A First World market in a Third World country

Information technology in Pakistan is a rapidly growing industry that has immediate and size-able prospects for further progress.

Matters relating to the IT industry are overseen and regulated by the Government of Pakistan’s Ministry of Information Technology, which makes it abundantly clear that the importance of IT in the country and the interest of the government in technological progress are paramount.

The IT industry today is regarded as one of the most successful sectors in Pakistan’s economy and it continues to blossom amid financial crises that have crippled many other sectors. One reason for this astronomical growth and development of the IT industry is the ever-increasing interest of the Pakistani public in emerging technologies.

In the years 2003-2005 the country’s IT exports saw a rise of around 50 per cent, amounting to a total of nearly $48.5 million. In 2012, the World Economic Forum assessed the development of IT in Pakistan and ranked the country 102nd from among 144 countries in its Global Information Technology Report.First World market in a Third World country

The Government of Pakistan has attached great importance to information technology as part of its efforts to develop an ‘information age’ in the country, and an elaborate national IT policy has been formulated to that end.

The IT industry has taken many forms of progression, and the field is no longer limited only to the study of computers but has branched out to penetrate the mainstream of the Pakistani economy. Today the Government of Punjab, Pakistan’s most populous province, prides itself in the establishment of the Arfa Karim Technology Park, and the Federal Government oversees an entire sector that regulates and monitors the ongoing progress of technology and its incorporation in the Pakistani economy and lifestyle.

The arrival in Pakistan of high-speed mobile internet technology such as 3G and 4G LTE, albeit fairly late, is one such example.

The technological surge has been particularly notable in the internet, mobile and telecommunications industries in general. Pakistan, with a population of over 180 million, boasts over 130 million cellular subscribers and a host of operators such as Mobilink, Telenor, Zong, Ufone and Warid. That means a stunning three quarters (almost 75%) of Pakistan’s total population has and uses a cell phone. A chunk of these users use mobile internet, and these numbers are growing by the day.

On the public front, the government’s National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) has, over the last decade, developed a massive network of registration centers and a database the size of Pluto on the back of computerized registration systems used to issue essential identification documents to Pakistani citizens.

Elsewhere in the private sector, entrepreneurship abounds. Homegrown start-ups with highly innovative products have made inroads into their markets of choice, resulting in the influx of foreign direct investment to fund their growth. One such example is Pakistan’s leading property portal Zameen.com, which pioneered the shift from traditional real estate dealings to a viable online platform in 2006. Since then, it has drawn significant investment from real estate and venture capitalism heavyweights as far afield as France, Singapore and Malaysia.

With the ubiquity of computers and increasing use of internet in the country, the market is expanding exponentially and making room for newer entrants with decidedly valuable skills and products. This trend points towards a prosperous future for the IT industry in a country ironically thought of by many as a struggling, backward state. The situation on the ground, however, could not be farther from this assumption.

About Azka Naeem

Azka Naeem is a student and writer, with a B. A in Media Studies from Kinnaird College for Women, Lahore. A native of Lahore, Pakistan, Azka’s many interests include real estate, IT and the use of social media for business development. She is also an avid foodie.

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