Pakistan truly became a part of the global IT revolution five years ago when the country welcomed start-up revolution with open arms. In fact, Pakistan has done fairly well in launching promising start-ups that have found instant international recognition.
By making great strides in the IT industry, Pakistanis have shown the world that intelligence and creativity are abundant resources in this country. However, an underlying problem is though gifted minds in Pakistan come up with some of the most brilliant start-up or business ideas, the inspiration and motivation for these ideas largely comes from the outside. Under these circumstances, Pakistan is seriously in need to recognise technical intelligence among their ranks and set it in the right direction from an early age.
Many geniuses, few opportunities
Among a long list of exceptional IT professionals, one of the most recognisable names to come to mind is that of Arfa Karim. The now deceased child prodigy from Pakistan surprised the entire world when she became the youngest Microsoft Certified Professional (MCP) in 2004 at the age of nine. Bill Gates also invited her to Microsoft’s head office after achieving the feat.
Now the point here is that though Arfa was born and bred in Pakistan but the role played by foreign ideas and tech market trends in shaping her perception cannot be ruled out entirely. As is the case with many budding tech experts, who belong to developing countries, the inspiration usually comes from the American technology market.
In addition, Arfa also expressed her desire to go to Harvard University or MIT to pursue further education to become a developer or a satellite engineer. This again shows that the local tech market has not matured since the education system in Pakistan does not really support science and technology education beyond a certain point.
Similar is the case with many Pakistani start-up leaders who have launched successful ideas in Pakistan after receiving education from western institutions, and finding inspiration from technological trends seen in developed countries. Zameen.com (a Pakistan-based property portal) CEO Zeeshan Ali Khan also obtained his graduation degree from abroad. After his exposure to positive influences in the world of technology, Khan established an online portal that has become the go-to place for most Pakistanis when they hunt for property.
Within a short span of time, Pakistan has produced more child prodigies in the field of IT. Presently, the most renowned among them is Mohammed Raza, an 11-year-old who has been given special admission in Information Technology University (ITU) to learn software engineering and coding. This kid has such advanced programming skill set that he has left many senior professionals baffled.
Intelligence isn’t the problem, weak institutions are
In Pakistan, the average person has the brains to understand a foreign idea and then localise it per local demands. However, a weak analytical and technical culture in Pakistan has led towards the establishment of a weak entrepreneurship/tech culture in the country. Other factors why we have not been able to produce an indigenous start-up or tech product is lack of funds, absence of entrepreneurship programmes/education, lack of funds to support technology-based research, and lack of academic involvement. Even though the start-up revolution came to Pakistan five years ago, no academic value has yet been associated with the tech culture.
The general curriculum taught at Pakistani schools, colleges and universities do not include updated research and science information, which is a detriment in the way of prosperity. One reason for this attitude in educational institutes is that most Pakistani universities lay more stress on grooming entrepreneurs rather than engaging young minds in research and development courses that are relevant to the global tech market.
Making Pakistan’s curriculum tech relevant
After many long years of going through a process of trial and error, Pakistan has finally found ways to support and promote technology in all its forms. The first step taken to direct tech intelligence in the right direction is the establishment of Arfa Software Technology Park and the Information Technology University in Lahore, which is promoting tech education per modern standards.
Similarly, the Punjab Information Technology Board (PITB) launched other initiatives such as Plan 9 (start-up incubator) and Plan X (start-up accelerator) in 2014 to utilise local tech intelligence. These projects are doing well. The idea is to help local tech wizards to come with genuine indigenous ideas to develop new products and then give them a practical platform to execute those ideas.
Another very important step taken in this regard is the emergence of student-controlled entrepreneurship societies in leading Pakistani universities like LUMS, which has an Entrepreneurial Society, and Beaconhouse National University, which is trying to nurture technically sound young minds to make a big mark on the global IT industry.
In the Right Direction
Currently, Pakistan has over 35 million 3G/4G users – these numbers are expected to grow to 110 million by 2019. These statistics show that Pakistan has laid the groundwork for a strong IT industry, only the will is lacking. The first and foremost thing that can be done on the official level is to improve the education system by integrating modern science and technology education into existing curriculum.
Furthermore, schools should also have programmes through which intelligent and tech-savvy children can be marked out and then provided with special courses to help them move towards a clear future goal. The departments concerned should also rise up to the occasion and develop a simple and clear system for regulating Pakistan’s IT industry, particularly start-ups, which lack complete understanding in the local tech industry.
Any technological advancement in the IT sector has the potential to generate healthy revenue for the government while creating jobs for intelligent assets working in Pakistan’s rising IT industry.