Spotlight: Pakistan Computer Association

From your keyboard to God's eyes.  Munawar Iqbal, the President of the Pakistan Computer Association, successfully defends against and reverses the "ban on used computer imports" initially attempted by Pakistan Government.

Bravo to Pakistan Computer Association for successfully, thoughtfully, overturning the image of "primitive wire burning" be documenting the baby being thrown out with the bathwater.  This should be the position of other democracies, such as Egypt, India, Indonesia, Malaysia.  Recognize your geeks, embrace them, they are your future.

Read the PAC statement by Hina Mahgul Rind

KARACHI: The Computer importers, dealers, and representative body of IT education institutes have rejected the proposed ban on import of used computers and paraphernalia, asserting that it will deprive IT institutes and students from acquiring cheap equipment.

The chief executive of local computer assembling firm said that they don’t have any issue with import of used computers as the market was divided into various segment with each catering to its targeted clientele.

The Pakistan Computer Association (PCA) General Secretary Arshad Janjua while talking to The News said that PCA rejected the proposed ban on the import of used computers and IT accessories being considered at ministry of information technology, which he claimed, was on behest of some vested interest groups.

Janjua said that the reason given to ban import of used computers that it is an environmental hazard and it is adding more pollution in the environment.

There are thousands of things, which are dangerous to health and environment and generating pollution but nothing is being done to control them.

Only to ban the import of used computers is a conspiracy of some vested interest group only to benefit the multinational companies dealing in new computers. The move would take computers out of the range of students and affect livelihood of thousands of vendors dealing in used computers.

The PCA general secretary said that at present, there is no indigenous manufacture of computers and IT equipment. All computers used and new are being imported.

He added that Pakistan was a third world country where 80 per cent consumers buy second-hand computers.

“Multinational companies are trying to get a ban imposed on import of second-hand computers to capture the market, but the government should realize that a large number of people cannot afford to buy a new computer costing between Rs25,000 and Rs45,000,” Arshad Janjua said adding that the price of a used desktop PC ranged between Rs5,000 and Rs10,000.

The ban would deprive a large segment of students of their right to modern education, he said. A local computer manufacturer Viper Technology CEO Khushnood Aftab said, “We have no issues with import of used computers, because Viper believes our market is already divided into two segments.”

As local computer manufacturers (LCM) it is our responsibility to introduce new technology in our country. We also have local computer manufacturers / assemblers that are not getting fair share of limelight. LCM have fair share in the IT market and are catering at a vast level.

Aftab added that LCMs play a vital role; firstly, there are local assemblers of computers in Pakistan, such as Viper, Inbox, Optimum, Raffles, etc. The local companies serve both the retail and the corporate segment with employment around 250 persons per firm.

President's Essay:  In his essay, below, PAC president Munwar Iqbal makes many of the exact same points I've been making from this side of the oceans.  Taking away affordable internet does not cause 3B3K nations and converging economies to "leapfrog" into new computers... it retards development.   Hospitals and doctors go without computers, and people suffer.

Munwar Iqbal believes that software licensing interests are in the background behind the crackdown. He calls for greater embrace of "open source" software to take away this excuse of seizing and destroying working and repairable equipment.

Open Source Revolution in IT Sector of Pakistan
“Pakistan, where majority of the end users are either students or from lower strata of the society find it too hard to buy expensive software after managing a cheaper hardware for them. It’s a welcoming development that industry in Pakistan, too, waking up to the realization that open source software is gaining popularity throughout the world. Open source technologies are not just another option for reducing costs, but they represent the only way to eliminate illegal copying of copyrighted software.”

