Archive for June, 2005

Job Security

Tuesday, June 28th, 2005

I came across an interesting entry at a blog which refers to issues dealing with IP losses and job insecurity in Pakistan. The author talks about how people are quickly employed at new start-ups, they work hard, and when the time comes for a pay cheque, they are fired and their intellectual property consumed by the “saab’s” that run the business, essentially, for free. The author then leaves us with the dillemma of a) leaving the country and working elsewhere causing the country braindrain, or b) being patriotic, and staying in the country and finding menial work elsewhere.

His arguments for what is and isn’t patriotic are also worth reading.

What are the legal ramifications for the case that he mentions? Is there any avenue of escape for the hard worker who simply wants his paycheque at the end of the day?

Youngest MCP gets her wish

Monday, June 27th, 2005

2 months ago, we covered the youngest MCP, Arfa Karim at age 9. One of her wishes was to meet Bill Gates. Didn’t think her wish would be granted this soon. She will be visiting Microsoft headquarters in Remond, Washington, to meet with CTO, Bill Gates.

We raised the question as to what can be done to promote the youth and intellectual capital in Pakistan. Granting her wish and generating more press around this seems like a good start.

I might be meeting her on July 12 to give her words of encouragement. If you have any questions or would like to relay words of encouragement, post them here.

Pakistan’s net connection to the world goes down

Monday, June 27th, 2005

One of Pakistan’s main pipes to the global internet, the SEAMEWE-3 cable developed a fault on Monday at about 9pm Pakistan standard time. As of 11:30pm engineering at ITI informed me that the relevant parties were still trying to locate the fault, and there was no ETA on the fix. The fault has caused major data congestion on the few backup satellite uplinks Pakistan has to the outside world resulting in extremely slow to no connectivity in the entire region.

Update 12:38am: Seems like this is problem is not localized to Pakistan, it is also affecting India and Singapore’s bandwidth (and possibly everyone else who depends on SEAMEWE-3). ITI informs me that the SEAMEWE consortium is investigating this issue. Also – SEAMEWE-3 is Pakistan’s main pipe to the global internet.

Update 8:22am: Still no word on what the problem is or the ETA for the fix. All ITI says (or knows) is that work in on-going to fix the fault. They continue to work off backup satellites. Connection speed early morning (4am - 6am) was decent (60kbytes/sec on a 1mbs direct ITI link), presumably because of off peak hours. At the time of writing the 1mbs link is transferring at about 10kbytes/sec or about 10% of its capacity. It will probably get worse as the country wakes up and starts hitting the net.

Update 9:21am (Wednesday): Just spoke to an engineer in Islamabad (some guy from ITI Karachi gave me the number). The cable has not been repaired yet and Pakistan is still working off backup satellites. Apparently the repair crew is ready to fix cable fault, but has not received the green signal by all the countries who’s bandwidth will be effected by the repair operation (mostly countries in Asia and some in Europe). This story is also being covered on Slashdot as well as other sources .

Another interesting issue - Air Blue, a Pakistani airline carrier says that the fault has caused huge losses for them because they depend on their online reservation system for most of their business.

Corrected: It is SEAMEWE-3 cable that developed the fault, not SME-3.

Update 11:27pm (Wednesday): Just spoke to an engineer at ITI again. He confirmed what the local media is saying about repairs taking atleast 4-5 days and even as long as week. According to him, the repair crew has not reached the site yet, once they do they will need to physically trace the cable along the seabed and see what kind of damage has been done to it. Meanwhile, 3 backup E3 connections (one E3 connection is 33mbp/s I am told) have been deployed to cope with the bandwidth, though that doesn’t even meet half the bandwidth requirements of the Karachi at offpeak hours.

IBM shifts 14,000 jobs to india

Friday, June 24th, 2005

The New York Times reports:

Even as it proceeds with layoffs of up to 13,000 workers in Europe and the United States, I.B.M. plans to increase its payroll in India this year by more than 14,000 workers, according to an internal company document.

…An experienced software programmer in the United States earning $75,000 a year can often be replaced by an Indian programmer who earns $15,000 or so.

Countries like India and to a lesser extent Pakistan redefine the landscape. Simply put, the workers in these countries work harder and cheaper. Many work on contracts, making them easily dispensable without any repercussions. They have lesser health costs and don’t file whimsical lawsuits.

As the software development methodologies and business processes evolve, this trend will only escalate. If and when can we expect to see a software development assembly line where individual intellectual capital has diminishing value?

Indian call centre sells customer information

Friday, June 24th, 2005

BBC reports that The Sun newspaper was able to purchase customers’ personal information from call center in India. This impacts not only on the reputation of Indian call centres but also Pakistan and adds to the risks of offshoring.

Credit card theft is already a very prominent problem which is getting increasingly harder to mitigate. As global boundaries diminish, identity theft may become a problem half way across the world; get medical treatement on someone else’s health plan and by the time the foriegn company or person gets the bill, it’ll be too late. The problem will only escelate.

Corruption is quite high in these parts of the world at the lower echelons of society. Are information workers in these regions more ethically challenged than the west?

Pakistan Launches E-Content Awards

Tuesday, June 21st, 2005

Pakistan’s National Committee for the World Summit Award announces the launch of nation wide WSA Pakistan competition to recognize and award the best e-Content practices in Pakistan

The World Summit Award in Pakistan is the first of its kind in the country, which emphasizes the importance of Content in bridging the digital divide. The main aim and purpose of organizing this competition is to recognize, encourage and further disseminate Pakistan’s best e-Content practices to bridge the information gap, break the information barrier and let the rest of the world know about Pakistani e-products.

Read on for more from Digital Opportunity.

