First class IT infrastructure?

November 8, 2007 at 8:27 am 8 comments

fireWe are told that this country has first class IT infrastructure, top notch human resource and good policies. Such a statement is usually followed up by a question: why are our IT exports not touching billions of dollars?

Let us forget the rest of the issues for the moment and talk about IT infrastructure. For the past 4 years I can’t remember how many times I have told anyone who will listen – the government, the media, builders, investors, – that we NEED top notch IT Parks which provide sufficient office space at a reasonable cost, clean and fast bandwidth, uninterrupted power supply, conference and exhibition facilities, showcasing areas, research, development and testing facilities, incubation facilities, recreation areas, with all connected services being available within the Park -, a professional and secure environment where young people (and some of the more experienced) can interact and work, sharing and creating knowledge. Has anyone listened? I don’t know. We keep hearing that all these parks are coming up but I have yet to see any land being identified in Karachi for the purpose – there ARE one or two towers that are being put up by the PITB in Lahore but again, they are buildings, not a complete environment – although it is a start. There is ‘something’ coming up in Islamabad but what exactly and when, is something we will probably know one day.

In the meantime, our IT and ITES companies struggle with, amongst so many other challenges, the lack of infrastructure. I don’t know how many people are aware that there was a fire at Caesar Towers on Saturday. Caesar Towers is our National IT Park we are told. It is on Shahrah-e-Faisal in Karachi. One of the most pathetic buildings you have ever seen. It is perpetually in ‘construction’ mode and you would certainly never take a potential overseas customer there if you could avoid it. This building was provided fibre connectivity by PSEB some years ago and a large number of unsuspecting IT companies moved into the building – from software development companies, to content management companies to call centres. Over the years they have had a number of confrontations with the building managers/owners over various issues like connectivity, power problems, bad management, etc.

The fire on Saturday destroyed all the main power and internet cabling which will have to be totally replaced. A real disaster especially for companies that are providing 24×7 service to overseas customers. Some had contingency in place and I was impressed at the speed with which companies like Etilize set up in new premises almost overnight. But there are others who are still struggling. Some have moved to Korangi or to Tariq Centre – which is the newest PSEB-identified IT Park on Tariq Road. Some companies are working with skeleton staff with generators. P@SHA member companies have been generous and have offered temporary space to some of the affected companies, but office space is at a premium in this city and companies are already bursting at the seams themselves. It is a tragedy that an industry that has so much potential in terms of providing efficiency to other industries, in terms of increased export earnings, in terms of providing job opportunities to young people in this country, in terms of creating knowledge and innovation, should be neglected in this way.

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8 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Osama A.  |  November 8, 2007 at 10:52 am

    Nicely put. Last I heard the IT Park in Isb is still in the final stages of planning and vendor assignments so even at the earlier it is still 2 years out.

    Before this there was a huge IT park that was supposed to be constructed in the Chak Shazad area, but projects like these come and go on paper – I wouldn’t report it until they’re actually finished.

    I’m surprised to hear office space is short in Karachi — Karachi! Boy you all should try finding a place to work out of in Islamabad, especially something with a justified rent.

    Reply
  • 2. Vic  |  November 8, 2007 at 12:17 pm

    Seems like the whole world waits for someone else to do something. In our countries, we first put a ‘government’ in charge of everything, then complain when we find they are no better than any of us.

    It is about time we began reorganising our systems to take more authority and responsibility ourselves.

    This business of concentrating IT companies into so-called ‘specialist’ buildings, zones and infrastructure – suicidal. We really need very little other than what any other people need to run businesses (or other societal activities), except for some first-mile stuff like connectivity and electricity.

    Very soon, there will be few businesses left that want (if not ‘need’) anything less to run, in any case, so why create specialist zones, except to satisfy the ego of the first-movers? Why not regard that as the very minimum for all?

    Reply
  • 3. Jehan  |  November 8, 2007 at 12:39 pm

    We don’t want to put the government in charge Vic but unfortunately they have the money that is needed. If they can allocate land, some private builders are willing to put up the infrastructure.

    The idea of IT Parks is a good one if we can congregate IT companies, education and training institues, research facilities, testing labs, related services like couriers, restaurants, banks, residential facilities etc together. The idea is to have knowledge-workers working and hanging out together, learning from each other and adding to the wealth of knowledge that is created. It would certainly be great to have the whole country working seamlessly – with no power outages, no connectivity problems, no security problems, etc but that will take much longer. The clusters will help initially in getting people working together on projects. Of course IT is dependent on all kinds of domain knowledge so interaction with everyone is important but we need to start somewhere.

    Reply
  • 4. Jehan  |  November 8, 2007 at 12:47 pm

    Yes Osama I am aware of the space problems in Islamabad and the endless plans that have been talked about but not implemented.

    The Chak Shahzad area that was identified for IT is now apparently under consideration for a Media City – IT is not important enough you see. And as for having a media city in Islamabad, it is a brilliant idea since most of the media houses are headquartered in Karachi and some in Lahore.

    Reply
  • 5. Vic  |  November 8, 2007 at 1:39 pm

    As wonderful as it is for IT people to work and learn from each other – it is not unwelcome for some to live and learn from the rest of the world too.

    IT parks are really just a fiddle, a means for realty developers to get ‘concessions’ from the government (just how do you think the ‘government’ got all that money/power/pelf anyway?). Then the developer walks away (giggling), and the companies are left with holes in their pocketbooks and nothing particularly to show in return.

    But real-world IT companies deliver real world applications/services that they know and experience serve a purpose (a purpose that goes beyond emptying the buyer’s pocket, I mean). We have plenty of ‘IT’ (ivory-tower) companies in India that have yet to make one single application/service that anyone heard of. Billions of dollars of turnover, sure.

    Reply
  • 6. Ali Raza Shaikh  |  November 8, 2007 at 5:01 pm

    i did covered the event on that day here http://alirazashaikh.blogspot.com/2007/11/caesar-tower-former-national-it-park-on.html
    with some persons sharing their experience. Fire was on 9th floor due to some electric wiring.

    Watch the videos here



    Reply
  • 7. farzal  |  November 14, 2007 at 10:20 am

    I initiated a disaster recovery session with my boss; I was told we will buy bunch of laptops for DR.

    any ideas on how a 50 person software house plan for D.R.? in terms of backup physical location & bandwidth (primarily).

    Reply
  • 8. Aamir Kilwani  |  September 12, 2008 at 5:38 am

    At the time of fire i was on the way to my home and suddenly a friend of mine from the same building informed me that our building got a fire and when i came back i saw that building with full of smoke, ambulances, police and all media persons were there but it was building owners good luck that Musharraf declared the emergency on the same day and due to media restriction the fire disaster news was not on any tv channels.

    After fire there was no electricity for more then a month we all went to talk with the building owner but he replied that it is not his fault and all the damages of electricity will be paid by office owners else they will not provide any facility and after that we all offices paid a huge amount to get the new wire and reconnection of services in the building, the building owner has a revolving resturant within the same building on the top floor and that was the cause that the GAS pipe was leak and its got fired but after a big disaster nobody took the action the building owner used his contact to safe him from all the legal action and the same thing happened that he took out him self from this story…

    My reason of writing is that what our govt. is doing for the infrastructure of I.T in pakistan, there is no proper place available to work here and due to lack of resources most of software houses and call centers are running in the diffrent part of karachi city, we must have one proper place to work where we can share our ideas with other companies and can work together to safe our country.

    Reply

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