobs. The defense of countries, too, requires extensive use of IT to meet the challenges of today's complex technological defense systems.

Aid and loan receiving countries are required to keep their financial data open to lending countries where IT is mandatory. Executive, however, must also provide its own citizens freely available information since they are the sovereign and must be counted in the scheme of things. In developed economies, the citizens are provided the Internet help desk and kiosk facilities to access information of the executive branch as service to the citizens which has helped them to achieve transparency and reduced corruption towards good governance.

IT is used for recruiting good people but it requires political will and meritocracy in all areas. IT helps select right people at all levels to deliver the promised services since without that the good governance will remain a mirage.

IT must be seen as an investment and not an expense. It requires vision and bold leadership to employ IT as a tool, but it must be coupled with sincere commitment to good governance since without that IT can be detrimental to the freedom and well being of the citizens. Globally, IT and good governance has come to stay and any delay in its adoption can only be at the cost of the development of the country, thus the choice must be made sooner rather than later.

Pakistan's potential to become an IT market

 

By Adeel A. Shah


To compete with the growing economies of the world, Pakistan needs to educate, train and bring its workforce to the international educational standards, incorporate new technologies and modern management practices into its industry, and bring intense focus on building an information-based economy by upgrading the technical and managerial skills of its people.

Pakistan, with a population of 140 million, is a strategically placed country in southwest Asia. It has abundant untapped natural resources, a decent telecommunication system, an improving transportation system and a well-established banking infrastructure. But, despite having several reputed universities and colleges, it produces only about 800 information technology professionals per year.

Currently, Pakistan exports about $35 million worth of software a year to the entire world, as compared to $8 billion from India, $5 billion from Ireland and $1.5 billion from Israel. The total size of the IT services market in the world accounts for $315 billion, and is projected to reach $465 billion by the year 2003.

With a low production of IT-trained workforce, underdeveloped and fragmented IT industry and lack of any initiative from existing industry leaders, Pakistan is not yet prepared to become a player of any significance to gain its part of the global IT market any time soon, in spite of its great potential. Pakistan shows no signs of transition from an old industrial base to the new-age information technology-based economy.

From failure to success: In the business world, when a business corporation is no longer generating value for its stockholders, is heavily debted, the production is significantly down, the competitive market edge has withered away, has not kept pace with advances in machinery, capital markets and modern management practices, then there is very little chance that such a business would ever revive itself, without a radical change in its historically flawed modus operandi.

If we look at Pakistan as a business corporation, we see that it faces just about the same challenges. The current economic outlook is quite depressed and the country's current backbone industries seem to be in a never-ending vicious cycle of stagnated economy feeding on itself.

Currently, Pakistan's major export industry is based on a basic low-tech, low-value product array that doesn't add much to the nation's well-being or create much business activity or interest in the world markets. The leading export product is cotton fabric that accounts for only about $938 million annually. The cement, sugar, fertilizers, and other medium to heavy industries are also reported to be running on old-fashioned machinery, and are adding huge deficits to the country's economy. Even the larger long established heavy industries such as railway systems, airlines and steel mills report enormous losses almost every year.

Shift to new paradigm: Today, Pakistan needs an intensified effort at the national level to urgently zero in on an industry that would revolutionize the industrial base with low overall capital investment. A shift to a new paradigm would increase the overall economic efficiency, increase industrial productivity, document and systemize the economic links, and revive the stagnation of the economy internally, as well as prepare the nation to compete in the world markets for products and services necessary to create national wealth.

Information technology is the current choice of many developing and developed countries to upgrade their economies and become competitive in the global market place. The IT-based economies have streamlined the most complex economies of the world and enhanced the productivity to the level where an economy such as that of the US has wriggled out of the entire trillion-plus dollars national deficit and turned into a surplus in recent years.

Pakistan, with a very trainable, young, and entrepreneur population, has a golden opportunity that needs to be seized before it is too late. A move to IT-based industry would enhance the export of intellectually created products and services to draw foreign exchange, realign the industrial base, make the stock market efficient, and facilitate the documentation of the national economy.

Need to promote IT skills: Pakistan needs IT-skilled workers to realize a meaningful benefit to the economy. Our numerous institutions have not yet been able to produce a critical mass of trained workers necessary to effect a real change to cope with the dynamics of IT-based world markets.

Pakistan is suffering from a severe shortage of faculty members in the country. The qualified faculty can neither be brought in from outside the country nor be produced within the academic institutions any time in the near future, at the current pace. Fortunately, this dilemma can be solved by the innovative use of the Information technology.

Information technology can be used to "import" the much needed training and education from practically anywhere in the world to Pakistan through a system of online education which would bring teachers (in the US and other countries), and students (in Pakistan) together to create an educational environment in Pakistan, where the transfer of knowledge can occur without any usual constraints being experienced by institutions in Pakistan. A virtual educational system can bring students in Pakistan the most updated course content in a timely fashion, and students will never have to stay behind from the newly developed western technologies.

Utilizing expat power: Today, millions of expatriate Pakistanis have a genuine and deep-rooted desire to help build Pakistan, but have not been able to do so except remitting some foreign exchange and discharging advice without any practical way to implement any plans. The expatriate communities and local professionals in Pakistan have never been able to join their talent and capital base to make theirs a wealth-producing nation.

Expatriates, as individuals, have been outstandingly successful in European and US economy but, unfortunately, they have not been able to contribute to their homeland because no organized mechanism currently exists to pool together resources to bear on the economic buildup of Pakistan. If the government, business executives, professionals, educators and expatriates let the opportunity pass by, they all will miss the opportunity to take a quantum leap that may not come around again for many more decades.

The world economy has already moved from low-value basic industries to a fast paced high-value information based economy. Many countries have taken concrete steps to rejuvenate their stagnated industrial base by rapidly moving to the new-age technologies to produce products and services that are in great demand in the world markets.

Meanwhile, Pakistan economy is still largely based on the low-tech, low-value industries that have long been fully mechanized and running very efficiently in developed nations and, therefore, do not attract premier revenue from world markets. In order to put its economy on track to compete with the growing economies of the world, Pakistan needs to quickly take steps to train and bring its workforce to the international educational standards, incorporate new technologies and modern management practices into its existing industries, and bring intense focus on building an information-based economy by upgrading the technical and managerial skills of its people.

Why Pakistan should have wireless Internet

 

By Ilyas Absar


Although the Internet is less than 30 years old, its impact on society has been astronomical. Originated by the US department of defence for the purpose of creating an electronic communications network invulnerable to damage sustained during a nuclear attack, it has evolved into an unprecedented integration of capabilities.

Now, with just a click of a mouse, the Internet provides worldwide broadcasting capabilities, a mechanism for information dissemination, a method of purchasing consumer goods and services, and a medium for collaboration and interaction between individuals and their computers without regard for geographic location.

The Internet is a successful example of the benefits of sustained investment and commitment to research. Beginning with the early research in packet switching, the US government, industry and academia partnered in evolving and deploying this exciting new technology. Who knew thirty years ago that terms like "surfing the web," "eTrade," "eBay" and http.//www.idini.com" (or any other domain name) would be a part of today's every day terminology?

One of the greatest gifts the Internet has provided has been the gift of freedom - freedom to access information anywhere at any time of the day, freedom to purchase items and services 24x7, and the freedom to speak and listen to communities around the world. To provide this freedom, the Internet of today, or "wired Internet," is focused on information, e-commerce, and services (software and application) targeted at the PC platform.

Opportunities galore: Information Technology and the Internet are the engines that will drive the economies in the new millennium. The wealth of nations will be determined by the technological gaps between them. This engine today is already propelling the technological and economic advancement of the developed as well as emerging economies. There are two central themes leading this economic change, namely the "advent of the Information Age" and the "globalization of markets". If Pakistan is to leapfrog into the future, it must commit to increasing technological sophistication of its production structure.

