Sadly, it seems that most IT people in Pakistan just don’t grasp Information Technology. I’m not talking about the people who use computers solely for email and the web, but actual IT professionals. While there are a number of extremely professional people in the IT field (and I’ve met quite a few of them) in Karachi, the majority just don’t seem to grasp the digital world. ( _ed: examples?_ )
Even abroad, many are still struggling to fix in their minds that the software industry is a service industry, and not one which produces a product which can be sold. When replication costs are zero, then it cannot be considered a product to be sold. Water is free, yet there are multi-billion euro industries which sell it. It is the same with software. It doesn’t really matter to a business whether software is open source and free, or proprietry. They want certain tasks done, and it’s up to the IT professional to accomplish those in the best way possible. When they keep thinking of the IT industry as just another industry, then they are never going to be able to compete with the rest of the world. This old, hackneyed approach is good only for bottom of the barrel software projects.
So what is this _hackneyed_ approach anyways? It’s a mixture of many things, all the way from early schooling to the Pakistani college system, to people’s concept of computers, and what seems to be literally blocks in their brains when it comes to imagination. The digital world makes the impossible possible, yet people still continue to view and utilize their digital resources as they would any physical resource. ( _ed: how?_ ) Multinationals have been heavily utilizing IT in Pakistan, but most of their know-how and setup is imported from abroad. Locals run it and extend it as required, but all the initial work is designed (and probably outsourced to India) abroad. The beauty of IT is that it gives smaller companies the same information resources as the bigger corporations, which IT professionals here don’t seem to grasp. IT is no longer about selling a product, instead it is about providing a service.
Our govt. has been on the offensive the last three years about an IT revolution in Pakistan, but there are still no signs of it. Of course, this being Pakistan, they’re going the wrong way about it. Almost all innovation in IT has been done by small companies. Many companies started out with hardly anything but a gread idea and lots of hard work. There is no way in Pakistan for such a business to start up and survive for there are so many hurdles, most of which will have nothing to do with the actual business of the company. Larger companies start up computer shops and software houses, and there are still many chugging away, but these are not the places real innovation takes place.
We seem fixated with setting up whatever’s currently hot. First it was software houses, coding up run of the mill backend packages and websites, and now call centers are becoming the rage. The way most things work here is that a *seth* funds the new and upcoming, which does just as much as needed to make money and survive and then… well thats about all. When the margins run dry, they either hang on or shift on to the next big thing. Apple started out in a garage, as did many other of the big names of IT. Here, the Steve Jobs of Karachi are probably slaving away in some corporate IT department churning out one VB app after the other…
A good example of the state of IT affairs in Pakistan is the “computer industry”:http://ko.offroadpakistan.com/pakistan/2004_01/computer_shops_in_karachi.html. Still, most Pakistani computer shops have nothing whatsoever to do with IT, so all this really doesn’t have much to do with anything. But ideas and attitudes are very infectious amongst humans, and this attitude seems to percolate up the ladder and infect those purchasing from them also.
_to be continued_