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The Swat region is poised to become a hotspot for the IT sector in Pakistan.
The Swat region is poised to become a hotspot for the IT sector in Pakistan.

The development of Swat’s first software technology park is part of the government’s policy to introduce ‘ease of doing business’ measures to boost the IT industry and its exports further

By Muhammad Ali Bandial

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Published: Sun 14 Aug 2022, 12:00 AM

The information technology sector of Pakistan has been growing at an impressive rate of late. On a positive front for the country, the government recently announced that the first-ever software technology park set up in Swat under a public-private partnership (PPP) has become operational, with companies taking up office space in the 1,7950 square feet facility. The recently finished initiative is part of the project, which aims to establish a net¬work of software technology parks across the country under which some 40 such parks will be established all over the country, including Swat, Bannu, Quetta, Faisalabad, Karachi and Sukkur.

The project comes on the back of contributions by the Universal Service Fund (USF) — established by the Government of Pakistan (Ministry of Information Technology) to spread the benefits of the telecom revolution to all corners of Pakistan and to promote the development of telecommunication services in un-served and under-served areas throughout the length and breadth of the country — which has awarded a contract worth Rs. 781 million to Telenor to provide high-speed mobile broadband services in Swat, while a second project was launched by the Pakistan Software Export Board (PSEB) to build the state-of-the-art software technology Park (STP) in Mingora. The initiative is aimed at meeting this gap as Syed Amin ul Haque, the IT Minister, had said that 65,695 people would benefit from high-speed mobile broadband services, allowing them to connect to the digital world and the global markets. The project also aims to allow more than 500 IT professionals to set up their startups in the software park, thus, providing direct or indirect employment opportunities to almost 2,000 people.

As per statements by officials from the government, the parks are following up the success of software parks, functional in Gilgit and Hyderabad that are already generating “millions of dollars” within a few months of their establishment. They also added that plans are also underway to establish a further 25 software technology parks in smaller areas. It was also revealed that work would soon begin for IT parks in Karachi and Islamabad with Rs. 44 billion.

Officials from the Pakistan Software Export Board (PSEB) said that the park, which has been set up in collaboration with Vertex Tower, has received a positive response form the community as two companies have already shifted in. Furthermore, the size of the park can accommodate eight to ten companies. The PSEB 25 STPs project will offer companies space at the rate of Rs. 50 per square foot. Furthermore, in a bid to incentivise new companies and to inculcate an environment of entrepreneurial spirit, IT companies will receive a 25 per cent rental subsidy and one-year free internet facility if they apply for the project. The software technology park in Swat will benefit youth in remote areas including Mingora, Char Bagh, Bahrain, Shangla and others. Once fully operational, the park will provide employment to more than 300 people. The launch of the Software Technology Park in Mingora promises to bring a number of benefits to the local area. Cheaper IT resources will be able to work closer to home, and large companies will be able to set up site offices and reduce their costs. The park will also help to update the infrastructure, as telecom and internet providers will have to improve their infrastructure due to increasing local needs.

At a recent gathering, Haq said that Pakistan was ambitiously working to achieve $15 billion IT exports in next three years. Going into further detail, the Minister added that Pakistan’s IT (information technology) exports reached $2.6 billion in the fiscal year 2021-22 while the target for 2022-23 was set at $3 billion. He said that the IT Ministry was fully determined to enhance the IT exports to $15 billion in its three-year plan.

Following the vision of Digital Pakistan, the IT Ministry had taken multiple steps for promotion of the sector, which resulted in expansion of internet connectivity, broadband, and cellular coverage in the country. The effect of this strategy is visible in its widespread usage as current reports put the number of mobile phone users with internet connectivity at 193 million. The same category was at 160 million until FY 2018-19 the figure was 160 million. By ensuring a steady monthly growth of broadband coverage and expansion of 4G technology, the government was eying the launch of 5G in Pakistan during the ongoing year, said Haq, added that the software technology parks were aiding and strengthening the initiative in that regard.

E-commerce on the rise

Pakistan has also achieved a new high as after the United States and China, Pakistan is now the third largest popular new seller on Amazon Marketplace with over 1.2 million registered vendors.

Following the implementation of Pakistan’s first e-commerce policy, Pakistan was allowed to enter Amazon in May 2021, a year after the talks began in 2020. In such a short span of time, Pakistani vendors count more than the rest of the countries in the world and there are more sellers in Pakistan as compared to India, Vietnam, UK, and Canada.

The country, which has just registered itself with the market is home to the world’s three largest Amazon seller groups: ‘eCommerce by Enablers’ with over 1.2 million members, ‘Extreme Commerce by Sunny Ali’ has 1.1 million members, and ‘E-commerce Success Pakistan’ has nearly 200,000. These groups started long ago before Pakistani sellers were officially allowed to sell on Amazon, according to Market Plus. These vendors are expected to contribute to Pakistan’s over $28 billion exports.