Advent of the Information Age affords Pakistan opportunities for unprecedented communication, collaboration, information-sharing and knowledge dissemination. How will Pakistan apply, adopt, direct and lead in these sectors? Some initiatives in the key areas are required to stimulate the growth in these sectors. These initiatives should include the development of scalable systems and permanently available networks for power distribution, telecommunications, software development, data and software sharing, hardware manufacture and information distribution via Internet technologies.

Availability of reliable power is the biggest stumbling block and a huge hurdle for the development of any of the other systems. The power resources in Pakistan are plentiful enough that Pakistan is considering exporting power to India. A vision to recognize the pivotal importance of the power grid to the development of other networks is needed. This should be followed by implementation of a plan for development of a reliable power system in the entire country.

Communication networks in telecom and infocom (Internet and intranet) can be the vehicle that connects the people in synergistic activities beyond imagination. This is possible with today's technology. Not only do we have the means for this but it is imperative if we are to be leaders into the future.

India has already proven that one doesn't have to be a wealthy country for leadership in software development. Pakistan is not much different from India, and could develop centres of excellence in software. India has reached its position as a key software provider to the world by instilling quality management practices. If Pakistan wants to instil confidence around the world in the ability of its software-built factories, it must also employ quality management principles.

Countries like Malaysia are already setting new paradigms in hardware manufacture. The lessons learned should be applied to Pakistan. With the expertise in hardware manufacture and software development, we should set up the backbone for an "Islamic Internet System" within the Muslim world. This system should also include enterprise servers with shared software and storage in key locations. Barriers to access can be reduced by developing cheaper devices as clients to these servers instead of using the usual PC clients. Collaborative computing is a way of using computer technology to work more efficiently. This will encourage online interactive exchange of information with future capability for real-time interaction.

Globalization of markets opens up opportunities to an international market strategy for Pakistan that are unprecedented. Pakistan can establish a new paradigm for business and commerce in many manufactured goods.

The challenge for Pakistan is to change its reputation from a supplier of inferior goods with inconsistent quality control to a supplier that consistently meets the quality standards required by the competitive international marketplace. Pakistani suppliers achieve these standard in samples, but fail to deliver the same quality consistently in every batch of delivered product.

Catching the maverick lot in manufactured goods is a formidable task. ISO 9000 methods are an invaluable tool for ensuring repeatability of quality from one batch to the next. Government can help by establishing national quality awards (NQAs) for the private sector. Training people in "total quality management" and "continuous improvement" methods can ensure achievement of ever better quality standards. Japan followed these principles to turn around its image in the 1950s as the producer of world's junk.

In the US, a strategic advisory board of expatriate Pakistanis in IT and related financial and Internet sectors has been formed with participation of key Pakistanis and volunteering themselves not only for advice but also for actual investment and participation in IT projects and activities in Pakistan.

A look into the future: The Internet of tomorrow or "wireless Internet" brings the concept of freedom to an entire new level. The wireless Internet mirrors its wired counterpart in many ways, with information and m-commerce (mobile e-commerce) services at the forefront of many development efforts. In addition, with the ranks of mobile workers growing and wireless technology advancing rapidly, many companies are eager to make key software applications accessible via a host of wireless devices. According to Cahners In-Stat Group (http://www.instat.com), a technology analyst research firm, there will be more than 700 million wireless Internet subscribers by 2004.

A few such applications have already been rolled out for wireless devices, and many more are in development and promise to have a bigger impact on corporate computing than the laptop computer. Companies such as i3Mobile who provides users with personalized alerts about stock prices and other news, Siebel, which offers sales, service, call centre and marketing software and Sybase, the creator of a corporate database for the handheld are just a few examples of companies heading in this direction.

For Pakistan this opens another door. Wireless Internet could afford the opportunity to grow without having to wait for availability of reliable 24X7 power and an expensive investment in wired telecom network. Usually, wireless devices like cellular phones and PDAs operate on rechargeable batteries. This opens the opportunity to leap frog using available bits of technology.

Going wireless: Although cellular telephones may be an increasingly popular convenience in the prosperous countries, demand is growing even faster in the Third World nations, including Pakistan, where mobile phones are considered a necessity. With financially distressed governments often unable to provide adequate public services, including telephones, people are turning to privately built wireless networks as a way to communicate over extended distances. These countries, where perhaps four-fifths of the world's people live, had about 40 per cent of mobile phone lines in 1999, up from 20 per cent in 1995. But these same countries had only about 5 per cent of the hub computers of the Internet, according to Emmanuel Forestier, an economist at the World Bank.

Now, with the power of new wireless Internet, rich and poor nations alike will have the dual freedom of the Internet with wireless technology. The cords of the past will disappear as technology catapults society into a world where wireless mobile devices connect users to the Web and one another, and access wireless enabled software, 24x7. This next leap in the technology revolution is becoming a reality via companies like iDini, Corporation, a provider of wireless computing services.

iDini is at the helm of an emerging market for wireless computing services, through its creation of a wireless computing server that enables wireless operators, service providers, and software developers to generate increased revenues by becoming wireless computing service providers. With iDini technology, service providers are able to quickly provide their end users with enhanced services, ranging from desktop PC applications to entertainment and enterprise applications.

Computing services face several challenges in the transition from wired to wireless delivery. Services today are limited due to platform and integration issues. In regards to the platform, a specialized infrastructure for adapting applications must be created for each type of wireless device supported. For example, WAP (Wireless Application Protocol) mobile phones require content formatted in Wireless Markup Language (WML), while Palm Computing(r) connected organizers require applications formatted as Palm Query Applications (PQA). Software developers and wireless service providers must therefore ensure that services are deployed for each device in the correct format, and are accessible via proprietary gateways that filter and limit the type of information the user can access.

With regards to integration, even if new applications are designed with new devices and protocols in mind, users are generally not able to access legacy and enterprise applications in corporate IT systems. These applications are only accessible to large corporations that can justify the expense of a fully customized, vertical wireless application solution.

iDini's solutions for wireless application delivery address these challenges. These include enabling existing software to be delivered to mobile phones or PDAs, preserving investments in legacy systems and services, and this also provides a robust, flexible and scalable platform for the development of new wireless computing services. IDini has also proposed for Pakistan, an "architecture for national deployment of access to Internet content and information processing" based on the wireless Internet.

The stated goal of the GoP ministry of science and technology is to make Internet access available to the masses thereby enabling a revolution in information usage, sharing and processing. The government is considering a wide scale deployment of Internet kiosks - PCs set up as standalone stations in petrol stations, libraries, post offices, restaurants, etc. - so that Pakistani citizens can get ready access to Internet content, e-mails, and basic PC applications. In order to achieve this overall goal with the minimum of investment, the best network architecture would use iDini's OS to power a server-based applications and file hosting environment, thereby keeping the cost of kiosk PCs as reasonable as possible.

This architecture will also provide access to networked files and e-mails via any handheld wireless device with Internet access (such as WAP phones and wireless-enabled PDAs), and allows for the establishment of central Data Centres, which will be an invaluable asset as Pakistan's economy continues to strengthen.

The system also allows for easy and phased-in upgrades of equipment and services, and can be expanded to provide remote access to centralized applications and databases, as well (such as government records for motor vehicles, health care, laws and regulations, etc).

Endless possibilities: The wireless Internet opens up tremendous new possibilities. And mobility brings a new definition to the interactive landscape - one that is always on, always connected. It may be the first truly ubiquitous platform. Proximity-based commerce applications promise to alert you to a sale when you walk by. With a mobile phone or PDA you am able to browse the Internet, obtain e-mail, or shop at your favourite store (without having to go into that store). In addition, your phone and PDA now are able to turn into a virtual PC where you can access all of your desktop files, and edit them. This is all possible today. And it is all an extension of the user's hand. Amazing.

