IT institutes trying to get over Sept 11
KARACHI- The information technology (IT) landscape in the country is now littered with dead, dying and sick institutes from where a large number of students have withdrawn after the September 11 attack on World Trade Centre.
But the organized IT centres claim to have managed to withstand the negative impact of the New York incident as they report a 10 per cent fall in the business.
IT institutes, offering short-term diploma courses, were the worst hit after September following sizable withdrawal of students. In the mushrooming centres, 95 per cent of the students were job seekers, while the remaining were taking courses to acquire the know-how.
No actual number of these so-called IT institutions, closed in a span of one year, is available, but to quote an executive of an IT institute, out of over 200 IT institutes, operating from Civic Centre to Nipa (on both side of the main roads and inside the localities), hardly 50 to 60 had survived.
Currently, majority of them have either shifted to other business avenues with the same names or have packed up. Some are in the process of winding up and many of them are waiting for another boom period in the IT business.
These ghost institutes are now displaying banners, portraying a marked decline in the fees for diploma in information technology (DIT). For instance, a DIT course used to cost Rs1,000 to Rs2,000, but a banner in Gulshan-i-Iqbal offers the same course at Rs299 to Rs500 now, besides offering job avenues to the successful students.
A Microsoft Certified System Engineer course, which caused a wave among students in the boom IT period in Pakistan during 1998-99, can now be completed at Rs4,000 to Rs5,000 instead of Rs100,000 a year back. IBM’s access advance centres, that came in 2001, also died in the same year.
According to the chief executive, Axis Institute of Information Technology, Kashif Naseem, he has now only 50 students, who were 200 when he entered the business in June 2001.
He said some IT institutes, that started with only eight to ten computers, had not felt the real pinch of the September incidents in terms of financial burden. They are now waiting for another boom period, which they saw in 1998-99. But those who had invested millions of rupees were really affected.
He said many IT institutes were now trying to venture into other business, like English training and language courses by seeking affiliation with foreign universities. Many of them now pin hopes on an increase in enrolment of students in the coming session, starting from June/July.
Dr Junaid Ahmed, master business partner, APTECH Worldwide, said the September 11 had not really made any negative impact on the IT scenario in Pakistan. “The negative impact is not more than 10 per cent,” he said, that was only because of a very limited international exposure.
“We would have been very severely hit if Pakistan had a major penetration in global markets,” he added. “Pakistan is not even on the IT map. There is still a very long way to go,” Dr Junaid added. He claimed that in IT training, Pakistan has only one franchise APTECH, which was least affected due to September 11 incidents and no other even survived or succeeded in the country.
APTECH has 19 centres all over the country with more than 10,000 students. As many as 21 more institutes are being set up this year in the country. APTECH’s sister concern ARENA Multimedia has seven centres with more than 2,500 students.
Dr Junaid was not satisfied with the courses being offered by various IT institutes, saying that they were outdated. He said curriculum of all the universities was last updated in 1999 and “it is now high time that the curriculum be updated every year in the universities.”
He claimed that students receiving degrees from his institutions were getting jobs of Rs15,000 to Rs 45,000 per month in various multinational companies, who have geared up their efforts to comply with the world IT requirements in their organizations.
He maintained that 80 per cent of the APTECH students, belonging to middle and upper middle class, were interested to work in Pakistan. He was optimistic about the future of IT in the country.
Registrar, Karachi Institute of Information Technology, Dr Kazi A. Kadir, said the real impact of September 11 tragedy would be seen in July when new admissions are started. He said there was an element of fear and panic among students, eager for jobs, but prospects were bright in multinationals and software companies.
A source in Asia Pacific Institute of Information Technology said the rate of enrolment had gone down by 15 to 20 per cent but things would improve from July.
SOFTWARE: Pakistan’s software exports were hit hard particularly after September 11, which fetched only $13 million in July- March 2001-2002. In 2000-2001, exports were $21 million, said President Pakistan Software Houses Association, Syed Hamza Matin.
There has been a confusion over the actual export earnings from software as both EPB, SBP and Federal Bureau of Statistics have different figures to reveal. “Exports are likely to pick up soon as a lot of enquiries are coming from abroad and many local projects are also coming up,” he said.