Information Technology means the use of hardware, software, services, and supporting infrastructure to manage and deliver information using voice, data, and video.
Information Technology includes:
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:
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.
IT VISION FOR THE FUTURE
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: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.
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:
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.
HOW VULNERABLE IS IT?
Think about it: your computer system crashed yesterday! You had no choice but to format the hard disk and reinstall. Lucky you were as you had made the backup last week. The data lost was restored and you computer started working again after one week. But after a loss of vitally important data spread over one whole week!
Can you afford this kind of data loss? Is it affordable? Not to many of us, of course!
This can happen to any computer user. The scenario could have been more catastrophic. If it wasn't, thank your stars. But can you take the risk and the danger casually? Can you afford to lose about a week's data? Can an incidence like this one not leave you computationally handicapped? As the complexity of the computer systems has increased, so has the probability of their failure. The untoward situations caused by a computer system going haywire can be many: suspension of power supply, discontinuation of cash-dispensing service by ATMs, rejection of valid credit cards, failure of air traffic control, etc. The misfortune behind a fortune is that all modern systems are too much computer-dependent, if not computers themselves.
A computer breakdown can be difficult to correct, and expensive in terms of restoration efforts and lost productivity. It can inflict major data, time and productivity losses to both personal and industrial systems. Do we see a computer glitch as a bliss for information technology? As the saying goes "lose but don't lose the lesson", we need to understand the possible reasons for collapse and take certain measures to minimize the risk. This computer glitch helped us in understanding computers and their limitations. In view of the fallible character of computers, contingency plans could be devised to meet their drawbacks.
Information is a key to success and future growth. Access to right information gives decisive competitive advantage. Today, governments, corporate sector, businesses and individuals are overwhelmingly reliant on efficient and effective use of information systems. At the same time, however, these new technologies create new vulnerabilities through accidental or deliberate service disruptions.
Real world lacks ideal conditions and it's an established fact that every system or process can have loopholes and flaws and it's just a matter of time when they would be exposed. Even Pentagon faces security nightmares because of the loopholes in their systems, considered to be the most sophisticated and highly secure.Recent events have highlighted the vulnerability of these systems to misuse and disruption. According to Lloyd's of London insurance syndicate, the ILoveYou computer virus cost businesses throughout the world over $15 billion in lost productivity. In addition to losses from such hacking incidents, a number of countries are developing offensive cyber capabilities that could be used as part of a deliberate attack on an adversary.
Information security is a continual concern. With the exception of the banking and/or financial institutions, many big systems users are still not consistently focusing on this issue. For example, in health care, electronic documentation of a patient can be exploited to harm the patient.
Many organizations seem to have accepted a certain measure of information vulnerability and losses as part of the cost of doing business. This attitude will often change only if a rational case can be built that the cost of additional security will be more than outweighed by the benefits that result.
It's difficult to pursue senior management of the enhanced computer security needs unless one can show the costs and lost productivity associated with such incidents. Well-publicized intrusions and interruptions are beginning to change perceptions about the need for computer security
Since the traditional management workforce is often much less familiar with computers than is the new-generation workforce, awareness among all users, not just IT personnel, has become a prerequisite in the development of more secure systems.
Nonetheless, there is a growing number of users that are conscious of the potential damage and disruptions that an inadequate information security posture can allow. Awareness is growing. Cooperation between private companies, business houses and government is increasing. New standards are being developed. And the list of countermeasures is expanding. Unfortunately, in some areas — such as trained cyber security experts — the demand is outrunning the supply, and needs are going un-met.
Being a cyber security expert is a pretty challenging job as even a kid's intrusion can make a person spend sleepless nights. Such a career has advantages in terms of consistent learning and growing prospects. The deal is ideal for the adventurous. Still, only a few are able to realize the importance of an additional crew member as only an earthquake reminds the importance of a shock-proof building design.
Among the recommended countermeasures to be considered are:
SHOULD IT GO PUBLIC?