WBA: free like a butterfly

 

By Sean Dodson


James Stevens and Julian Priest believe that the Internet should be as free as the air we breath - and they are planning to make it so. Everyone, they say, should have the right to access to the Internet because the net is too valuable a thing to be owned by small groups of organizations.

USING an aerial, a lightning conductor, a floppy disk and a microwave transceiver little bigger than a credit card, a pair of techies are hoping to beat the world's big telecommunication companies and launch the first broadband wireless Internet in the UK.

James Stevens and Julian Priest of Consume.net represent a growing group of people who believe that the Internet should be as free as the air we breath - and they are planning to make it so.

Everyone, they say, should have the right to access to the Internet because the net is too valuable a thing to be owned by small groups of organizations, i.e. the big telecommunications companies. They believe that the network should be owned by its users, and it should be free. The current economic and regulatory framework is too slow, they say, and too expensive and is the cause of what is now being called the 'digital divide'.

The scheme involves the creation of a "data cloud" - a wireless Internet network distributed through the radio spectrum. The technology is already commercially available and, as long as the network is used for non-commercial basis, no licences will be needed, say the pair.

Stevens says: "We have already established three sites for antennas or nodes - which are omnidirectional send and receive stations. Once people have the wireless cards in their laptops they will be able to connect with our networks." These first three nodes, adds Stevens, are enough to generate a data cloud. The right cards for laptops are called 802.11 or wireless Ethernet and are available from companies like Lucent Technologies for as little as US$217.

Of course, the pair cannot build a network on their own. So in November they invited others to participate in its building and design. The response so far has been promising. Nearly 400 have already joined the mailing list. These include the chief executive of a leading UK Internet service provider (ISP) and several high-end technologists. Already, another node is being developed in north London, and Medium Rare is building its own at London Bridge. The pair say that anyone can set up a node and that it can cost as little as US$500.

The initial nodes will rely on connections to the 'outside' (main) Internet - which will still have to be paid for. But the pair see no reason why the network cannot stand alone once it has grown big enough.

The idea for the network began in 1995. Then, Stevens had just co-founded Lateral, one of the UK's first web design agencies. Lateral was leasing a two megabyte connection from a business park in north London at a cost of US$290,000 a year. Stevens found that he was using a mere quarter of the bandwidth and wanted to redistribute the spare capacity to the other creative groups in his neighbourhood. One of those groups was web designer, Medium Rare, whose technical director is Julian Priest.

The trouble was that they were housed in the building opposite and it is illegal to string a cable across a street in the UK.

So, Priest went out and bought a pair of microwave transponders for US$435, similar to those found in mobile phones, and hooked up to Lateral's bandwidth with a wireless connection. The pair say that the idea for a city-wide network came from there.

"The whole environment of communications is very tightly controlled. Because that's where the power is, especially these days," says Priest. "That's the reason why we couldn't hang a wire across the street.

"The good thing about what we are doing now is that you don't need planning permission to build our network. And you don't need a licence." This is because they plan to operate on the part of the radio spectrum usually used by Citizen's Band enthusiasts.

The data cloud, they say, is not the Internet for free, but the Internet in return for participation. Although the protocols are still to be thrashed out, they will give access only to those prepared to build a node. The nodes work by both transmitting and receiving large amounts of data. This means that those participating in the creation of the data cloud are effectively sharing bandwidth. So, although technically feasible, simply buying the correct PC card will not be enough.

Beyond that, the group hopes to connect local networks and get backbones between local networks running under their own rules. Similar networks are already under way in Sweden and the US.

To Stevens in particular - who for years ran Backspace, the UK's first digital access space - the point of all this is to allow people to produce their own media.

"This has been possible for some time," he says. "But the missing link has always been issue of connectivity. It is easy to stream media between two people, but to stream to 10 people is already beyond the bandwidth of most users. So we have stepped in to give people the idea that it is within their own capabilities to develop a network of their own."

It was because of this desire that they got fed up waiting for the big telecommunication companies to get their wireless networks together. Also, the government's auction of bandwidth has driven the price up to a point where any successful bidder will have to make so much money out of it that the chances of a fast cheap public access network emerging are virtually nil. At no point do they ever mention the desire to make any money from Consume - they operate as a strictly non-profit making organisation.

"We are just trying to build in the scraps of what's left," says Priest. "But we believe that there is more than enough. And if we can populate the space with free public access networks - then we might even provide some competition for the big telecommunications companies."-Dawn/Guardian News Service

IT in the future of South Asia

 

By Dr Arun Mehta

Lasting peace in South Asia cannot be achieved by politicians alone. It needs far more, initiatives on the ground that will cement it by contributing to the long-term prosperity of the constituent nations.

AS POLITICIANS finally start to address the Kashmir issue with some seriousness, it is perhaps time to look beyond to a more congenial atmosphere between Pakistan and India, and examine how we might work together more closely to mutual benefit.

Arguably, no area is as promising in its potential for cooperation, as is Information Technology.

While the rest of Indian industry is in the doldrums, its IT sector has been booming. This vibrant sector has made a significant impact not only on India's balance of payments position, but also on her international image. Countries that even we find hard to locate on a global map, are queuing up to attract Indian IT professionals.

In a major foreign-policy speech at the University of Nebraska on December 8, 2000, President Clinton pointed out that there are 700 high-tech companies in Silicon Valley headed by Indians, and called for an end to the "cold war estrangement" between the US and India, and the start of a systematic, committed relationship. Indian IT, in other words, is even making a positive impact on US foreign policy, at least as perceived through Indian eyes!

There are, of course, many IT companies in the US headed by Pakistanis as well, and the IT sector in Pakistan too is flourishing. However, Pakistan seems to have lagged behind in its marketing of these skills. This is surely an area that we could cooperate in, particularly since the Indian IT industry is starved of qualified people.

I was particularly impressed to note, during my visit to Karachi last year, that quite a few IT companies are headed by women. Once there is more traffic of people between the countries, the example of women such as Jehan Ara, Anita Weldon and Sabeen Mahmud will surely have a positive impact on women in the minority communities of India as well.

One area in both countries that does need special attention is IT education. The IT sector is highly labour-intensive, and the lack of trained professionals could easily squander the positive international image that we have painstakingly built up. The biggest problem is the lack of quality IT teachers. Far better emoluments and facilities in industry have attracted away most of the good young teachers from educational institutions. Since the faculty members remaining behind are largely out of date, so are the curricula, which do not seem to be designed with the needs of industry in mind, and rather emphasize areas that the faculty does know how to teach.To counteract this, some of us plan to start in New Delhi next summer a convergence institute, which will take creative young people who have just finished school, and train them using a highly hands-on approach.

Recognising that Information Technology isn't just computers, the basic training will include the electronic and print media as well. Students will be encouraged to start their own radio and TV stations, producing programmes that could be aired through terrestrial and satellite broadcasting channels, as well as through the Internet. They will of course get a strong grounding in computer programming, web designing, animation and other computer skills that are highly in demand.

Students will be encouraged to offer their services in the marketplace. Not only will this help defray the high cost of quality education, it will also build confidence, and teach them the basics of commerce. Adding an e-subsequently to the practical skills acquired in commerce will then not be hard. Strong emphasis will be placed on communication skills, particularly in English. With frequent upgrades to the software IT professionals use, people in this industry must be fluent in reading. Content producers in any case need to be able to write well, as do programmers when they document their software and write user manuals. With an increasing need to market internationally and the trend towards multi-national teams, and the ability to verbally convey one's point of view is crucial too.

As faculty members, the convergence institute will employ industry professionals who will meet with the students one-half-day-a-week, and for the rest of the time be available to them via e-mail and chat. This will allow the institute to teach the students skills that are currently demanded in the marketplace.

