In what was a positive year for the information, communication technology (ICT) industry of Pakistan, foreign and domestic challenges point towards a difficult time ahead.
It was then not surprising when Naseer Akhtar, the CEO of Infotech, urged the gathered industry bigwigs at the 8th P@SHA ICT awards on Thursday at Sheraton hotel to set a strategic goal of exceeding the five-billion-dollar revenue target for fiscal year 2011-2012.
“The industry is growing at an organic pace and we need to step that up with some goals to grow faster and strategically,” said Akhtar. “I am setting one goal, tentatively, of reaching the $5 billion mark by 2015.”
The awards, which were already under a cloud given the untimely demise of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs on the morning of the function, continued its pre-set course of a night full of fun and music, albeit with an emotional tribute to the legendary technology innovator.
Microsoft and Nokia, two of the sponsors for the awards, both commended the progress Pakistan had made in the field of IT over the past years, despite the lack of support from the government which neither helped with seed money nor created a conducive environment for clients to come in.
“The quality of work from Pakistan is phenomenal and we have proved ourselves globally, “ remarked Microsoft’s Tahir Masood.
Both Microsoft and Nokia were full of praise for how Pakistani products had not only competed in the international market, but proved that they were among the best. Nokia revealed that despite their dismal forecast of 100,000 apps being downloaded, Pakistanis downloaded over a million applications from Nokia in September 2011 alone, with some apps developed in the country doing very well worldwide.
“We have been conducting a lot of competitions in Pakistan and the some of the apps have done really well globally,” said the Nokia representative.
However, despite the international recognition that the industry has received this year, some were more pessimistic than optimistic, with Mustafa Paracha of Wi-Tribe saying that piracy remained a major issue that threatened the local industry. “We offered subscribers premiere security software for Rs100 to Rs150 extra on top of their monthly bill, but people did not buy it as they preferred to go with a pirated copy,” he explained.
The silver lining to the event could be that the National Information Communication Technology Research and Development fund has promised to work harder and expedite proposal processing and make seed capital available much sooner.
In its eighth year, the Pakistan Software Houses Association (P@SHA) received a record number of entries with 110 applications in 33 categories showing the creativity and depth the local software industry has developed.
The awards were given to those involved in key aspects of business development and management ranging from financials, e-Government, communications, environment conservation, education, security, community, health, mobile applications as well as research and development.
The awards chose to recognise local start-ups and innovative tertiary student projects. Students from NED University and the National University of Science and Technology (NUST) were winners and runners-up. However the pick of the winners remained the Islamabad-based Centre for Advanced Research in Engineering (CARE) which won in three categories.
Also of note was the growth of collaborative projects between local companies as two awards, in the industrial applications and the financial applications categories went to projects created by collaborations between local firms.
The winners in the product categories will now be accompanying the P@SHA delegation to the Asia Pacific ICT Awards 2011, a regional ICT platform where Pakistan won 11 awards last year.
Umar Cheema, who had been featured on a Massachusetts Institute of Technology innovators list, was due to present a keynote address at the awards, however he cancelled at the last minute due to some engagement.
Some of the winners:
Digital Media & Entertainment Applications
Product: Angry Monkey, GeniTeam Pvt Limited
Product: National Air Space Management System (NASMS)
Center for Advanced Research in Engineering (CARE)
Product: Toffeetv.com, Toffee TV
Best Mobile Application
Product: The Photo Editor
Five Rivers Technologies – Pepper.pk
Best in Start-Up Companies
Product: Venture Dive, ShopHoller
* This is not a complete list
Published in The Express Tribune, October 8th, 2011.