In 2014, Pakistan came third – perhaps for the first time ever, in a global football event – the Street Child Football World Cup. Politicians and some sports bodies celebrated it and most even joined in to provide statements to the media.
The event was organized by a consortium of NGOs, without which the talent would have gone unnoticed, for the simple reason that these very people in power had not been doing their jobs.
Tanzania and Burundi were finalists – both struggling East African nations and four times and 20 times smaller, respectively, than Pakistan.
Similarly, an online official portal has ostensibly shared an article where it boasted that Pakistan possesses the world’s second-largest online freelance workforce, comprising approximately one million individuals.
However, they are ranked fourth on the list of money amassed within the global freelancing industry where a fewer numbers of freelancers are collecting higher amounts.
This can be attributed to two factors: either the services rendered are of mediocre quality, or that they are failing to bargain adequately. My research has indicated that the former rings true.
After interviewing several software companies, I was able to connect the dots.
They had two views: the first that Pakistan is replete with talented youth, and then shared off-the-record that new graduates are below par.
New graduates needed almost the same amount of work as an intermediate student, in order for them to produce the caliber of work needed to compete in an international market.
For the record, the country produces 75,000 new IT graduates annually.
A senior official at one company disclosed that the breadth of work received from international vendors would require them hiring least 200 new recruits. However, they were unable to get even 10 after testing over 2000 graduates.
One will mostly be told by many people especially in not just tech but all sectors that we are a talented nation. In reality, it’s just smoke and mirrors.
One can name some success stories, but they will be overshadowed by more successful countries with ten times less population, such as Singapore.
We cannot possibly compare ourselves to India, as they have long surpassed Pakistan. We would need at least need two decades of consistent hard work in the right direction to even begin to compete with them.
The only thing we are adept at is finding loopholes and arbitrage in an effort to make big bucks with little vision whatsoever.
Take the example of Nokia, created by the then-struggling nation of Finland which went on to rule the cell phone industry for over a decade, or Samsung.
The blame game
It’s not just the private sector to be blamed for this failure. It can also be attributed to shortsighted government policies as well as nationalization efforts that occurred half a century ago shattering business communities and their confidence along with it.
Instead of moving forward and planning for the future, the industry seems complacent in their laziness and mediocrity. We can forget about the next generation of Ambanis and Tatas coming out of Pakistan.
This mediocrity has a trickle-down effect - from companies, leadership, universities, professors, and teachers – some who even publish research papers based on ideas garnered from their students.
Close-up on Pakistan
Coming back to the IT sector, perhaps there may not be any other major sector in history changing as fast as it is changing currently. The industry demands are high but universities aren’t producing computer engineers fast enough.
People who have a keen eye on Pakistan’s economy see the tech sector as a train for the country to get back on track towards development, especially when they have largely missed all industrial revolutions in the past.
But in reality, we are missing that train also, even when there are people trying to create value in the industry.
There are computer engineers happy to be making a few hundred dollars a month for instance on the popular freelance website, Fiverr – that translates into an amount, maybe two to four times better than what they will get from a job. It saves them travelling expenses too.
Their output however, is still mediocre, which will not help build the tech sector nor transform Pakistan’s economy.
There are some huge gaps that the government of a 250-million people nation must recognize, which unfortunately they aren’t able to crack.
They are even unable to convince Paypal to come to Pakistan, which makes receiving international payments a nightmare.
There is an immense need to work to produce software engineers. One can in fact learn a lot from India – specifically how they became an IT giant.
It’s time Pakistan came out of false positives and focus their mindset on actual hard work and growth.
The article does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Business Recorder or its owners