It is hoped that with improving bandwidth availability, it should be possible to allow faculty members from distant locations to teach our students. This will allow us to obtain international expertise at reasonable cost. After a year during which we hope to iron out this system of education, we hope to embark on distance education, so that students in other institutes can benefit from our modern approach. Our students will also be taught teaching skills, so that some can run such institutes of their own, and even if they choose to work in the IT industry, they can still teach using distance education techniques.

Given the paucity of qualified teachers, we are clearly hoping that we can collaborate with experts in Pakistan in this venture, so that we can pool our expertise. A limiting factor is the slow speed of electronic communications between the two countries: typically, Internet connectivity between our countries is via the US, which adds delay and cost. At a time when both countries, are heavily investing in optic fibre cables, it would not cost much to take such a connection to the border as well. We share many languages across our border. The vernacular media industries on both sides of the border would benefit from the increased market size for their produce that such connectivity would generate.

Lasting peace in South Asia cannot be achieved by politicians alone. It needs far more, initiatives on the ground that will cement it by contributing to the long-term prosperity of the constituent nations.

From criticism to activism

 

By Sabeen Mahmud


Students of humanities, business, and IT must communicate and share ideas. An e-commerce website can only be successful if it is backed by solid technology, has profitability, is creatively designed, and is easy to use

To begin on a positive note, we have an IT policy and a minister for science and technology who is truly committed to making a difference. So, for a change, we can't complain that the government is doing nothing.

The proliferation of institutes across the nation indicate that the IT scene is alive and kicking. The number of young people walking in for interviews at technology companies alludes to the same notion. Software houses and web development companies, small and large, are opening up in every other "gali" in the country. Internet access is getting cheaper and computers are being made available to a wider cross-section of people than ever before.

So . . . do we have a problem or are we doing OK?

No one can deny that there has been an Information Technology boom in the country. IT is everywhere and has even transcended generation gaps. However, despite a number of well-meaning initiatives, there is a "long and winding road" to traverse and technology alone will not provide the fuel.

A host of factors have powered the spread of e-commerce in other countries, including India. Of primary importance everywhere has been the mindset and attitude. This is a time to act and not react. Waiting for the government, and waiting for the "right time" will get us nowhere. There are risks involved in being a first-mover but this is an excitingly reckless time to be alive. For the first time in our history, we have an opportunity to be right up there, with the movers and shakers, creating the rules that will guide the Information Economy.

The 21-year-old entrepreneurs who became millionaires overnight did not achieve runaway success because they were Americans or Indians. What they did have, and what we seem to lack, is unbridled initiative and vision.

Where does vision come from? While there is no comprehensive answer, it certainly doesn't come from compiling Java code all day. Recently, a young Pakistani applying for a job at a high-tech firm in the US, was asked which languages he spoke and whether he played any musical instruments. Not a word about his coding abilities; those were apparent from his reference letters. What these firms want are well-rounded human beings who can see the bigger picture. If our young people are not exposed to philosophy, science, art, literature, and music, along with their technical training, we run the risk of being reduced to extremely low-level players in the IT space, capable at best of taking orders and executing them according to a pre-defined brief. I recently asked a 23-year-old Cisco Certified Network Engineer where he saw himself three years from now. His answer: administering a Microsoft Windows NT network! Ouch!

Our business schools have also not made the leap into the New Economy. Around the world, curricula are being radically altered to keep pace with changing trends in the marketplace. A typical e-commerce workshop for management students includes such topics as Basics of e-Business Infrastructure, Management Strategies for Dotcoms, Market Research and Metrics, and The Importance of Brand Equity on the Internet. While the principles of Adam Smith and Peter Drucker still have some relevance, we cannot expect to survive by adhering to ancient wisdom alone.

The lessons to be learned from across the globe are clear: students of humanities, business, and IT must communicate and share ideas. An e-commerce website can only be successful if it is backed by solid technology, has a clear path to profitability, is creatively designed, and is easy to use. Achieving such results is possible only if the techies, creatives, and business folk work together. Existing in insular pockets will widen the gap and with each passing day, bridging this gap will become ever more challenging.

Waiting for institutes and universities to alter curricula will only delay matters further. What our languishing economy needs is the spirit of entrepreneurship. The Internet offers huge opportunities for business and there is no time like right now.

Although the recent dotcom shakeout has shown that merely an exciting idea is not enough to succeed, a good measure of common sense, business practicality, and a desire to create an impact by doing something great is all that's required. According to George Colony, founder and CEO of Forrestor Research, a leading Internet market research firm, one of the top five factors required for a country to succeed in the Internet Age is a wide supply of smart, risk-taking managers.

Alibaba.com, an online business-to-business (B2B) trade exchange launched from China in 1999 and is now widely regarded as one of the best SME (Small and Medium Enterprise) success stories in Asia. A former English teacher, 36-year-old Jack Ma has given himself until the age of 40 to develop a sustainable Internet business before he returns to teaching China's aspiring entrepreneurs. Alibaba.com started in an apartment in Hangzhou, China with 18 people. Now, the company has over 200 employees and has offices in Beijing, Shanghai, Hangzhou, Hong Kong, Seoul, Silicon Valley, and London. Alibaba.com has over 300,000 members from more than 200 countries and regions.

Andrew Yao, founder of Hong Kong-based iSteel Asia.com, an online market exchange for the Asian steel industry, set out to reform the steel trade in Asia.The operation comprises three components: a secure online B2B exchange environment for steel trades, comprehensive news and industry information for the steel trading community, and service providers in financing, insurance, surveying, shipping and logistics. iSteelAsia.com aims to capture about 10 per cent of the Asian steel market by 2002, targeting $5 billion worth of online steel trading.

eBay is another inspirational apartment story and got underway without infringing on founder Pierre Omidyar's day job. eBay's origins were the chance result of a conversation between Omidyar and his girlfriend, a collector of Pez dispensers, who asked him one evening at dinner if there was a way he could set up a website for collectors like her. eBay soon developed into a full-fledged eBusiness that went public with a market value of $1.88 billion, and unlike most dotcoms, has been profitable from the very start.

Developed nations have invested a great deal of time and money in building local infrastructure. While Pakistan is afflicted by hunger, poverty, and a range of other issues, we cannot ignore the importance of building solid IT infrastructures, which will in turn, allow Pakistani businesses to compete in the global economy.

Companies that provide software and web development services must play an active role in developing local businesses. The lure of the international market is huge as Pakistan is still in the stages of IT infancy: contracts worth millions of dollars are obviously more appealing than contracts awarded by Pakistani companies. However, competitive pressure will eventually drive local businesses onto the Net.

Why wait?

A starting point, within the control of independent organizations, is to provide computers and e-mail accounts to staff members. The next step is to establish a web presence, which can, over the course of a few months, develop into a full-fledged Internet strategy. IT companies need to support local needs by providing high-quality consulting and development services.

Without payment processing gateways, e-Commerce cannot take off. Under the IT Policy, merchant accounts can now be provided to net-based vendors. Why are Pakistani banks not rushing to enable these services? The US has an established history of mail-order companies which have migrated to the Internet, not to mention brand new pureplays like Amazon and eBay. A certain level of trust and credibility already exists, making people more willing to use their credit cards for online shopping. Pakistan has a long way to go in this area, but the financial sector, the IT sector, and the government, need to plan strategies to make the general public more comfortable with the idea of shopping online. Seminars on CyberLaw and Security on the Net would be a good start. As credit card penetration in the country is fairly low, we also need to devise alternative payment mechanisms to kick-start the e-commerce revolution.

The Internet has made possible a new breed of companies the world over: ambitious, globally competitive and very sensitized to customer needs. Across the border, for example, the liberalisation of the Indian economy and the increasing diffusion of information technologies like the Internet are changing the way Indian banks think of themselves, their customers and their competitors. ICICI Bank's VP for IT, Neeraj Bhushan Bhai, estimates that 80 per cent of the bank's non-resident Indian customers have come through the Internet. Deposits increased from 4.5 per cent to 10 per cent over a 1 year period. Savings of thousands of dollars per month have also been realized in mailing and courier costs. Application forms have been downloaded in massive quantities off their website and the bank now has over 7,000 regular users of its online services.

