With digital growth going through a rapid revolution, Pakistan is inching towards establishing a vibrant network of IT parks to expand its digital landscape.
As the modern-day electronic gadgets have influenced the entire lifestyle, these IT parks would provide young professionals a launching pad to execute their innovative ideas and contribute to economy more efficiently.
The world nations including Pakistan felt the vitality of information technology more than all times during the COVID-19 epidemic with the people keeping in touch across the globe even when restricted to homes.
People often, if not always, rely on IT tools in different walks of life from economy to banking, education to political campaigns, governance to healthcare and shopping to routine communication.
“We need to be compatible to rest of the world in communication skills. Therefore, we especially our young generation needs to be well equipped with latest communication techniques,” said Minister for Information technology and Communication Syed Amin-ul-Haque.
“The IT parks, we are establishing would prove to be a launching pad not only for acquiring latest skills but also contribute towards narrative building to counter malicious propaganda against our motherland,” he said.
The minister remarked that software technology parks would not only generate employment opportunities for IT professionals but also attract millions of dollars in foreign exchange. “On completion, these parks would also boost IT industry and exports and pave way for an innovative future.”
Currently, work on Rs 41 billion worth of IT parks in Karachi and Rs 13.72 billion worth in Islamabad is underway that would provide jobs to around 35,000 IT professionals from across the country.
“The IT Park in Karachi is the largest of its kind in Pakistan aimed at benefitting not only citizens of Karachi and Sindh but also the IT professionals and companies across the country,” the minister said.
The Karachi IT Park was approved by ECNEC on June 4, 2021 at a capital cost of $186.658 million including $158.416 million from Korean Exim Bank as a loan and $28.242 million local share.
This is an eleven-storey self-contained building with covered area of 106,449 square meters having capacity to provide office space to approximately 225 start-ups and small to medium enterprises besides ancillary facilities like testing laboratories, classrooms, industry-academia linkage centers and auditoriums.
The government has invited private sector to actively participate and play a frontline role to make IT parks and other related projects “a big success story.”
“We are ensuring to equip these IT parks with latest infrastructure, technology and telecommunication tools for developing knowledge-based enterprises,” said an official of the IT ministry.
He said the range of services offered by the parks would not be limited to enterprises and tenants of the parks but also for companies outside the parks. “These parks would boost knowledge-based economy and entrepreneurship with the use of advanced technologies.”
The foundation stone of IT Park in Islamabad was laid in Chak Shahzad during May this year by the Minister for IT and Telecommunication under “Digital Pakistan Vision,” to be completed in 30 months at a cost of Rs 13.72 billion.
The park would help meet infrastructure requirement for IT sector and facilitate technology transfer through industry and academia linkages, support technology commercialization, links tertiary education and production and promote research and development besides enhancing IT exports and industry competitiveness.
The IT Park Islamabad would consist of a twelve-storey self-contained building having a covered area of 66,893 square meters. It would initially provide office space to around 120 startups and small to medium enterprises and other ancillary facilities same like the Karachi park.
Currently, there are 15 software technology parks (STPs) in the country including three in Islamabad, two in Rawalpindi, eight in Lahore and one each in Karachi and Gilgit.
“We want to establish software technology parks across the country,” the official said and mentioned to initiative of IT Ministry’s attached department Pakistan Software Export Board for establishing software technology parks in Quetta, Gwadar, Faisalabad, Bannu, Swat, Mardan, Sukkur and Hyderabad.
“The IT Park project for University of Balochistan costing Rs one billion and provision of fiber Optic cable for Tehsil Wadh of District Khuzdar had recently been discussed,” he added.
Mentioning to ICT and connectivity projects, he said, the MOITT through Universal Service Fund (USF) had launched 70 projects of OFC and broadband in four provinces at a cost of Rs 65 billion.
In Sindh province, 20 projects of NGBSD and OFC worth Rs 16.30 billion have been started in Tharparkar, Nawabshah, Khairpur, Larkana, Badin, Jacobabad, Shikarpur, Mirpurkhas, Dadu and other districts.
“The government has also for the first time issued smartphone manufacturing licenses and 29 companies are now manufacturing smartphones and digital devices in Pakistan,” the official informed. “National Incubation Centers were established in Karachi, Lahore, Islamabad, Peshawar and Quetta besides two recent initiatives in Faisalabad and Hyderabad.”
He said 30 STPs were also established across the country under public-private partnership with investment for Pakistani start-ups sector reaching to US$ 818 million in four years and IT exports touching the US$ 2.62 billion.
Although the government took multiple initiatives in this sector, yet country’s IT exports are nominal as compared to other Asian nations. Therefore, it is direly needed to fully focus this sector for producing skilled workforce and earn more and more foreign exchange.