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Plug that leak March 15, 2007

Posted by R.S in Pakistan.

brain drain in Pakistan can be stemmed through incentives, not coercion

The increased need and portability of highly skilled individuals from developing countries to developed ones is perhaps one of the less noticeable consequences of globalisation and economic development. This migration or international transfer of human capital from poor countries to thriving economies is referred to as the ‘brain drain’. Persisting brain drain deprives a country of the expertise and skills of its most talented men and women, who may choose to settle or work abroad. Ironically, these educated, skilled migrants happen to be the very people that a poor nation can least afford to lose. While the remittances and foreign exchange transactions generated by these individuals may be considered a valuable resource for the national economy, the outflow of skilled manpower can stunt local economic progress in the long run. It also entails loss of investment in education and training, especially when trained and skilled people are a scarce resource for a poor country.

Like any typical developing country, Pakistan has been facing the challenge of losing its human resources to the more prosperous and developed countries. The onset of the Information Technology (IT) boom in the West in the late 1990s drew many young Pakistanis to this field. Driven by the lure of H-1B visas, many aspiring young IT professionals enrolled in computer science degrees and certificate programmes. However, post-9/11, many found their American dreams dashed, following the strict visa policies and increased security checks for people moving to the US. The economy slump following global developments in the initial years of the millennium and the layoffs after the dot-com crash in 2001, underscored the fact that IT education was no longer a ticket to the United States.

Undoubtedly these were testing times for the local as well as the global IT industry. The closure of software houses following the cancellation of outsourced IT projects and contracts led many to believe that IT was no longer a viable career option. This in turn served to prevent every Tom, Dick and Harry from hastily jumping on the IT bandwagon. There was reduced enrolment in IT education programmes as well. Hate crimes, clandestine persecutions and an overall environment of fear and awe as part of the post-9/11 syndrome have made some professionals rethink their decisions to purse employment abroad. The changed global economic situation may have served to stem the brain drain of IT professionals from the country for now, but should the imposed limitation on the mobility of these individuals be considered adequate to retain local skilled IT manpower?

Such questions call for an examination of the incentives that serve to attract these professionals abroad. Syed Raza Abbas Naqvi, software test developer at Microsoft, was selected by the software firm as part of its international recruitment programme in 2001. Naqvi cites better earning prospects, the chance to work with a prestigious organisation, flexibility to travel and interact and the overall capacity for professional growth as some of the reasons behind his decision to opt for a US based job. “I think there wasn’t an option in Pakistan that matched with the first two factors at least,” says Naqvi. Other important determinants for international migration of technology experts tend to be the availability of resources and access to developed and sophisticated types of infrastructure for carrying out research; relatively liberal environment to work and survive; anticipated long-term benefits during the phase of retired life; secure and stable surroundings; and bright prospects for family members, especially with respect to health care. On the other hand, political instability, poor law and order conditions, bureaucratic red tape in the work domain and a general social disregard towards academics also serve to force the highly educated to leave the country.

Indemnification of these shortcomings in the local IT job market calls for a drastic makeover that encompasses everything from working conditions and monetary benefits to the general outlook of the society towards technology and a knowledge-based economy. The timing for such measures could not be more appropriate. The emergence of higher-education institutions and private universities in the large and medium urban centres do offer a chance for gainful employment. Additionally, the growth of telecoms, banks and other commercial enterprises, supplemented by their need to migrate to IT based enterprise solutions, can serve as a parallel for those aspiring professionals who choose to stay. A suitable environment for optimum working conditions in various sectors needs to be created through policy options by the government. Whether it is science and technology or businesses and trade, the government must ensure its support to society. Taxation relief, facilitating the export and import of equipment and providing hassle-free administrative assistance are just a few examples. Linkages and networks between educational institutes, employers and highly skilled manpower also need to be further streamlined.

Research undertaken both in developed and developing countries reveals that for an increase in output, the quality of labour is more important than the quantity. No country with an educated and technically trained human resource is poor and no country with a predominantly illiterate, untrained human resource is rich

First published:

SPIDER Magazine

Written by Reba Shahid

March 2007


Pakistan’s Cyber Crime Bill 2007 January 20, 2007

Posted by R.S in Cyber Crime, Cyber law, E-governance, hacking, Pakistan.

The Federal Cabinet approved the adoption of The Prevention of Electronic Crimes Bill 2007 on 17 January 2007. The proposed law titled as Prevention of Electronic Crimes Bill 2007 offers penalties ranging from six months imprisonment to capital punishment for 17 types of cyber crimes, including cyber terrorism, hacking of websites and criminal access to secure data.

The bill deals with the electronic crimes included, cyber terrorism, criminal access, criminal data access, data damage electronic fraud, electronic forgery, misuse of electronic system or electronic device, unauthorised access to code, misuse of encryption, misuse of code, cyber stalking and suggest stringent punishment for offences involving sensitive electronic crimes.

It proposes seven years punishment on charges of electronic fraud and electronic forgery and would not have the right of bail whereas those tried for data damage, system damage and criminal data access, misuse of electronic system or electronic device would get maximum three-year punishment with the right of bail.