Other sectors have seen massive growth, ranging from companies that sell milk to pencils. It is predicted that by 2005, more than 20 per cent of the apparel retail turnover in India will be accounted for by organized chains which will use sophisticated Information Technology to cut costs, improve market responsiveness, and manage customer loyalty programmes.

A key issue that plagues developing countries is access to IT-related services. Huge segments of our population are unable to afford computers and Internet connections. The Ministry of Science and Technology ought to forge volume deals with vendors to provide cheap solutions, setting up kiosks and cybercafes across the country.

PTCL is doing the nation no good by charging Rs. 12 (or more?) per hour for Internet access. Instead of complaining about stolen revenue, PTCL should equip itself to offer Internet-enabled services and generate genuine revenue as well as provide a higher level of customer satisfaction.

Although Voice-Over-IP is still banned, everyone uses it. Can't the Government see who's winning and who's losing in this mindless battle of wits? Low-cost technology called CorDECT (http://www.tenet.res.in), developed in Madras, has been used in Kenya, Tunisia, France, Brazil, and China, as well as in a few Indian districts, and has been instrumental in bringing the Net cheaply to millions.

We have a choice. We can either start making a difference now by addressing micro-issues that are within the grasp of each one of us, OR we can remain depressed for the rest of our lives, waiting for government and foreign aid to solve all our problems. Pakistan needs people who are charged up and willing to give of their time, more importantly than their money. We have to take ownership of our problems and believe that we can change the way things have always been done.

The need for speed

 

By Bahzad Alam Khan


Developed countries may have numerous ways of making Internet connections swifter; some boldly imaginative web commentators can even see power lines being employed for Internet connections. Pakistan, though, has two major and feasible options. These are the useof the Digital Subscriber Lines (DSL) and the cable television network all over the country. While the former has yet to come into operation in the country, the latter has started making hostile inroads into the realm of ISPs

For over 400,000 Internet users in Pakistan, browsing the web is no ordinary feat. It requires, among other things, tons of patience and perseverance. No matter what Internet browser you are using (Internet Explorer, Netscape Communicator, Opera, Enigma, Lynx, etc), or whatever equipment (modem, computer), you have to wait for an eternity, at times much to your chagrin, only to see an obnoxious sign proclaiming "Web page unavailable".

With Minister for Science and Technology Dr Attaur Rehman announcing an ambitious Rs5 billion information technology (IT) policy and a reduction in bandwidth rates, the gullible should be excused for believing that an IT revolution in Pakistan is just round the corner.

Let us, therefore, shun high-sounding jargon and expressions like "IT revolution", "e-commerce", "B2B", "C2C", "global village", "cyber culture", etc and get down to the nitty-gritty.

Broadly speaking, four factors affect the speed of an Internet connection.

Firstly, the number of subscribers online with an Internet service provider (ISP) determines the speed of an Internet connection. The more is, unfortunately, not the merrier. An efficient ISP maximises the number of subscribers without compromising on the speed. If it offers reliable connections, it may get away with charging a little more than what other sloppy ISPs are charging.

If an ISP has acquired, say, 100 telephone lines from the PTCL, how many subscribers should it have? The president of the ISP Association of Pakistan, Sanaullah Boota, explains: "On 100 telephone connections, 1,000 subscribers may get average speed, 800 fast speed and 1,200 slow speed." Mr Boota however was applying only a rule of thumb, without taking into consideration three other factors.

Secondly, the speed of an Internet connection depends on bandwidth quality. Mr Boota said: "The PTCL offers 2MB bandwidth to ISPs at three monthly rates: $30,000 (marine cables), $40,000 (satellite) and $8,000 (shared access). The costlier, the better." When ISPs choose the shared access option, one 2MB pipe offered by PTCL may be shared by four ISPs, with each ISP theoretically allowed to utilise only one quarter of the bandwidth.

Thirdly, Internet connection speed depends on the hardware and software infrastructure employed by an Internet service provider. A bad workman may quarrel with his tools, but an ISP seldom admits that the equipment it is using may be of low quality, defective or substandard. Slow servers, caching problems, absence of bandwidth optimization, file transfer protocol problems and sundry other factors may slow down an Internet connection at the ISP node.

Fourthly, the speed of an Internet connection depends on the computer set employed by an end-user. If his modem (short for modulator-demodulator) is faulty or if his set has networking problems with a large number of undeleted files, he will certainly have a hard time browsing the net. It is a good idea to jettison unnecessary cached files off and on, and especially the temporary files (having extension .tmp) that an operating system keeps spawning all the time.

So, what should be done? First and foremost, there should be a regulatory committee entrusted with the task of monitoring the performance of ISPs. Those non-government organizations that safeguard the interests of consumers may take upon themselves the task of keeping a vigil on ISPs. QUOTE QUOTE

The PTCL provides ISPs with bandwidth without ensuring that they, in turn, serve subscribers in the best possible way.

Recently, the government constituted a committee, comprising the ministry of science and technology, the PTCL and the ISP Association of Pakistan, to look into this matter. Knowing the pace with which these government committees work, it will be a long while before the committee submits its recommendations.

Developed countries may have numerous ways of making Internet connections swifter; some boldly imaginative web commentators can even see power lines being employed for Internet connections.

Pakistan, though, has two major and feasible options. These are the use of the Digital Subscriber Lines (DSL) and the cable television network all over the country. While the former has yet to come into operation in the country, the latter has started making hostile inroads into the realm of ISPs.

Firstly, DSL technology allows consumers to access the Internet at much higher speeds than the widely used ISDN (integrated services digital network). In other words, telephone lines that an ISP acquires from the PTCL has, at present, a certain data-carrying capacity. DSL technology enhances that capacity in a big way. It is heartening to note that the PTCL plans to espouse this technology.

An advertisement placed by the PTCL in national dailies says: "The PTCL invites Expression of Interest for provisioning of DSL services to meet increased bandwidth requirements to end-users, ISPs, banks, small medium and large corporate customers, software houses, educational institutions, home offices, etc...All proposals must be submitted along with bid security of Rs2.5 million in the form of an irrevocable bank guarantee from a scheduled bank in Pakistan."However, web masters maintain that the introduction of DSL technology without upgrading the country's backbone infrastructure will not yield the desired results. They also argue that unless ISPs seek to manage Internet traffic in a better way, DSL technology have will little impact on increasing the Internet connection speed.

The PTCL is fast realizing the importance of coaxial cables. In western countries, the coaxial cable can serve three purposes at the same instant: it can carry data (Internet), video (TV channels), and voice (phone). The advantage of acquiring an Internet connection over a coaxial cable is that it keeps your telephone unengaged, thus keeping your telephone bill within limits.

The 357 cable television operators registered with the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority in Karachi are gearing up to obtain the equipment required to switch over to the Internet. In their colourful brochures, one cable television operator in Clifton has already claims it will offer broadband fibre optic connections very soon for Internet connections.

Though they have the elementary infrastructure, they will, at the very least, have to replace the simple line extender (LEX) connectors they use at present extend their network, with repeaters (a simple telephonic amplifier). A cable television network is heavily dependent on amplifying devices and the replacement of a LEX with a repeater will require enormous investment. Some cable television operators concede that a number of multinational companies are prepared to offer the equipment from the background. They are also willing to supply costly Set-Top-Boxes which, like Distribution Posts (DPs), to amplify the connections to subscribers.

In the final analysis, the magnitude of success that Pakistan makes in the IT sector will depend on the number of households which have cable television connections. In India, 30 million households have cable television connections, while its National Association of Software and Service Companies estimates that there are 4.8 million Internet users in the country.

