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Friday, 2 March, 2001, 12:46 GMT
Can Pakistan rival India as an internet nation?
In Pakistan, less than 1% of the population is connected to the internet, despite a concerted government effort.

Six months ago, Pakistan connected almost 100 cities to the internet as part of a new information and technology policy.

The move was meant to bring the country into the IT age, after lagging behind the software success of neighbouring India.

Pakistani officials admit that the country is trying to make up for lost time. But can it ever catch up?

Is it an unrealistic dream or an important step towards regenerating the Pakistan economy?

This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.

Your reaction

To equal India, Pakistan must first empower their women

Anup, UK
To equal India, Pakistan must first empower their women. From my previous experience of using an Indian software house, I found roughly the same number of male and female engineers working side by side. Can an Islamic country do that without attracting dissent from the ever-powerful mullahs?
Anup, UK

Over the past year, a lot has been done in the information technology sector of Pakistan. The plans for opening 7 new IT universities and major software exhibitions are bringing awareness to people. It may take a couple of years, but with the pace at which Pakistan's IT industry is currently developing, it can easily match if not surpass India in that field.
Jody Miller, USA

India's IT revolution started due to the availability of cheap labour in that country. Most of the software development is maintenance of existing software or development of useless web engines. The other reason for Indian success has to do with the ability of Indians to speak and understand English which makes it easier for American and British companies to do business with them - and even this is only true in a few states in India. Overall the IT revolution in India has benefited only a few selective states.
Zeeman, UK

India is competing with the USA and not against Pakistan in the field of IT. The country is already the second in IT fields and is not far away from becoming an IT superpower. So it will be a hard job for any country to overtake India in IT, let alone Pakistan.
Satish Kumaar TR, USA

The only thing that is needed in Pakistan is political stability. I am a graduate student in computer science in the USA. I would love to go back to Pakistan after graduation as would many of my friends. But the main reason we can't is because there are not many jobs. People are not sure what will happen tomorrow and there is uncertainty on everyone's mind.
Ali Raza, Pakistan/ USA

There is every chance that Pakistan can not only catch up with, but may even surpass India

Bilal Patel, London, UK
I have family in both India and Pakistan. I don't see any difference between them. The people are the same and the education systems are broadly similar. However, India does seem more inclined to accept Western culture and norms and the rapid rise in the English language there puts it at an edge. However, there is every chance that Pakistan can not only catch up with, but may even surpass India. It will require extra investment in education and ways of attracting Pakistani skills back into the country from abroad.
Bilal Patel, London, UK

Current government and private IT organisations/ companies have done a great job in the fast paced development of IT in the country. The people of Pakistan are no less smart than people of any other country in the world. Pretty soon they will make their mark on the IT map. It's just a matter of time.
S. Qureshi, USA/Pakistan

If India is producing thousands of IT people that doesn't mean they are dominating. Just take the ratio of their population and compare it with the Pakistan ratio. I guess one will not find any big difference. There are thousands of Pakistani IT professionals working in the USA which is the proof of talent.
Shahid Iqbal, USA

I did not even have a computer when I was learning programming

Sunil Kumar, India/ USA
I am a chemical engineering graduate and work in the computer science industry. I write system software, which is relatively tougher than most other computer science activities. I don't think I would attribute my success, if I may call it success, to the political stability of India or the infrastructure. I did not even have a computer when I was learning programming. What I did have was access to good books on computer science and an analytical bent of mind. It is fairly easy to pick up computer science. I have no reason to believe that Pakistan cannot do it. In fact, sooner or later they will.
Sunil Kumar, India/ USA

Better be late then never. Connecting the cites is simply not enough to match India. They have to implement a different environment so that people can express themselves freely in order to create new ideas. Initiatives have to come from the grassroots. Good luck Pakistan!
Suresh, Malaysia

Pakistan has a large population, a focused leader, and a template from which to copy from (i.e. India's IT structure), so I believe catching up to it's neighbour is a reachable goal.

However, India started its IT revolution decades ago, and it is far ahead of all the countries in the region, and even many developed countries in the world. "Catching up" is theoretically possible for Pakistan, but I don't believe it will be happen, because India's IT industry is literally growing exponentially and has passed the point of no return. IT is has embedded itself into India's culture and will not slow down to the point where other nations either catch up to it or surpass it.
Mark Richardson, USA

Internet and information technology is all about openness

Sumeet, USA/India
Internet and information technology is all about openness. You need an open and a free thinking mind to excel in this field. India has already done it. Pakistan, however, is a country that broke away from India and took a very different route of religious identity, sham democracy and finally military/Islamic dictatorship. This environment is very unhealthy for development especially for information technology. Competing with India is a very distant dream for Pakistan. Forget about rivalling India, it will be a big step for Pakistan if it can even move in that direction. Not to mention that one of the Pakistani leaders has mentioned the internet/computers to be un-Islamic.
Sumeet, USA/India

It was never the spread of the internet that made India a strong player in the field of IT. The single most important factor for the success was the high quality of secondary school education in India. This took 50 years of work and Pakistan (or any other country) needs at least 5 - 10 years of investment in this sector before it can produce talent in technology. Until that is achieved, I doubt whether Pakistan can catch up India.
Mayank Asthana, Australia

Today India is acknowledged by the international community as a leader in software technology. What people outside India don't realise is this success is not brought by overnight plan but decades of careful planning. Pakistan can learn more than one lesson from India. As a starter, Pakistan has to choose peace over conflict, democracy over dictatorship. These are the fundamental requirements for a knowledge-based economy to take root. Finally, its time we stopped comparing India with Pakistan because Indians aim to match nothing less than America in every field.
Srinivas, India/UK