The bill suggests maximum punishment of death or life imprisonment for those booked under cyber crimes or involved in sensitive electronic systems offences.

Following the passage of the mentioned bill, the Minister for Information Technology Awais Ahmad Khan Leghari stated that the e-crime law would require the internet companies maintain their traffic data for at least six months to enable the agencies to investigate cases involving data stored by them. He said the law would enable the government to seek extradition of foreign nationals through Interpol for their involvement in criminal activities punishable under the law.

Cover up October 31, 2006

Posted by R.S in Mobile Tech, Pakistan.
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Mobile phone snatching in Karachi is very common nowadays would be an understatement. Not a day goes by when the local newspapers does not carry a news item regarding mobile phone theft. Ofcourse the situation projects a bad image of the local administration and the police.

But according to a recent report publishe in DAWN, Karachi police has come with an interesting method to cover up their incompetence and in turn find a new use for old mobile phones.

Police buying cellphones to show as recovered

The old mobile phone sets which had lost their charm with the passage of time have disappeared from different markets across the city, market sources said. Question arises that who had bought these redundant sets at a time when with each passing day a new cellphone lands in the market. Cellphone traders in different mobile markets, which have mushroomed across the city, say that almost all old sets have been purchased by the policemen who had come in plain clothes. Investigations made by Dawn showed that a sizable number of the SHOs in the city have developed a sudden love for these old cellphone sets overnight following the recent visit by the prime minister to Karachi. On October 15, Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz had chaired a high-level meeting in Karachi and set October 31 as the deadline for the Karachi police to bring an end to the rampant street crime in the city. After the meeting, police hierarchy started holding meetings at different levels to chalk out strategies in this regard. Eventually, orders were issued to SHOs for an ever more efficient policing in their jurisdictions. However, the deadline set off a blind race of arrests coupled with recovery of stolen and snatched cellphones and illegal weapons from the detainees.
It is a common impression that a criminal having resorted to snatching a cellphone or robbing someone would have an illegal weapon. For police also, ‘recovering’ a TT pistol from a suspect has never been a problem.
However, police were confronted with the problem of having cellphones to show them as ‘recovered property’ in a number matching that of the arrests, a senior police officer divulged. The officer remarked that it was an undeniable fact that some genuine arrests of cellphone snatchers were being made, but their number was far less than what was being declared. Requesting anonymity, a town police officer remarked that street crime could not be controlled overnight or in a fortnight, as was being supposed. There are multiple dimensions to a crime; socioeconomic factor being the widely believed reason behind one’s resorting to such act. Until these inadequacies are addressed, the situation cannot show an improvement. At the moment, street crime is the top most priority of the police, according to him. The Crime Investigation Department, which is supposed to investigate cases of sectarian killings or terrorism, has also been assigned to pick up mobile phones snatchers and those dealing in stolen or snatched sets. ”

Slow and steady October 27, 2006

Posted by R.S in Pakistan.
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Seems that the Pakistan’s IT industry is gradually moving in the right direction (or the PSEB has a really good media relations manager) as indicated in the following Business Recorder report

IT exports crossed $1 billion in fiscal year 2005
KARACHI (October 16 2006): The country’s Information Technology (IT) services exports breached the dollar one billion barrier in FY 05 calculated as per the World Trade Organisation’s four-mode model.

According to statistics received from Pakistan Software Export Board (PSEB), Pakistan’s ‘Cross Border’ exports account for 150 million dollar. Cross border exports represents services that are sold by the exporting country to the importing country, with only the service crossing the border eg architectural drawings sent by courier, consultant report sent by email, call centre support provided over the Internet, or software programmes sent over the Internet.

While the services sold in the exporting country to foreigners or foreign owned entities in the exporting country itself account for 200 million dollar (average $250,000 expenditure by over 800 entities).

For example, IT services sold to the World Bank, US Embassy or to one of the 700 multi-nationals operating in Pakistan. As far as WTO’s mode-3, ‘Commercial Presence Abroad,’ is concerned, which represents revenue of national firms established abroad selling services in a foreign market, Pakistan’s exports stood at 400 million dollar.

Under mode-4 ie ‘Temporary Movement,’ the sum accounts for 250 million dollar (at least 5,000 workers earning at least 50,000 dollar per year on average). This refers to the services that are sold or delivered through the presence of the service provider temporarily in the foreign market eg the annual salaries of all H-1, L-1 and B-1 Pakistani IT workers in the USA.

Therefore, total IT services exports from Pakistan in FY 05 amounted to 1.050 billion dollar breaching the dollar one billion barrier. The WTO lists Mode 3, revenue generated by commercial offices overseas, and Mode 4, compensation received by temporary workers who have travelled abroad, as export revenue streams which must be included in trade revenue calculation. It may be mentioned here that other countries such as India employ global services export figures when reporting or estimating revenue.

The need for the four-mode model arises because trade in services is much harder to monitor than trade in physical goods. On the other hand services trade can be transacted over the Internet, through post or through travel of personnel with revenue flowing into company or personal accounts which can exist anywhere in the world.