In Pakistan, even the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority has no clue how many people have cable television connections. The director general of the PTA, Iqbal Waseem, admits: "Cable operators try to conceal the number of subscribers they serve because PTA charges are in proportion to the number of subscribers." Under the Class H (B-1) licence type, if a cable television operator serves 1,000 end-users, he has to pay Rs50,000 licence issue fee and Rs25,000 annual fee. If he serves 5,000 end-users, he has to pay Rs100,000 licence issue fee and Rs50,000 annual fee.

However, for Internet connections through coaxial cables, the PTA has yet to come up with a new tariff structure. PTA DG Iqbal Waseem explains: "So far elaborate rules and regulations are not in place, but the PTA has, in principle, agreed to allow cable television operators to offer Internet connections. In this respect, a policy is also being framed." In the absence of an official tariff structure, cable television operators at present charge Rs1,000 to Rs3,000 as installation charges and from Rs200 to Rs1,000 as monthly charges.

Analysts argue that Internet connections provided by cable television operators are LAN-based. (LAN stands for local area network). LAN, being a shared access method, is slow and its speed is inversely proportional to the number of users. Furthermore, cable television operators will acquire Internet connections from ISPs and their performance will depend, to a large extent, on the infrastructure adopted by both the ISPs and the PTCL.

Internet in Pakistan: trends and barriers

 

By Gulzar Ahmed Khan


The Internet market in Pakistan is moving in positive direction but there is need for certain steps, such as allowing more competition in the Internet market, making Internet tariff rates affordable for the common man, protecting the service providers' interest as also of the users and positive use of the Internet technology by the individuals

The idea that we are living in a global or borderless world is relatively new. The meaning we now attach so easily to the word "global" was unknown 100 years ago when the world was still in the process of being divided up into independent sovereign nation states.

However, the dramatic events which have taken place in the 20th century - including global welfare, the development of global transportation and telecommunication systems, and the rise of global products, markets and corporations - have convinced many people that we are, indeed, living in a new era in which the economic, social, culture and political structures that shaped relations between people over the past two centuries will be transformed.

There are accounts of why this is the case, but most emphasized is the central role played by developments in telecom, computer and Information Technology. This historical change is often described as the passage from an industrial to an information age. Electronic information system is facilitating the information communication around the globe within seconds. No more information barriers exist in the world now. Internet has made the world markets more competitive; transaction cost has been reduced; information is easily available to the economic agents.

IT mania: According to the ITU estimates, Internet subscribers are more than 300 million on the globe and Internet growth rate is 100 per cent per year. Internet took only five years to reach 50 million users.

After a revolutionary change in the world telecommunications, government of Pakistan has defined broad objectives in the telecom sector as follows:

- The expansion and improvement of the telecom infrastructure in Pakistan to better support economic, social and cultural developments in Pakistan.
- The facilitation of new investment and competition in the telecom sector by developing the legal and regulatory framework.
- The encouragement of increased private sector participation in the development of telecom, in particular by the participation of PTCL through the recruitment of strategic investors.
- Encouraging the development of local telecom expertise to promote local research and manufacturing so as to create a telecom industrial base in Pakistan.
- The protection of consumer interest.

Government initiative: Recently, the Pakistan government has taken initiatives to spread the Internet in the country. For this purpose, Internet accessibility has been made available at local charges just by dialling 031. Within few years almost 95 per cent of the population will be on line and 450 cities will be connected to the Internet. PTCL is decreasing the higher charges of leased lines for the ISPs. International leased line charges have been decreased five times in the last three years. Currently, 53 per cent reduction has also been made. PTCL is also decreasing the domestic leased lines charges. PTCL has recently decreased the bandwidth charges by 25 per cent. On the other hand to enhance the data processing rate, the government has taken steps to ensure using of 128 kilobyte per second (Kbps) loop line by the ISPs. For the time being, ISPs are using the 64Kbps loop line for the data communication. More advance technologies are available now and advance countries and most of the regional countries are using them.

Telecom investment has increased in the last few years. Many of the new investors have found attraction in this sector. Now software export is worth $30 million. The government has targeted to increase the software exports equal to $100 million in the coming three years.

The government of Pakistan has launched an integrated programme to promote Information Technology. Under this programme, new IT Universities, including virtual University and Institutes, will be established under the public and private supervision and a heavy amount has been allocated in the current budget for the promotion of IT in the country.

In Pakistan, ISPs started to provide services in 1996. Today, the ISP market in Pakistan is booming, and new ISPs are being set up at a regular interval. Currently, the ISP market in Pakistan has a large number, 122 licensees. This shows there is an increasing trend in the Internet market business and numbers of ISPs are increasing over the years. According to the PTCL, Pakistan has 250,000 Internet subscribers by the year 2000 but still these are lower compared to other regional countries.

Countries such as Singapore, Hong Kong, India and China have 1.74, 1.85, 4.5 and 12.3 million population online, respectively. It shows that Pakistan still has to travel a long distance even to compete with regional countries. Until now Internet facility is available to large cities only and small cities are too far to have this.

Internet market in Pakistan is still facing certain barriers and Internet growth rate is not matching up to the regional countries' growth rates. Historically, Internet subscription is related with the numbers of PCs. Internet users are increasing with the increase in the number of computers. Another important variable effecting the spread of Internet is teledensity. Teledensity is a tool for gauging penetration rate of basic telephony.

Teledensity: Pakistan has just 2.34 per cent teledensity, which, compared to other regional countries, is low but still greater than India. Sri Lanka is having teledensity equal to 2.84, China has 8.62 per cent and Malaysia has 20 per cent penetration rate, in the region. PTCL is targeting to have it 5.6 per cent by 2003. Cost of the computers is a factor defying spread of the Internet. In the last few years, although there was sharp decrease in the prices of computers, still these are not in the income horizon of the common people.

An important thing for the sharp decrease in the computer prices is the free competition in the world markets. Developing countries, such as Pakistan, are really benefiting from the unbranded computers and violation of copyright laws. Unbranded computers have lower prices compared to the branded ones. China, Taiwan, Singapore and some other regional countries are producing inexpensive computer products.

Copyright violation: On the other hand, due to the copyright violations, computer softwares are available at very nominal rates. It is discouraging the software development market in the country and people find less attraction in the software development due to the less reward for their efforts. It is the need of the time that the government take steps to encourage the software developers to work in this field just by making possible the competitive rewards to them.

This is only possible through the proper implementation of the copyrights law but, unfortunately, trade off lies between the spread of computers and copyrights implementation for the computer softwares for the low-income countries like Pakistan. As the per capita income of Pakistan is just $442 per year and computer softwares are very expensive, it seems that implementation of copyrights will shrink the Internet subscription growth in Pakistan.

Insufficient phones: Another snag in the expansion of Internet services is inadequate basic telecom infrastructure to meet the demand for telephone. According to PTCL, 3.12 million people have telephones. On the other hand, telephone exchanges are also not digitized completely, till June 2000, most of the telephone exchanges have been digitized, and digital telephone exchange is a necessary condition for the Internet connection.

Computer illiteracy is another constraint to the spread of Internet. People are not familiar with the use of computers. Now there is increasing trend to be equipped with the computer knowledge. Unfamiliarity with the English language is also causing less Internet subscription. Only a few percent Pakistanis are familiar with the English language. Recently, the government has decided to develop the Urdu softwares, which will lead to increase in the computer usage and ultimately Internet subscription will increase.

PTCL monopoly: ISPs have their reservations about the non-professional behaviour of the PTCL representatives. They are not finding appropriate response from the concerned persons. Among the 122 licence-holders, only 43 ISPs are operational. Others have not started their operations yet. They have complaints against the higher cost of leased lines, bandwidth charges, licence fee, renewal charges and royalty. Most of them are waiting the PTCL monopoly coming to an end in December 2002 to be operational, when market will be competitive and ISPs will not be needed any assistance from the PTCL. At present, PTCL is fully exploiting its monopoly, not allowing the ISPs to use their own networks for the provision of Internet connection.