The focus of this article is to assess whether the private IT industry in Pakistan is ready to go public?. The 53 years history of Pakistan is full of ups and downs both in the political and economic arena. Despite these difficulties, challenges and problems, Pakistan offers tremendous opportunities and strengths in this burgeoning new economy, which is shaping up so explosively and dynamically worldwide, that it will be only a matter of time when we will witness the fruit of this changing world. The buzzword is "Information Technology", the industry which I term a "sleeper industry" in Pakistan, needs a wake up call.
For the last half a century, we have witnessed the explosion of many different industries such as textiles, cement, oil, consumer products, steel, etc. These industries were highly instrumental in establishing infrastructural and resources layout. These industries not only gave Pakistan strong support, but also recognition in the domestic and international markets. Partly, the awareness of these industries for economic reasons was transformed by way of floating these companies in the public markets.
The average Pakistani investor or institution is quite familiar with these few sectors by way of owning shares of these publicly trading companies. The key benefits of public companies in these sectors, by way of equity financing through public markets, created huge capital and liquidity for these industries to prevail and grow. It also offered diversified investment portfolios to investors, which are not limited to money markets or mere savings accounts or government bonds that offered nominal returns to their investments.
The equity or stock markets lack the participation of the fastest growing industry in the world, and that is the technology boom. It will not be an over-statement to say that, yet another era of technology boom is just unfolding at the turn of the new century. During the last ten years the technological breakthrough on the Internet has brought the world closer.
In my opinion, Pakistan is just at the infancy of the IT life-cycle in comparison with western and developed economies.
Pakistan offers unimaginable opportunities especially because of the availability of the world class IT talents. Lacking is the quantity of this talent, the numbers of IT professionals that are needed to achieve the desired revenue targets. To educate and train youngsters in this sector, much more and better infrastructure is needed. But the lack of capital and access to huge liquidity is probably the biggest factor for the weakness of the IT sector.
Pakistan has millions of personal computers both in corporate and in private use but it lacks hi-tech Internet connections, bandwidth and accessibility. In this age of electronic communication, it is imperative that Pakistan catches on to the fast-moving economies. We are nearly seven years behind the western world in this area. One of the biggest factors is again the lack of capital and resources.
In the areas of telecommunication, fibre optics, wireless, DSL, etc., we are way behind both developed and under-developed economies. Once again the main reason is inadequate or insufficient capital resources.
Today, as we see the severe dearth of technology companies listed in the public markets, it is high time for some of the more established IT companies to go public and list themselves with KSE and LSE.
However, this should not be limited to just the old or established firms, but the firms with feasible and winning business plans should be able to go public as well. The biggest benefit once a company goes public is the instant access to sizable capital that will be infused in the IT infrastructure, training and development, hardware and software.
This equity raised through successful IPOs (initial public offerings) is debt free and allows companies to grow their businesses. If one can relate to the technology-offering boom in the US markets, never mind the recent decline in the tech stocks. This in my opinion is the reflection of "irrational exuberance" and continued momentum selling in those markets. In these markets, the equities were overbought earlier last year, but now they are oversold, and the US technology stock markets will and must find a balance.
The current government has been very active and they have recognized the potential the IT industry offers. Recently, we have witnessed some very favourable IT policies and incentives which demonstrates their keenness and excitement about IT. But the government cannot do it alone. It has to be collective efforts of the individual IT companies, the securities brokerage houses, the SECP and public support to turn this sleeping giant around. The public and investors will be much more educated and well-informed about this phenomenal opportunity. The investors are hungry and starving for some new entrants in the public markets. Pakistan being a new player in the IT industry, can draw immense attention and excitement from the public and investors.
Finally, we have also witnessed some serious investment from a few overseas companies like Microsoft, Oracle, Cisco, NetSol and a handful others.I passionately believe, if the right investment is made in the IT infrastructure in Pakistan, I see no reason why we could not compete with the best. What other better way to give a new life to a depressed stock market in Pakistan is by elevating some good local-based private IT companies to public markets. These companies can raise billions of rupees by going public, and recycle these monies into an industry that could become the envy of the western world and Silicon Valley.