UAE’s Etisalat wins PTCL bid

Saturday, June 18th, 2005

UAE based Etisalat has won a 26% stake in PTCL by offering a whooping $2.598 billion dollars or $1.96 per share. Etisalat’s bid overwhelmed China Mobile’s bid of $1.4 billion ($1.066 per share) and Singapore based SingTel’s bid of 1.16 billion ($0.88 per share). With this purchase Etisalat also gets 58% voting rights on the board of directors and a 26% stake of PTCLs profits. After the sale, the GoP now have a 62% stake in the company.

This is Etisalat’s first major acquisition since the UAE government announced an end to Etisalat’s telecom monopoly in UAE.

PTCL Strike reaches resolution, sale to continue

Wednesday, June 15th, 2005

An estimated 500 workers were detained while 29 were fired for threatening property damage. Union leader Shahid Ayub claimed some 200,000 phonelines were disrupted in southwestern and eastern Punjab province. Another fire in Lahore and a bomb in Balochistan to topple over a tower were amongst the attacks. Police claimed to have detained about 60 people in Lahore. Sabir Butt from the PTCL Employees Action Committee accused police of intimidating and harassing workers and their families.

Leghari claims the situation is under control during the launching ceremony of National IT Development and Promotion Unit (NIDU). Quite a shame that the launch of the IT development centre was overshadowed by issues surrounding PTCL. No details on the development centres in the news either. Anyways, Leghari stated, security was neccessitated at only 130 of the 3500 PTCL installations. Further, the strike was declared illegal by NIRC.

Yahoo provides some details:

Ali Qadir Gilani, a senior PTCL official, told Dow Jones Newswires that management and the leaders of PTCL Telecom Employees Union - the largest of the nine unions forming PTCL Action Committee - have reached a settlement to end a strike against a company stock sell-off set for Saturday.

PTCL management agreed to enhance workers’ pay by 35% instead of the previously announced 30% as well as increase other benefits for employees, such as education grants, Gilani said.

Shahid Ishaq Butt, a leader of the union, said the strike is being called off and the union won’t oppose privatization.

“We are now asking all employees to attend office in the larger interest of the country,” he said.

“We have accepted PTCL privatization because over 60% share would still be with the government even after divesting 26% stake,” Butt said.

Not the most ideal climate for privatizating and selling to foreign investors, a 26% chunk of the nations largest Telecom company which has a market cap of well over Rs.250 billion (about $US450 million) and comprises 15% of the weighted-average index of 100 shares. The stock is still holding out and the bid is still scheduled for the revised date of Jun 18 bringing to a hasty end, the 10-day standoff between 55,000 employees and 9 unions. The bidders are requested to deposit the money by Thursday (Rs40 million deposit).

Interesting turn of events. Is this the climate under which you would want to sell off a major stake in large company? Was all this trouble for a 5% increase in pay or is Shadhi Ishaq Butt (and the other 8 union leaders) a wealthier man? Or was this all military coercion?

PSEB kicks off Entrepreneur Search Program

Tuesday, June 14th, 2005

The Pakistan Software Export Board (PSEB) has launched a nation-wide entrepreneur search competition.

… the true potential of Pakistan’s skilled human resources, and the recent availability of capital for funding, is still not being utilized to its fullest potential. These untapped resources need to be channellized so that they contribute meaningfully in boosting the country’s economy. Pakistan Software Export Board (PSEB), acknowledging the lack of innovative solutions, and primarily with a view to fostering the entrepreneurial spirit in the country’s youth, is conducting a nationwide Entrepreneur Search Program relating to broad-based technology products and related services. This project will encourage young people to develop innovative new ideas, and promote indigenous product-based development in Pakistan.

The competition requires an initial 2 page concept business plan to be submitted before July 7th 2005. PSEB will select 25 top entries to be invited to a 5 day entrepreneurship workshop held at the Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS). The selected teams will be required to submit a complete business plan and give a presentation to judges at LUMS at the end of the competition. More information about the agenda here.

Some interesting points about the competition:

  • Age limit of 28 years as of June 30, 2005
  • Only teams of 3-5 people are allowed to enter, with at least one student from business or commerce and one from technology (I am not sure whether they need to be current students)
  • More emphasis on execution, rather than innovation: Plans need not be original, in order to qualify they must be successfully implemented in a competitive business environment
  • Not mentioned on the website: a quarter page ad in the paper mentioned that the top 3 business concepts will be awarded Rs 500,000, Rs 300,000 and Rs 200,000 initial seeding money

International Bhurban Conference on Applied Sciences and Technologies

Sunday, June 12th, 2005


The 4th International Bhurban Conference on Applied Sciences and Technologies (IBCAST) will be held from 13th to 18th June, 2005 at Pearl Continental Hotel in Bhurban, Murree, Pakistan. IBCAST series of conferences is being organized since 2002. In last three years, more than 400 papers are presented and 1500 participants had attended this conference. This is the largest scientific event in Pakistan which is held regularly every year. It covers a wide range of topics in applied sciences and technologies. The core organizer of the event is the National Centre for Physics (NCP), a center of excellence in Physics situated in Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad, Pakistan.

The list of accepted abstracts has some interesting papers (most of which though are beyond my comprehension) and reflects current progress and research efforts.

Addressing an audience of engineers and scientists, President General Pervez Musharraf acknowledged Pakistan lagging behind in the field and expressed his commitement to extend support to science and technology:

“Apart from our very major successes in the nuclear and missile fields, the general state of science has been quite dismal,” he said, adding that such a sorry state of science reflected lack of national commitment, political will and understanding of the importance of science in the life of a modern nation.

Hopefully the media will deem this event worthy enough to do a comprehensive coverage.

Notice anything intersting in there? What should be done to elevate the current state of science and technology? (for one, leading educational insitutes should start group blogs for their atleast their sciences departments to establish an online community).