This policy is forcing the ISPs to restrain the Internet subscription. If PTCL liberalize the Internet market more, it will help the ISPs to expand their operations and invest more in the telecom sector. This will also assist the service providers to use high-speed networks for Internet subscription. It is suitable for the Internet market that PTCL allow more freedom to the service providers.

Bad consequences: Most important consequence of the Internet is the easy availability of pornography that can lead our youngsters to moral disaster. There is dire need that the government, as well as the guardians, control and check the usage of Internet by the young people.

Emerging problem in Pakistan is the migration or brain drain to foreign countries. More and more software experts are leaving the country.

Advanced countries are attracting the young Pakistani IT experts. This situation will hinder the government to achieve the proposed IT goals and until now no serious efforts have been made to stop the brain drain.

In sum, Internet market in Pakistan is moving in positive direction but there is need for certain steps, such as allowing more competition in the Internet market, making Internet tariff rates affordable for the common man, protecting the service providers' interest as also of the users and positive use of the Internet technology by the individuals. PTA should take bold steps by reducing renewal fee and royalty for the ISPs. PTCL should also reduce the leased line and bandwidth charges more to equate them to international charges.

A market survey shows that most of the people are using Internet for the entertainment and fewer use it for productive purposes. It is the need of the time to use the modern Information Technology to acquire modern knowledge and produce skilled labour.

Are Pakistani women on the road to Information Technology?

 

By Zofeen T. Ebrahim


The onslaught of e-technology is here. Many have hated it for long. Others have griped and grouched and pledged never to let it infect them. But honestly speaking, have you been able to live without it? With the world getting digitized at break-neck pace, there is not much you can do to resist the warfare of the silicon chips. They're bound to get you!

It's time to put the mainframe on your old writing desk, move the writing pad and your old ball pen, and getconnected to the world

With the infant straddled around one hip, Rashidan flicks on the Indian movie with the plastic-covered black remote, and makes the baby sit beside his older two siblings. As she expertly adjusts the volume, you notice how the green digital numbers start scrolling while the children, zombie-like, sit glued to the little screen as Madhuri Dixit starts her thumkas.

The place is Ebrahim Hyderi Goth, a small fishermen village, some 40 minutes from Karachi's city centre. Rashidan uses digital technology to her advantage — as a babysitter — while she finishes her domestic chores.

At the other end of town, in a more opulent locality, on the other side of the Clifton bridge — as some people in my office have begun to call it disparagingly — Mehnaz, another busy mum, uses new technology routinely as electronic pacifiers. "Allowing children to divert themselves with computers, video games like the Playstation, Segas and Nintendos and, of course, the good old television, gives most mothers a much-needed respite," says another friend.

Another friend's daughter gets up early in the morning to watch her favourite programmes on the television channel Nickelodeon, in her parent's bedroom. Cuddled between her set of sleepy parents, and so as not to disturb them, she puts on a pair of cordless headphones and happily injects herself with an hour of undisturbed cartoon dose before she goes to school.

In the same vicinity, in a private school, 15-year old Saba studying for her O-levels, says: "About 40 percent of the students in my class have mobile phones." She could be exaggerating because she too is dying to own one herself, but the fact is that many young ones in her age group age have this device for theirs.

Is it a fashion symbol among their circle, and does it carry snob value? And who pays for their monthly bills? "No, not anymore. I may have considered that a couple of years ago, but now I think, sometimes, it is more of a convenience," the girl claims. She feels that it alleviates parents' worries "as they know where you are and then, you can be contacted all the time. And of course since parents have bought these contraptions, they pay for the usage."

A mother of a teenager, who has given her daughter a mobile cellular phone, says: "Straight from school, Nida goes for a Math tuition. She even eats her lunch on the way. From that tuition, she goes for her literature coaching. By the time she comes home it's already five in the evening and I haven't seen her since morning." She feels it kind of puts her mind at ease to hear her voice and be in touch.

When 14-year old Shazia comes home, she runs straight to her room and connects to the Internet. After downloading all her mail, she goes on chat.

"My parents say the Internet will change the world, our culture in particular. It already has for me. I use it for research projects, homework and even non-school stuff like playing games." But for her, the Internet is really all about e-mail and chatting. She chats with the friends she meets every day at school. "In the night, there is plenty of time and not much to do. I rush to my computer and log on. Most of the time my friends are online. We have a special lingo also. We don't use complete sentences and make lots of typing mistakes because we are writing to half a dozen friends simultaneously. It's a lot of fun as unlike the phone, you can talk to a lot of people at the same time. The abbreviations we use are "ppl" (people) "g2g" (got to go), "brb" (be right back), "lol" (laugh out aloud), w/e(whatever), "omg" (oh my god), "btw" (by the way), "wb" (welcome back), etc.

The Jetson's days are here already, and before you trundle on the technology highway willy-nilly, yours will be a gizmo world too. The masi brigade will soon become extinct. The domestic help will now take the form of robots who will not be taking off to the village for soyems, chelums, various wedding rites of a third/fourth cousin, and ask for loans. But best of all, they will be perfect babysitters and guards for your children, for you will be able to programme them to do it your way.

So how comfortable are our Pakistani women with the digital technology? Women are not just sitting pretty behind counters dealing with customers and clients at various ISPs. You see women as computer analysts, in web-designing, programming and as consultants. But this kind of plunge is still just a drop in the ocean.

However, as users, women from a certain economic bracket are not too uncomfortable with this technology. Just search a woman's hand bag. Chances are that two out of five women will have stowed away a cell phone or an electronic digital diary. The coffee morning ladies are onto yet another bandwagon. If it isn't the pashminas and the shorter shirts it's the size of the mobile phones. "Even the cell phones have changed from the big ugly Ethels to neat, smaller ones the size of matchboxes. These are warm and less sharp around the edges. Just the right size to fit into the palm of your hand, or a small lady's evening bag," says a chic friend.

A businessman gave his wife a mobile phone on her birthday. "In a place like Karachi, I feel more assured knowing her whereabouts. She can always call if she is in distress," he said.

He rejected the snob label outright. "It's no more a luxury, it's now a necessity, at least for me."

And so with the modern world speaking a completely digitized language, the IT has transformed completely the way ordinary Pakistani women lead their lives some 10-15 years ago. From your child's school homework, business, to hubby sending files off to work from his den with the click of a button etc., you can do anything, well almost anything, except, perhaps buy makeup. Yet many have already heard of e-Shopping.

"You can't buy those exotic-sounding and enticing lip shades — Afternoon Cappuccino, Sultry Red, Wine With Everything, etc. — on the Internet. Unless you smack a strip on your wrist, you can't tell if it'll make you look sensual or silly. I don't think I'd like to buy a fabric through the net, unless I can feel it with my hands or against the cheek," says a friend. Another one feigning indignation says: "Does that mean the end of the haggling culture? What a loss? Half the fun of shopping in our part of the world is when you can haggle and drive the poor salesmen up the wall," she says.

And yet another woman feels very strongly about the resultant inactivity. "The downside of being technologically savvy and all could very well result in inertia. And this could take a toll on our waistline and threaten our health. With technology at our fingertips, we could well become couch potatoes," and she is quite right in that.

Some say, the IT, instead of creating a wider chasm between the developed world and its 'trying hard to keep pace with' poor counterpart, will be a boon for the latter. And it's definitely not the 'keeping up with the Jones' situation. Imagine a village which has no telecommunication infrastructure and you place a wireless phone in the centre, and what do you have? They are immediately connected to the outside world! Same as the video cassette recorders and the cable network in Ebrahim Hyderi.