PAKISTAN'S POTENTIAL TOWARDS IT
Pakistan at present, with 140 million people, the majority of whom are below the age of 30 (many of them English speaking) is well placed to capture the potential offered by IT.What we need is to fully make use of our human resources by providing high-quality education and training to our youth and provide them with opportunities at home to use their skills for a variety of information technology related programmes so that the country can forge ahead quickly.
What is particularly attractive about information technology for countries like Pakistan is the rapidity with which it can be adopted and the relatively low costs involved in it.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 comparison. It requires a huge effort involving medicinal chemists, pharmacologists, toxicologists, engineers, etc, to come together and a cost involvement of about a billion US dollars before a single new drug can be marketed at an international level.Only the world's major pharmaceutical industries possess such vast technical and financial resources for drug development - that is why not a single new drug has ever been discovered and marketed independently by any of the Third World countries.
The field of information technology is, however, largely free from these constraints.The key factor here 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. Within six weeks of my taking charge, the first draft of the IT Policy document was in my hands, reflecting the tremendous enthusiasm and hard work of the group members who comprised mainly private-sector individuals and revolved around their needs and vision. In this sense, therefore, it was a radically different policy.
We took a considered decision to have a strategy which would achieve the maximum results in the shortest time. These would not be the end all of all processes but was to break the established "can't be done" mindset. The efforts so far have proved that we can achieve major results in short times if we have conviction to do what we believe in.
People are anxious and impatient, and rightly so. I am, too. But the stark choice was to do what was popular and short-term, or to try to put those elements in place which will slowly undo the lapses of the last five decades and make the base for a sold foundation for higher scientific education.
Accordingly, two existing institutes, namely, COMSATS and FAST, were granted charters and they are in the process of being upgraded. An IT institute started functioning at Abbottabad from September 3, 2001, and it will later be upgraded to a full-fledged university. Similarly, institutions are being developed in Lahore and Karachi.
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.
The most exciting education programme, however, is the establishment of a "Virtual IT University". This distance-learning university will allow us to train tens of thousands of IT professionals in different parts of the country. Under this distance-learning programme, high-quality TV programmes will be prepared and broadcast through the television network across the country.
Two universities are also in the process of being developed in the private sector. In the coming months, all universities will see a quantum jump in their ability to turn out large quantities of high-quality manpower. The complete delivery chain is being addressed.
Back in the late 70s and the early 80s, Osama bin Laden was a mujahid facilitated by the CIA to establish base camps inside Afghanistan for the military training of Arab recruits of Maktabat-ul-Khidmat, in the war against communism. Arrangements were made for Osama to collect donations, in the name of Jihad, from wealthy Arab magnates inside the United States. Logistic support was provided to him for the shipment of heavy machinery used in the digging of tunnels at Tora Bora. Pakistan, being the frontline state in the war against the Great Red Bear, was provided with F-16s.
It is suggested that the ministry of science and technology should:
1. Commit to a timetable for implementing the technological support in a period of 4-6 years.
2. Create pilot schools equipped with the full technology in every region. Computer centres can be used as hubs for schools within the same area.
3. Modernize the curriculum and methodologies for learning and teaching.
4. Incorporate the educational vision and the acquisition of technological fluency in the preparation of future teachers.
5. Ensure that serious attention is paid to what the students are learning through access to technology. (Monitoring will safeguard the morals of growing children and the internet and other computer related skills will not be accused.)
6. Give more emphasis to introduce IT at the grassroots level.
7. Schools should be provided computer hardware and software at special prices.
Pakistan should seriously consider reforming its education system and adding more weight to IT education. The call of the day is to incorporate IT into the current school curriculum so as to equip the generation of tomorrow with the basic knowledge in IT from the very grassroots level. The learning curve of a child is at the maximum during his or her early years.