If Pakistan wants to do well in the world economy it must form a government selected by the people and distance itself from the Islamic extreme groups and religious fanatics. Pakistan society needs to be more tolerant.
Ricky Singh, US

I feel that Pakistan should not target its IT plans just on the basis of envy factor with India. Every country should consider its own infrastructure and strong points to make it feasible and practically achievable.
Hridayesh Gupta, India-Currently in USA

Why do we have to compete? Why can't we work together and make all these western countries come to us for help?
Bilal Bin Iqbal, Pakistan/USA

Pakistan has a long way to go before it can rival India. First of all it has to have skilled manpower which it's education system lacks in providing. Secondly the private sector has to play the role. No amount of government effort can succeed if the private sector is conspicuous by it's absence. Third is democracy and freedom of expression .
Arnab Kundu, India,Japan

You cannot have blasphemy laws and a free media like the internet flourishing in the same place

Dhirendra, India
The factor hindering this growth is the lack of democracy and genuine freedom of expression. Does the Pakistani populace have the will to throw out an authoritarian regime like the Indians did after the Emergency in 1977? Do Pakistanis have the maturity to question dubious religious leaders who snatch a girl's right to education and career? Do their leaders have the heart to let religious minorities vote alongside Muslims and not for segregated colleges? The Internet and IT is all about freedom of thought and imagination of the work force. You cannot have blasphemy laws and a free media like the internet flourishing in the same place. A country where the supreme court justices have to take oaths of allegiance to a dictator cannot progress in any field.
Dhirendra, India

I am from Bangalore, also known as the silicon valley of Asia. While I do not have any idea about Pakistan's progress in the field of IT, the main reason for Bangalore having become one of the top ten tech cities in the world is that there is a large pool of extremely skilled and technologically well equipped manpower. Can Pakistan churn out 300,000 software professionals each year? I guess they need to first address that issue and then worry about their infrastructure.
Harsha Honnappa, India

Pakistan spends nearly half its yearly budget on defence with the result that very little is spent on things like education. The lack of good education drives kids to religion where the emphasis is on religion and religious warfare not skills to get ahead in this wired world. What is needed is change in mindset among the leaders and people of Pakistan and a realisation of correct priorities.
V T Abraham, USA

I know Pakistan has great potential in the arena of IT. The government is a strong proponent of information technology dissemination. Contrary to some inane comments people here have made about Pakistani people, there exists a strong pool of educated, forward thinking Pakistanis ready to provide the fodder for a successful IT industry.
Aftab Khan, USA

The mind set of educated Pakistanis is not much different from their Indian counterparts. It is because of the political system in place that has caused the backlog in proliferation of the Internet in Pakistan.
Sumer Sarin India/USA

There is much more to an IT age than connecting one hundred towns with internet

Abbas Naqwi, UAE
The question is inherently absurd and seems to be an extension of an attempt at equating the two neighbours in every way possible. Tell me, what, in the last 50 years, prevented Pakistan to reach the status India has reached in IT?
Essential ingredients in IT success stories around the world are cheap financing, robust infrastructure and a free environment. The first two cannot be effected till the overall stability and fiscal position improves. And, the third one has much to do with both the governors and the governed of Pakistan. In a nutshell, there is much more to an IT age than connecting one hundred towns with internet.
Abbas Naqwi, UAE

India is undoubtedly ahead of Pakistan in IT revolution. A lot of credit goes to her education institutes, which had the vision to offer computer science program for the last 15 years. Pakistan, although late, is now focused on IT. There is a massive effort underway in Pakistan, both at government level and in private sector, to train skilled professionals in IT.

When any nation in the world decided to focus on something specific, and is willing to pay the price and work hard towards it, then nobody can stop them to achieve their goal. I don't see any particular reason why Pakistan can not achieve, what India has so successfully achieved, in the next five years. In the final analysis, it is not the hardware or infrastructure, it is the people that make the difference.
Asad Faizi, USA

All the fundamental requirements are there

Pervaiz Lodhie, USA
Pakistan is already on the way to achieving the same level of success in IT in 2 years which took India 20 years. I and many other Pakistani Americans are now directly involved in this successful revolution. All the fundamental requirements are there. The price of hardware to operate the IT sector is lower than what you get in the USA. High-speed lines are being made available at dramatically lower affordable rates. All these were not available to India during its 20 year IT growth.
Pervaiz Lodhie, USA

The question should be: Does Pakistan have the mindset and infrastructure to succeed in internet? The answer is a clear no. To succeed in internet, which is simply a network of sites offering 'ideas', one clearly needs an environment where freedom of thought exists.
Ashesh, USA

It looks very promising from the recent steps taken by this government. To make the country successful in the IT field, overseas Pakistanis in developed countries and the Government of Pakistan should work closely together to work out a plan on investing and promoting local talent.
Noman Qureshi, Canada

The IT revolution has many pre-requisites which Pakistan seems to lack. One is the privatisation of the telecom infrastructure. The other is democracy, since the driving force behind the new economy, IT and biotech go hand in hand with democracy and a culture of free thought and expression. Thirdly the IT revolution can only be brought about by the private sector. No amount of public spending can make Pakistan an IT giant unless the private sector plays its due role.
Ahmad R Shahid, Pakistan/ USA

Why not? We are same people. Good luck to them.
Vijay Ojha, India, now UK

Well, I don't think the Pakistanis are trying to replace India as an Asian software giant. That is unrealistic and absurd. What Pakistan lacks compared to India are the thousands of skilled computer graduates and engineers that Indian colleges churn out each year.
Vivek, USA

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