The onslaught of e-technology is here. Many have hated it for long. Others have griped and grouched and pledged never to let it infect them. But honestly speaking, have you been able to live without it? With the world getting digitized at break-neck pace, and electronic-friendly, there is not much you can do to resist the warfare of the silicon chips. They're bound to get you! Knuckle-headed you may be, it's time to put the mainframe on your old writing desk, move the writing pad and your old ball pen, and get connected to the world.

But the way new models are coming out, their disposal may turn out to be a problem in the long run. There was a photograph in Dawn recently which was quite telling of the times ahead. A kabari was taking away an old computer on his pushcart.

What do you do with your old model? Stow it away and let it gather dust? Their disposal may not be as much of a headache, as say syringes, but the CPUs contain traces of toxic chemicals like mercury and chromium. Monitors contain lead mixed with glass. A study, conducted six years ago by students at Tufts University, Massachusetts, estimated that 76 per cent of old PCs are in storage. National Safety Council, US estimated that in the year 2002, 3.4 million more PCs will outlive their usefulness than will be shipped by manufacturers.

My mother-in-law wants to learn the computer. I'm not sure she'd like to surf the net, but she will not mind using it to send e-mails to her loved ones. In fact, she is not at all averse to the idea. Initially she used the microwave oven just to heat up things. Now she uses it not only to make tea, but to stew fruit, boil rice and potatoes. Yesterday, she made a chicken casserole in it and was it finger licking delicious!

A friend of hers, a widow with all her three children studying or settled in America, uses the Internet as a telephone. "I use the Dialpad or the MSN, and talk to all my children and I don't have to worry about the inflated telephone bill either." Sometimes, I dictate a whole recipe to my daughter who's in her kitchen in Minneapolis, through the computer, while she hears it on her telephone. It's made life easier and missing them is not so painful. After all I'm just a phone call away."

Ambreen, a colleague started using the computer as a word processor when she started working in The Star. "The only problem was that I was very slow, initially, at typing. Now, after years, she's not only using it as a word processor, "but because no one at home is so conversant with the gizmo, I'm left with getting things done." She got the modem installed in her computer, deals with the trials and tribulations of having an ISP, and now loves to spend time (whatever little there is) surfing the net, specially those sites which are related to entertainment, women and health-related issues.

She also uses the Internet extensively as a research tool. "Writing has become a breeze. I don't have to go through books or reference material sitting in our office library, I can get all the latest details through the net."

A paediatrician at the Aga Khan University Hospital, Dr Shahnaz Ibrahim, though initially awed by the digital thingamajig, has surrendered to it. "The awe with which I looked at these contraptions initially has worn off." Even her pager was something she was uncomfortable with. "Now the computer, even the Internet are my friends and don't scare me off." In fact, the net has been of immense help to her in her work as a doctor and as a teacher. She now knows instantly any developments in her field, anywhere in the world, just by the click of a button. "To know about any new medicine, which has had a substantial success rate, any new method, or any disease for which a cure has been found is very important to us." The world of medicine is just a snap away. We have access to unprecedented reference material."

And then there is a friend, quite a gourmet, who recently arranged an out-of-this world dinner purely on the recipes she got through the Internet. She's still reeling from the compliments she was bombarded with that evening. "It was easy. With so much of the ingredients — like the herbs and some canned exotic stuff — available in the market, arranging the feast was no problem."

And so the common woman of Pakistan, has found the digital technology and, as always, has moulded, punched, fashioned and given it the shape she wanted — as a babysitter, or a tool for communicating, as a fashionable accessory or even a recipe provider.

Internet and kids

 

By ZTE


The first-term parent-teacher meeting of my teenage son was quite an eye-opener, in more than one sense. But it was what his computer teacher told me that I found more disturbing. It also made me more resolute about keeping a tab on the hours spent in front of the computer screen. And I didn't give a hoot if he considered me a dragon for being such a prude.

"For the sake of your child, keep the computer in either your bedroom or a lounge — a high traffic area. And he should only be allowed to access the Internet when you are present." He went on to allay my fears by adding, "I'm asking all parents to do this, not singling out your son."

While parents in the West have learnt a hard lesson and are now trying to control the solo flights their kids are taking on the Net, here in Pakistan, our kids are just getting the taste of it. As parents we are promoting the trend so as to keep up with the rest of the world. The special edition of Newsweek's, "Online Kids" talks about the perils of this pre-occupation.

A mother says that she does not allow her two children, aged 10 and 13, to go online. She's not taking any chances. "My children will wait for my husband or me to assist them when they're doing their homework." They surf the Net together and download the sites for them.

Parents in the west have realized that left on their own, children can be an easy prey for sexual predators — what with chat rooms and instant messaging — to capture the naive minds. Unwittingly they can get into shopping binges and credit-card frauds, by giving away personal information. Worst is that they can be exposed to hate messages, pornography and violence. Kids in America have been known to order guns online.

Parry Aftab, author of "The Parent's Guide to Protecting Your Children in Cyberspace" talks about how dangerous the cyber world is. She emphasizes that leaving kids alone with the Internet is different from leaving them with the TV on. "... it's the people children could meet online which is the danger."

Parents in this part of the world may argue that going online is not so dangerous as most children are chatting here with either their school mates or children from other schools. But the trend of stalking children online or exchange of pornographic pictures of children, so rampant in the west, cannot be completely overruled. And again, we should learn from how the west is reeling from this shock. In Baltimore, USA, an undercover operation called "Innocent Images" was started some six years ago, with the express purpose of nabbing sexual predators who stalk children online. Since 1995, they have made 478 arrests, with 405 resulting in convictions.

Internet is playing havoc with the lives of our children too if not to this extent. Quite adroitly, and catching us unaware, a whole new cultural change is taking place that we have to adjust to. It's a move away from proven traditions — ones that encouraged our kids to develop their imagination, their senses and their ability to communicate wonderfully with others. "Ali comes home, eats his lunch with us and quickly goes up to his room, closes the door behind him and logs on. It's made the term generation gap all the more potent," says a friend who has a teenage son. If a balance has to be drawn, the emphasis at home will have to be on the non-technical.

Suddenly the parents, the more vulnerable and naive party are not so Internet savvy as them. What's more they somehow do not seem to know how to handle their IT kid. But it's alright to be suspicious if your child suddenly minimizes windows when you approach or tries to keep you away from opening the file he's been on.

It's also alright to monitor the temporary files to check the sites he/she has just visited. And never give in or feel guilty when he goes on to his long-winded diatribe on how he feels he's being watched over (which he is) and that you do not trust him, and how his friends' parents let them chat or go online. Let him/her make you out to be a monster, it will pay dividends later. No harm in being a little neurotic, particularly if it means establishing certain parameters for Internet use.

But experts say the best way to handle this situation is for parents to learn about it instead of being intimidated by the fact that their kids are more sophisticated than they are.

No one can deny that it's made school assignments and projects a breeze. You can wrap up several weeks of hard work on a history project by logging on to various sites like the Yahoo.com or googles.com and voila!

Cut a few sentences here, paste from there, add a bit of your ingenuity, get beautiful pictures and illustrations, scan them for your pages and your report is ready for an A+. The teacher may be so taken in by the sophistication of Power Point computer graphics which her student has used that she may forget the actual content which could be minimal. Believe me, a lot of time this happens. A lot of time children do not even rephrase the text in their own words.

The teacher can test the child and ask him/her a few elementary questions and chances are the student wouldn't know half the answers. Teachers, like parents, don't have the time or even the expertise to check the sites the students are using anyway.But the downside of this is that there could be times when a student, who has decided to take the short cut and use the Internet, realizes that he would've been better off gleaning information from books in the libraries than what the web is offering. It could be untamed as well as un-checked. He may have got lost and wasted hours searching for the right stuff.

Some parents', however, find this far easier. No more trudging down to a handful of libraries or poring over books and studying together. On the adverse looking for material and in the process spending time together, and sometimes getting off the track and discussing and arguing something altogether irrelevant but nevertheless interesting, has all b

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