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The exports of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) services continue to chart an upward path. For the six-month period ended December 2021, Pakistan’s ICT services export proceeds had reached $1.3 billion, a new high for the half-yearly period, as per latest data from the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP). The annual growth during 1HFY22 comes to 36 percent – which is a gain of $343 million over the same period last fiscal, Pakistan’s largest half-yearly gain in these service exports on record.

As a result of continued growth, exports of ICT services increased their share to 7 percent in Pakistan’s overall goods and services exports during the Jul-Dec FY22 period. (Note that the denominator is also swelling, as Pakistan’s overall goods and services exports’ half-yearly tally also recorded a handsome gain of 27 percent year-on-year to reach $18.6 billion). The share of ICT exports is higher than 6.5 percent seen in 1HFY21 and significantly higher vis-à-vis 4 percent average seen between 2015-2020.

Within the ICT export pie, the dominant category is ‘computer services,’ which account for nearly 80 percent of ICT exports. As per the SB data, these computer-based services – comprising software consultancy services, export of computer software and other computer services – saw their proceeds cross the billion-dollar mark ($1.03 billion) for the first time in a half-yearly period, with year-on-year growth coming in at 37 percent year-on-year.

Among the core segments, export proceeds reached $368 million for software consultancy services (45% YoY growth), $272 million for software exports (48% YoY growth), and $391 million for ‘other computer services’ (24% YoY growth). The pandemic is reported to have hastened the process of digital transformation abroad, which provided the local IT firms the golden opportunity to attract new clients in new markets. The big software firms and business-minded freelancers are especially said to have made quite some hay out of the digital urgency in foreign markets during Covid-19.

The second prominent category is ‘telecommunication services,’ which accounts for most of the remaining one-fifth of the ICT export pie. These services – which are composed of telecommunications-related services and call center services – reached $266 million in 1HFY22, as per latest SBP data. That’s a solid growth rate of 30 percent over the same period last fiscal. Call center exports reached $102 million (49% YoY growth) and telecoms services stood at $164 million (21% YoY growth).

Recall that Pakistan’s annual ICT exports had doubled in three years since FY18 to cross the $2 billion mark in FY21. Let’s see how long it takes to double the FY21 export tally. At the current half-yearly growth pace of 36 percent year-on-year, Pakistan may receive close to $3 billion in ICT export proceeds by the time the FY22 ends. Beyond that, question is whether the export business Pakistani IT firms and freelancers have achieved during the Covid-era can be scaled up on the other side of the pandemic?

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