A recent Bearing Point (BP) study places Pakistan’s global IT exports revenues in FY 04 at around 400 million dollar. The basis of the figure was State Bank of Pakistan IT export revenue figures of just under 50 million dollar. Bearing Point multiplied this figure by two to account for IT export revenue brought into the country but not registered as such with the State Bank.

BP further estimated that for each dollar brought into the country three dollars is retained by Pakistani IT companies overseas. Therefore, global IT revenue of Pakistani companies added up last year to 400 million dollar. Therefore, for official IT export figures of just under 75 million dollar reported by the SBP for FY 05, actual global receipts of Pakistani IT firms should be around 600 million dollar.

An internet magazine… SPIDER September 14, 2006

Posted by fredericknoronha in Digital content, India, Pakistan, Uncategorized.
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SPIDERHere’s a small link that I put up to the SPIDER internet magazine from Pakistan. Any volunteers to update and flesh it out? That’s the Wikipedia and anyone can simply go an edit it… for the better.
And BTW, this issue of SPIDER has an interesting article on Open Source (I’d prefer to call it “Free Software”, rather than the dominant-media defined term). Fouad Bajwa has written it…. and it has interesting links and details.
PS: What would it take for India to get its own internet magazine? We’re clearly behind here….

Pakistan’s web ban September 6, 2006

Posted by R.S in Internet Censorship, Pakistan.
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The government of Pakistan set up a committee, on 2nd September 2006 to streamline mechanism for screening and blocking websites offering objectionable contents.

Constituted by the Ministry of Information Technology, its Secretary Farrukh Qayyum would preside over the body to examine contents of websites reported or found to be offensive or containing anti-state material.

Representatives of ministries of interior, cabinet, information and broadcasting and security agencies would be part of the body that would operate within the parameters set out in the Amended Telecom Act 2006.

It would evaluate and examine web material besides entertaining public requests for blocking websites and decide cases on merit and advise the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority to take appropriate action.

The decision to constitute the committee to oversee obnoxious websites had been taken following a growing number of public grievances regarding objectionable and hateful material being displayed at various websites.  

Lately Pakistani cyberspace/netizens have been on the receiving end of the governments’ web censorship policies.

On July 26, the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) added 34 new Web addresses to the list of sites to which it blocks access. For the most part they were Balouch nationalist sites, online radio stations and sites relating to the Sindhi minority.

Most of the newly-blocked sites are linked to the Baloch nationalist movement, which wants independence for the southwestern province of Balochistan. There has been sporadic fighting between the movement’s armed supporters and government forces in the province for years.

Two Sindhi sites were also added to the blacklist, including one operated by the Washington-based World Sindhi Institute, which defends human rights in the southeastern province of Sindh., while some of the Web addresses on the list do not in fact correspond to any existing website.

The PTA previously ordered the blocking of five websites on April 25, on the grounds that they were posting “misleading information”. Four were Baloch nationalist sites and the fifth was a Hindu extremist site.

Prior to this , the PTA blocked 12 websites on February 28, for posting the controversial cartoons of Prophet Mohammad (pbuh) that were first published in the Danish daily Jyllands-Posten. They included the blog platform Blogspot, which hosted one of the websites that posted the cartoons. Access to the entire platform was blocked within Pakistan, with the result that millions of blogs disappeared from the Pakistani internet.

Pakistani Hackers target Kevin Mitnick September 3, 2006

Posted by R.S in hacking, Pakistan.
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It seems that Kevin Mitnick, the legendary hacker who was sentenced to serve a five year sentence for his suspicious social engineering based hacking activities,is still a viable target for script kiddies and cyber vandals.

On August 21. ’06, FBH a group of hackers operating out of Pakistan, defaced four websites associated with Mitnick’s various ventures. The sites defensivethinking.com, mitsec.com, kevinmitnick.com and mitnicksecurity.com (which all run on Linux, incidentally) were sprayed with digital graffiti in an apparently personal attack.

Mored details about the attack are available here

Pakistan’s first private sector fibre optic cable goes live August 8, 2006

Posted by R.S in Connectivity, Pakistan.
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On 28 July 2006, Pakistan’s first private sector submarine fibre-optic cable system called Transworld-1 (TW-1) was launched. The aim of this initiative is to offer global end-to-end connectivity solutions through a state-of-the-art network, according to the bandwidth provider.

The aforementioned fibre-optic cable system is the third one for Pakistan, after two similar ones which belong the SEAMEWE series.This development is expected to bring about a vast improvement on the situation last year when between June 27 and July 8 Pakistan’s sole cable link with the outside world was snapped, resulting in an internet breakdown throughout the country.

Transworld Associates Limited — the organisation behind the project — claims that the new cable system has been designed to provide high availability and to ensure minimal error rate, thus empowering the users to enjoy reliable international connectivity.

The 1,250-km-long TW-1 cable system connects Karachi to Fujairah, United Arab Emirates. The segment is installed with a single Power Switched Branching Unit. A branch segment leads to Al Seeb, Sultanate of Oman. In November of 2005, TW-1 cable shore ends were successfully landed by an e-marine cable ship CS Etisalat at Fujairah, UAE, Al Seeb, Sultanate of Oman, and Karachi.