Pakistan asked to press hard with IT plansKARACHI: A leading IT entrepreneur of Singapore has urged Pakistan to move as fast as possible on the IT front to get its due share as it possessed the same attractions as India and also had Karachi, which could become the hub of IT activity in the region."There is no time and the critical thing is to move as fast as possible. The whole world is fighting for the same chunk of foreign investment and to be a key player you have to get into the bandwagon in no time," Mr. Wong Jeh Shyan, Chief Executive of CommerceNet Singapore, told The News in an interview.Mr. Shyan was in Karachi recently to attend the curtain raiser for the ITCN 2001, a global IT event being organised in Pakistan by the government in collaboration with the Jang Group of newspapers. "You have to understand that you are not operating in a vacuum. You have to be on par with other players. In numbers I would say you have something like three years at the maximum," the IT expert said.He saw a lot of opportunity in Pakistan. "Human talent is perhaps the biggest factor. You have a surplus of talent, which is the same condition that India once offered. So the only thing left is to identify it and capitalise on it. Karachi has the potential for that. It is strategically located, it is a financial hub, it has sea ports and so much more," he said.Q: What exactly is the CommerceNet Singapore and how does it operates?A: The CommerceNet Singapore is a non-profit organisation with more than 50 members. The list of our members includes names such as Compaq, Federal Express, DHL, Visa International TNT, IBM, Microsoft and many others. We work with the basic aim of promoting E-commerce as a trade. We are not supported by the government, rather the funding is provided by the members of this organisation. Our activities include the organisation of various IT and E-commerce related events in the region. The ITCN 2001 in Karachi is one such event that we are endorsing and organising.Q: What is the IT and Commerce Network 2001 and how would it benefit Pakistan?A: The ITCN is a three-day IT exhibition and conference. It will be a great opportunity where people will come to Pakistan and see for themselves the 'real' conditions over here. Pakistan is moving towards software and other IT related exports. However, for a small to medium sized exporter it is very difficult and costly to go abroad and contact buyers. So this is an ideal opportunity when buyers will come over to Pakistan and see what all you have to offer. The main aim is to attract foreign investment.The way we look at it, this event will go much beyond just IT for Pakistan and help in projecting the country and its offerings. We have tried to procure and use the maximum amount of local material for the setting up of the entire event so that the private sector can get a boast. The area of exposure form this event will encompass a plethora of things from tourism and travel to the local produce such as leather and textile goods.Karachi, as a city, has all the potential to become an IT hub for this part of the world. To be an IT hub a city has to be a logistic hub, and Karachi has the potential for that. It is strategically located, it is a financial hub, it has sea ports and so much more.The ITCN will be the perfect platform for the local software and other IT service exporters who want to explore options abroad. There are great propositions for those companies who book their stalls early, say by December and provide us their business details and profile. What we plan to do is to match them with appropriate buyers during the next two months and set up various meetings and liaisions.Q: What sort of feed back have you received from Pakistan for this initiative?A: I think we have received an excellent feed-back. We have received tremendous support from Sindh IT Board and we are very happy about it. Similarly the Jang Group is supporting us for publicity and media which will give a major boost to this event.Q: As you said the idea is to bring to Pakistan buyers and investors from other parts of the world. What other countries are expected to be represented at the ITCN?A: We are expecting visitors from Italy, Sweden, Netherlands, Taiwan, Malaysia, Singapore, China, Korea, Australia and many other countries.Q: How do you compare the IT scenario in Pakistan with that of India?A: India is quite advanced in Software export because they managed to attract foreign investment to set up an infrastructure. They have capitalised a lot on the IT business opportunities. But they had a lot of contribution from the private sector with so many multinationals investing in their economy. The same is needed in Pakistan but the barriers to entry are perhaps higher over here.Q: How much time would you say Pakistan have for the set up of this infra-structure?A: Well, there is no time and the critical thing is to move as fast as possible. The whole world is fighting for the same chunk of foreign investment and to be a key player you have to get into the bandwagon in no time. You have to understand that you are not operating in a vacuum. You have to be on par with other players. In numbers I would say you have something like three years at the maximum.Q: With so many IT hubs all over the world, what convinces you that people will come to Karachi?A: We are endorsing Karachi as an IT hub because we saw a lot of opportunity over here. Human talent is perhaps the biggest factor. You have a surplus of talent, which is the same condition that India once offered. So the only thing left is to identify it and capitalise on it.We were glad to see that a textile company has come forward to sponsor the T-shirts for this event. Similarly a leather company wants to take up the key chains. So the potential is immense, but we have identified it. But we will endorse you only once and bring the foreign buyer once, it is up to you to attract him and hold his interest so that he comes to you again.
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