This era is known as the era of Information Technology . Volume of this industry has gained multi-trillion dollars status. Apple Inc alone has a market capitalisation or valuation of $800 billion. India, our neighbour country, has a company named Tata Consulting Services, with a valuation of $80 billion which is equivalent to Pakistan’s existing foreign debt. According to 2016’s report of freelancer.com, a leading freelance forum, India being a developing country having a shared background with Pakistan is the largest freelance service provider in the world.

No one can underestimate the power of IT industry in current times. Now the question arises that being a Pakistani why am I sharing these facts about IT industry and India? Because the Pakistan we know is ranked at 147th in Human Development Index of United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) which is substantially behind Sri Lanka which is at 73, India at 131, Bangladesh at 139 and just one point behind Kenya who is at 148th position. Also, according to Visa Restriction Index 2017 the passport of Pakistan is the 3rd least desired passport to travel internationally which is behind Somalia and Syria. Population wise Pakistan is the 6th most populous country in the world. These kinds of facts are haunting the hopes of whole nation for quite long. Surprisingly or fortunately, when we ponder upon the emerging trend of IT related skills in the same Pakistan there is a sigh of relief. Because, according to the same 2016’s report of freelancer.com, Pakistan is ranked at number 3 in providing the freelance services, ahead of United Kingdom.

Also, Pakistan is the fastest growing internet region with 37 million users, which is more than Canada’s population. According to freelance.com IT services of Pakistan are growing by 35 to 40%. CEO of Alibaba.com said that Pakistan is the hottest market for e-commerce. Moreover, 63% of population of Pakistan is below 25 years of age. Currently, Pakistan has 150 thousands freelancers who are providing their quality services and according to the Outlook magazine of India these growing freelancers are the biggest threat to India due to their cost effective services.

All the above pleasing facts and figures of Pakistani freelancers and IT industry are achieved by them on their own without the significant and direct support of government. Now, consider if there comes the support of government with potential funding the future scenarios will be astonishing. Fortunately, here is a good news as the Government of Punjab in Pakistan has taken an initiative in 2016 to provide requisite soft skills for free to 10,000 university graduates per year with Rs560 million as initial budget for one year. Government has named this scheme as “Chief Minister’s E-Rozgaar Scheme” the only scheme that has been praised by all the corners of society even by the opposite political parties. This scheme has been executed by Punjab Information Technology Board under the supervision of IT Board Chairman Dr Umar Saif . A total of 40 training centers have been established in all the 36 districts of Punjab with five dedicated centers for females only. Initially, three courses (Technical, Non-Technical and Creative Designing) of duration 3.5 months with most demanded skills have been designed and taught by the experienced and qualified trainers in these centers. The vision of this scheme as per its official website is: “The vision is to reduce unemployment and drive economic growth in Pakistan, by increasing inflow of foreign currency.”

Major objectives include:

· To increase financial independence of youth making them self employed through internet

· To increase the exposure of youth in international market with a positive effect of foreign remittances by providing them most demanded freelance skills

· To increase economic social mobility of the youth by providing required critical soft skills and turning them into their own boss

· To enhance the status of women by assisting them to earn a livelihood from home based working

Currently, 14 centres in major cities of the Punjab are actively providing quality training to university graduates, among which I am attending my classes at a centre established at Punjab University New Campus, Lahore. I am quite eager to share the success stories, SMART aims and burning passions of my peers which I have experienced but let these stories be unfold for some next time. Though, some of the batches from these centers have recently completed their training and earning a respectful income for themselves and for the country. Surprisingly many are dreaming to turn themselves from a freelancer to an entrepreneur, with an aim to provide livelihood to others as freelancing is believed to be the first step towards entrepreneurship.

Let me share an astonishing figure, reported by Dr Umar Saif in a recent interview on a renowned news channel, to conclude this discussion leaving you as judge: “If we train one million students under this scheme and if they are manage to earn $2/hr, though they are earning more than that, by working seven hours a day then current foreign dent of Pakistan, that is, $80 billion could be paid just in a year.” 

Also, according to New York Times, survival in 21st century depends upon the acquisition of quality skills. Please come out of your comfort zones and make your planes to register yourself for next batches of e-rozgaar scheme to learn these skills. Let us get our fingers crossed and please hope for a better future of Pakistan.