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Despite of potential, sluggish growth in Pakistan’s IT sector is concerning: Sohail Ashraf

Pakistan IT exports nearly doubled over the past five years, but
the rate of growth is not sustainable, drastic actions are required
for long-term and robust growth: COO & Co-Founder Progatix

Muhammad Umar Waqqas

KARACHI: Chief Operating Officer & Co-Founder of Progatix Sohail Ashraf tells The Financial Daily that, “the IT Sector is one of the significant sectors of Pakistan, contributing about 1% of the GDP of Pakistan. The Pakistan IT sector, known for its immense potential, has experienced sluggish growth, falling short of expectations in the fiscal year 2023. Recent reports reveal that Pakistan’s IT exports reached a mere $2.6 billion, marking a 15% increase from the previous year.”
He however said that despite the slight growth, the rate has slowed down to its lowest level since FY2016, with export inflows remaining flat compared to the previous year. Pakistani youth is playing a vital role to run this high-voltage industry but there is no central mechanism for their strategic training. Currently, 64 percent of the nation is younger than 30 and 29 percent of Pakistanis are between 15 and 29 (an age group which we define as the youth).
“Pakistan now has more young people than it has ever had, and this is forecasted to continue to increase until at least 2050. But are we sincerely ready to transform this massive potential according to modern challenges? Youth has incredible power to transform a Country’s future. They could be the heavy-engines of development. Or their disillusionment could lead to significant social unrest. IT export is a drastic need of the country and the true potential of Pakistan’s IT exports and revenue lies in training and development of our youth”.
Progatix formerly known as WizTech is an IT company which was established in 2003. Over the last two-decades it has delivered digital consultancy services & custom software solutions to domestic and international clients. Their expertise includes strategic digital consultancy, legacy system migration, custom software development, web application development, mobile app development, DevOps solutions, and stellar testing services.
Sohail Ashraf says “When I say training I don’t mean those traditional short courses or diplomas. Such kind of strategic training and skill development is required which could equip our genius youth to perform and bring business in the country from the international markets. Pakistan is changing rapidly along with the world. Most of the companies and governments are focusing on relying on the latest emerging technologies such as AI, Block-chain and Cloud Security. There is still a huge demand for smaller services and products in international markets for which more than 60% of our youth may be capable if the country decently trains them.”
India’s rapidly growing IT exports cannot be ignored, India’s software exports grow 12.2% to $193 billion in 2022-2023.
Despite having the best talent in the world, Pakistan is lagging far behind many countries including India in IT exports. When we asked Sohail Ashraf about the reason for this failure, he remarked that “The Central framework is surprisingly lacking to regulate Pakistani IT companies. An autonomous central body is urgently required which could operate as a State Bank model who professionally regulates all private banking policies and provides a proper operational framework for all banks. There is a drastic need to regulate the norms and culture of our IT industry otherwise it may get badly spoiled.”
Sohail Ashraf shows serious concerns about lack of attention from the government in supporting the private sector who is a major contributor to IT exports. He urges the government to take some immediate steps to provide support to the IT industry of Pakistan, for example Provide IT parks, data centres and infrastructure at subsidised cost for IT companies to expand, as it is a highly Human-resource dependent sector and the need for infrastructure is never-ending. Negotiate with international authorities to establish internationally recognized payment gateways to Pakistan, so our clientele, products and services could get more confidence.
Despite the challenges, there are some positive signs within the sector. Computer services for FY23 remained steady at $2.1 billion, while telecom services declined by 3% YoY to $490 million. Notably, computer services’ share in IT exports has increased significantly from 40.4% in FY14 to 81.0% in FY23. This points to a potential area of growth for the Pakistani IT industry.

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