Pakistan's IT and ITeS export strategy: a gateway to economic prosperity and global recognition

Friday 12 April 2024

Sahar Iqbal
Akhund Forbes, Karachi

Strategic objectives and implementation

Pakistan’s information technology (IT) and IT-enabled services (ITeS) Export Strategy, led by Dr Umar Saif, Caretaker Federal Minister for IT and Telecommunication, is a collaborative initiative that includes the Pakistan Software Export Board (PSEB), PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) and overseas partners such as the University of Oxford. It is an ambitious move that promises both economic growth and a substantial transformation in Pakistan's standing in the global IT scene.

At the heart of the approach is a promise to considerably increase the IT workforce by 200,000 qualified individuals. This development is projected to quadruple IT exports to $5 billion. Furthermore, the strategy's provision of allowing IT companies to keep their gains in dollars might increase exports by another $1 billion. Similarly, the Pakistan Startup Fund – a Ministry of IT and Telecommunication initiative – is expected to generate an additional $1 billion in export earnings.

The strategy's bigger objective includes human resource development, capacity building and a freelancer facilitation programme, all geared at creating a resilient IT ecosystem. The Special Investment Facilitation Council (SIFC) will be instrumental in facilitating the sector, reducing bureaucratic barriers and attracting foreign direct investment (FDI).

Economic impact and growth potential

This approach is expected to increase Pakistan's IT/ITeS export revenues to between $10 and $18 billion by 2028, potentially establishing Pakistan as a global IT hub. The domestic IT business is also predicted to grow significantly, with annual revenues topping $6 billion. Because of their size and lack of rivalry, the five designated priority IT/ITeS market segments and 12 sub-segments have tremendous development potential.

Training and skill development

Over the next five years, the strategy will place a strong emphasis on training and skill development, which is crucial to supporting the expected growth in IT markets. This effort will not only improve the workforce's technical skills but will also ensure that Pakistan's IT workers remain competitive on a worldwide scale.

Cost-benefit analysis

1. Economic diversification and job creation

The policy will help Pakistan's economy diversify and reduce its reliance on conventional sectors. Expanding the IT sector will offer new work opportunities for young professionals, thereby addressing the issue of unemployment. The influx of FDI and the expansion of the startup ecosystem will reenergise the economy.

2. Increase in foreign exchange earnings

Increased IT exports will substantially increase Pakistan's foreign exchange revenues. This is critical for a country that has previously battled balance of payment issues. A stronger foreign reserve position will increase economic stability and investor confidence.

3. Technological advancement and innovation

The strategy's emphasis on entrepreneurship and innovation will position Pakistan as a technological hotspot. This environment would promote creativity and innovation, resulting in the development of cutting-edge technology and solutions.

4. Global recognition and branding

As Pakistan's IT exports increase, the country will be recognised as a prominent player in the global IT industry. This improved reputation may attract more international clients and partners, thereby helping to grow the industry.

5. Challenges and considerations

While the approach is ambitious and promising, its success will be contingent on the proper implementation of its components. Political stability, infrastructure development and consistent policy support are all critical challenges that must be addressed. Furthermore, the quality of education and training programmes will be critical in ensuring that the workforce meets the needs of the global IT business.

Long-term vision

The strategy's long-term objective includes more than just immediate economic rewards. It refers to the creation of a knowledge-based economy in which innovation and technology drive growth and wealth. This move will have far-reaching consequences for Pakistan's socioeconomic development, establishing it as a leader in the IT sector and a nation at the forefront of the digital revolution.

In conclusion, Pakistan's IT and ITeS Export Strategy is a bold move towards altering the country's economic landscape. It promises not just increased economic stability and progress, but also establishes Pakistan as a global leader in information technology. The successful execution of this policy will necessitate collaboration among all stakeholders, including the government, the private sector and educational institutions. If executed effectively, it has the potential to cause a much-awaited paradigm shift in Pakistan's economic and technological standing on the global arena, ushering in a new era of innovation and wealth.