By Munawar Iqbal
At Present, Pakistan stands at the crossroad in regard with advancement (or backwardness) in the field of Information Technology. Recently, we have observed raids on computer industry vendors by the FIA and arrests have been made on the charges of violation of copy rights. The action taken on the behest of monopolist international software companies has been resulted as a further blow for the already struggling IT industry in Pakistan. Of course no body favors violation of copy rights. However, its point to ponder that what viable alternative is available for the IT industry as well as end user of Pakistan and other parts of the world, especially, third world countries, where industries are unable to absorb expensive software.
Today, when monopolist international companies increasingly threaten to dominate computing as well as the internet, a seemingly motley collection of free software tools and operating systems - collectively dubbed "open source" software – has emerged as an alternative recipe. Open source technologies are now playing an important role in many developing countries, where governments and corporate entities are moving increasingly towards open standards in an effort to reduce costs or to increase revenues.
Pakistan, where majority of the end users are either students or from lower strata of the society find it too hard to buy expensive software after managing a cheaper hardware for them. It’s a welcoming development that industry in Pakistan, too, waking up to the realization that open source software are gaining popularity throughout the world. Open source technologies are not just another option for reducing costs, but they represent the only way to eliminate illegal copying of copyrighted software.
The industry in Pakistan has the realization that piracy has been a huge obstacle in the way of foreign investment in the sector. The government, on other hand, has also taken some initiatives to raise awareness in regard with elimination of piracy and the protection of intellectual property. However, conducting raids at various locations has proved a counter productive exercise and it will remain so until the level of awareness regarding alternate technology is not being raised. Perhaps, the government and private sector need to enhance level of cooperation on this particular front so that a shared vision may be achieved and to educate the people about the benefits of using open source software.

The experts of the industry are of opinion that Pakistan can attract a lot of foreign investment, if piracy is properly tackled. Open source, in this regard, has a great potential in Pakistan in terms of reducing costs for our private sector and to eliminate piracy. The stakeholders need to realize the importance of open source and should adopt free alternatives of copyrighted software in the form of OSS, to counter piracy."
If we take a closer look at the history of computing, many initiatives were launched to build an operating system that could be deployed on multiple hardware platforms. The most prominent example is UNIX, which was a product of AT&T Laboratories and was published back in 1969. Sharing the source code among developers and researchers was a common phenomenon, which brought about major developments in the field of internet and related technologies.
Since then, many open source projects have emerged. However, Linux is gaining in popularity simply because it is completely free of charge. No user or server licenses are required. Another advantage of using Open Source System is that it is developed by hundreds and thousands of people worldwide. Because of this, the system has evolved into a rock solid and stable entity.
Open Source came as a fresh breeze for all system administrators as it is much more secure and it also consumes less system resources to run the services on a highly complex network. However, the question still arises that with all the advantages and benefits of the system, is the open source community successful in attracting wider audiences towards the adoption of free software, especially in Pakistan? Except large corporations and
Multi-national firms, almost every single computer in Pakistan runs pirated Software. Hence, piracy is recognized as one of the biggest problems confronting the IT sector in the country.
It is now time that our IT professionals realized that we have the option of using software legally in the form of Free and Open Source Software (FOSS). The FOSS are liberally licensed to grant the rights to redistribute and study, change and improve its design through the availability of its source code, something that propriety software developers have always dreamed about.
Open Source has a very bright and sustainable future in Pakistan. Its encouraging that private sector spearheaded by Pakistan Computer Association (PCA) and Pakistan Software Exports Board (PSEB) have recently taken some valuable initiatives in this regard including free training to vendors and other stakeholders of the industry. These trainings are aimed at enhancement of the capacities of individuals, groups, institutions, organizations, societies, and government in Pakistan by using Open Source for their sustained economic and social development.
Though, the use of OSS as alternative has not been ascribed as encouraging so far as the number of OSS users still remains under one thousand. However, it is time that we should focus on efforts to change our attitude and realized that our country has long suffered due to software piracy. It would be unfortunate, if we assume that piracy cannot be controlled and curbed in Pakistan. The analysts and experts of the industry as well as from PSEB and other organizations busy in the promotion of OSS predicts a rapid development in the IT sector in the coming years as the free software technology would ease down the pressure on the end users, especially those who find the purchase of expensive software beyond their purchasing power.
The writer is Central President of the Pakistan Computer Association (PCA) and can be reached at

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