Young entrepreneurs and small and medium-sized enterprises across the country will be able to avail the benefits

offered by the platform which will widen and diversify Pakistan’s export basket. This will not only enhance their revenues but also help the government in improving the macroeconomic outlook of the country. The expansion of the e-commerce industry is important to support the medium and small-sized businesses to help operate profitability with the rising cost of doing business. Pakistan e-commerce policy is part of the overall ‘Digital Pakistan’ policy launched aimed at paving the way for holistic growth of e-commerce in the country by creating an enabling environment in which enter¬prises have equal opportunity to grow steadily.

The major exports of Pakistan that contribute to over $28 billion per annum to the national economy include textiles, leather and sports goods, chemicals, carpets, and rugs. Pakistan also exports significant quantities of rice, sugar, cotton, fish, fruits, and vegetables.

According to e-commerce analysis, “Pakistan is the 37th largest market for e-commerce with a revenue of $5.9 billion in 2021, placing it ahead of Iran and behind Israel.

With an increase of 45 per cent, the Pakistani e-commerce market contributed to the worldwide growth rate of 15 per cent in 2021. Just like in Pakistan, global e-commerce sales are expected to increase over the next years. As new markets are emerging, global growth will continue over the next years. This development will be propelled by East and Southeast Asia with their growing middle class and their lagging offline infrastructure”.

With a yearly growth rate of 7 per cent between 2021 and 2025, Pakistan is even expected to outperform the global average of 6 per cent, according to experts. Pakistan had adopted an e-commerce policy in 2019 but a lot more is required to do on a privacy statute of general application or a national consumer protection, which applies directly to electronic commerce. The e-commerce’s success is solely linked to the consumer’s trust and sense of satisfaction which must be ensured on industrial and state level to give exports further stride.

Rise of Pakistan's first gaming platform

The global gaming industry is a multi-billion-dollar industry that shows no signs of slowing down as more and more people participate on its platforms. In Pakistan too, there is a significant level of interest, especially from the younger generation.

To cater to this younger generation and to create and further uplift the existing gaming community of Pakistan, which comprises the youth that is super active on digital platforms and loves exploring what the digital world has to offer, Telenor Pakistan recently launched GameBird, Pakistan’s biggest e-sports platform. In launching the platform, the company aims to boost the gaming eco¬system within the country. GameBird is a one-stop solution for every gamer and possibly a dream come true for all the gamers souls out there. The launch event was held at Telenor’s 345 campus, and attended by the who’s who of the sporting and gaming world in Pakistan. Some of the attendees included big names, but the biggest of them all was Sana Mir, the former national women’s cricket team captain, who graced the occasion as the chief guest. Other noticeable arrivals to the event were some of Pakistan’s top e-sports professionals such as Arsalan Ash, Haseeb aka HSB, Amu Shahid, and members of House of Blood from the Pakistani gaming community.

What makes the launch even more special is that GameBird is the only platform in Pakistan that offers online gaming tournaments with AAA-rated partners, entertaining a digital footprint of more than 50,000 active users and more than 140,000 unique users every month. This bodes well for the young and growing community in the country as now video game enthusiasts can not only live-stream and participate in tournaments, but they can also find top-quality gaming merchandise, browse news, make purchases, and much more. As one of Pakistan’s premier gaming platform, GameBird aims to create a community and provides opportunities for talented gamers to showcase their skill. In addition, the platform allows a gateway for gamers to gain access to international gaming arenas to showcase their talent. E-sports is already one of the most popular industries worldwide, especially amongst youth, and Pakistan is rapidly gaining momentum.

According to conservative estimates, there are currently more than 55 million users and 33 million gamers in the Pakistani e-sports ecosystem, contributing significantly to the $200 billion global industry. The platform, which has been designed as a one-stop solution for all the needs of every gamer, has been a runaway success already, having hosted more than 60 tournaments and 20 broadcasts during its testing phase.

Speaking on the occasion of the launch of GameBird, Chief Executive Officer, Telenor Pakistan, Irfan Wahab Khan, said: “Pakistan’s online gaming industry is vibrant, and we have launched GameBird to strengthen the nationwide gaming community.” He went on to say that the platform has been designed to advance Telenor Pakistan’s ambition of going beyond connectivity and bridging the gap between local talent and global opportunities, bringing together all the fascinating aspects of gaming within their reach. Gaming enthusiasts around the country will also be offered the possibility to explore alternative revenue streams through GameBird, making it the first and only platform of its kind in Pakistan.


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