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Information technology and education

Published on 10th Feb, Edition 6, 2014

 

There are two contrary opinions about Pakistanis being Information technology savvy: 1) Pakistan has reasonable percentage of technology savvy people and 2) the level of IT education is far from satisfactory. Some experts say both the opinions are valid and it depends on the segment of population anyone is trying to explore. However, the split between urban and rural areas continue to have impacts. They say a lot depends on the education being imparted in these areas. If the overall level of literacy is good, people will also get an exposure of convergence of information technology and telecommunication. However, the extensive use of cellular phones and various offered applications are making the rural population equally conversant. At times it is felt that the level of comprehension in rural population is not too far away from the level prevailing in the urban and particularly mega cities.

Deployment of IT in education

Interestingly, it remains a debate whether deployment of technology in education can make students technology savvy or education in technology will make students technology savvy. While a quick review of syllabus is followed in urban cities, particularly in private schools suggest that not only computer is one of the subjects but particle training of using it is also given. They are also taught to prepare assignments by using Internet facility. In fact it is observed that a large number of students already have computers, which they use to communicate with their family and friends. Often they also use different software and formal education in computer further enhances their skills.

One of the reasons for the presence of computers in average homes is its affordability that has been made possible due to the government policy and partly because of technological obsolescence in the developed countries. Now the newer models and upgradation are coming up such a fast pace that people living in Pakistan can get computer (excluding printer) for less than Rs15,000.00. The added advantage is that in this part of the world family unit is relatively bigger and at an average a computer is being used by up to 5 family members. In some homes, parents and children divide time for computer use. Internet connection is available for as low as Rs300.00 per month. However, one of the observations is that even parents and children use computer for fun rather than learning. Experts say that initially children use computer for fun but with the passage of time also start using it as a learning tool.

 

Education in IT

Education in IT can be divided into three segments: 1) orientation with computer hardware and software, 2) hands on training of using different software made available by Microsoft and other companies and 3) software development. Educationists have the consensus that people have to be given orientation about available software and develop excellence in using different programs i.e. Word, Excel, Power Point. Once they take up job they have to get acquainted with the software being used in different departments/corporate. The software programs deployed by various corporate users are tailored-made.

Students have to also select the area they wish to select as career. Most of the people are familiar with hardware maintenance but now software maintenance has also become known. Added to this is installation and maintenance of local area networks. With the growing use of laptop computers, installation and maintenance of routers has also become important. However, all these are of relatively of lower level.

In Pakistan software development is not very common, except for the companies which need an elaborate and program. One such group of users is commercial banks. Since record of banks has to be maintained according to the requirement of regulators and international reporting standards, it may not be wrong to say that software is similar if not identical. Similarly, utilities and all those companies, which offer customer service have to maintain elaborate servers and databanks, which need constant updating and stringent monitoring. These functions create jobs for yet another type of employees, which have to be trained to work in a given environment and perform a specific job. Most of the companies offer on the job training but requirement of skills and educational background remain similar.

Prior to 9/11, Pakistanis were working for the US companies directly or indirectly, particularly in the software development. However, after the incidence US companies either completely stopped outsourcing work to Pakistani companies or hiring people to work on specific modules. One can understand this if he/she is aware of a term building blocks. One of the reasons for following this philosophy is to ensure appropriate firewalls to save the customers from cyber attacks and other is to facilitate constant upgradation.

However, it is necessary to share with the readers that globally known companies are still outsourcing jobs to Pakistani companies and universities. Over the years a number of Pakistani companies have attained global recognition. For the security reasons both the US companies and their Pakistani partners avoid talking about their working relationship. Since nothing tangible is being moved it is difficult to find out the work being done locally.

It is necessary to bring it to the attention of Government of Pakistan (GoP) that India has a lot of work under outsourcing arrangements particularly call centers business. Bulk of this pertains to data entry but yield billions of dollars for India. This is very level job but requires precision, meeting deadlines and above all infrastructure, which has uninterrupted supply of electricity. Years back the GoP had announced to establish IT Clusters but hardly any progress has been achieved.

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