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The anticipation that the bulk of Pakistan's software exports would touch an average US$8.7 billion mark by 2003 as against US$600 million worth current exports is seen by all those connected with the IT industry in the country and abroad as a glimmer of hope and prelude to prosperity.

Foreign firms like CommerceNet Singapore Ltd, Ecommerce Gateway Ltd, and Hewlett Packard besides numerous others which were keeping a watch at this potential position from a distance have now their eyes set on Pakistan where they intend to turn the taps and to aid the country emerge out as a potential IT hub.

Though this seemingly looks a selfish interest on their part, but the future and immediate benefits, nonetheless, would be in favour of Pakistan. Forget about India!, said a high profile government dignitary in an informal chat. There is enough work flowing about which will saturate the whole of South Asia and there will be still no end, he said.

Due to a shift in preference from India to Pakistan, the attributes that mattered in case of India are now shaping Pakistan into a hub of match to its arch-rival, India. But in the race for becoming global IT and household name, both the government and the local IT-based businesses have taken a pledge to ensure that Pakistan does not lose out this opportunity.

To fulfil this wish of both the government and the private firms the IT Commerce Network Exhibition and Conference is being organised in the coming months with an expectation that it would do miracles with the country, it businesses and private venture firms.

Talking to The News during his visit to the country in connection with the inauguration of the ITCN Asia 2001, due to be held at Karachi Expo Centre from March 24-26, Jeh Shyan Wong CEO, CommerceNet, Singapore, said Pakistan has two and a half years to prove itself as a credible IT hub.

He said during this period other hubs will start emerging and if Pakistan does not work on this front by then the opportunity would be lost. He explained that in order to boost exports to US$9 billion and investment of US$2 billion joint ventures between foreign companies and local private companies is what's needed.

He said the ITCN Asia 2001 will be a great opportunity for Pakistan. He said the event would bring market leaders to Pakistan and from where they could watch the local market from close quarters as well as fish out opportunities for future projects.

The event is expected to be a great milestone for the local IT industry, the question yet remains whether the would-be visitors from offshore lands would get convinced in taking up joint ventures in Pakistan, which is still to make its mark internationally.

Agreeing with this phenomenon Wong held that nowadays a good end product wasn't enough. He said the IT forces now demand credibility and customer service as opposed to merely an end product of satisfaction. He said anyone with the relative know-how could complete the job, therefore, it was more about meeting deadlines and making the client feel comfortable rather than just completing projects.

Wong said ITCN Asia 2001 will open a window for the Pakistani businesses to attract the foreign IT trade, however, it was now up to the industry to impress the foreign investors with their work.

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