Naureen Aqueel

Participation in Gulf IT expo uncertain

Posted on: October 9, 2010

Published in The Express Tribune – business, October 9, 2010.

Pakistan’s participation in the Gitex Dubai festival, one of the world’s top three IT exhibitions, seems to be mired in doubt and uncertainty as conflicting statements emerged from various stakeholders. The exhibition offers a significant gateway for information and communication technology (ICT) companies to the Middle East.

According to an e-mail, a copy of which was obtained by The Express Tribune, IT companies have been informed that Pakistan’s participation in the event has been officially cancelled. The reason cited is that the “PSEB has not received mandatory approval by the relevant government quarters despite all possible efforts.”

Lamenting official cancellation, one representative from a participating company said this was the “death of the local IT industry.”

A PSEB official, when contacted after the receipt of the e-mail, refused to comment on the matter. The ministry of finance, however, denied responsibility for the conundrum. Naveed Iqbal, the Director General of Media for the ministry of finance, said that they had released Rs4 million to the PSEB on Friday for the booking of a stall which would have allowed them enough time for participation.

He also added that the ministry had allowed two members from the IT ministry to participate in the event.

The Gitex event is set to take place from October 17 to 22 in Dubai and 17 companies from Pakistan had registered for participation. Events like these allow ICT companies to showcase their work on an international platform, network with potential customers and partners, build contacts and boost their business.

Pakistan has been participating in the event for the past 10 years but this year’s participation is uncertain.

Participation in the event for ICT companies is subsidised by the PSEB each year. Last week, the PSEB informed companies that participation in the event might not be possible as its budgets for the year had not been approved.

PSEB Managing Director Imran Zia was ultimately able to obtain permission from the ministry of finance for using existing funds for the event, according to Jehan Ara, the President of Pakistan Software Houses Association (Pasha).

Without the required approval, Pakistan will not be able to participate in the exhibition. Individuals might go on their own as visitors and so might companies but there will be no Pakistan pavilion, said Jehan Ara.

“The long-term effect of Pakistan backing out at the eleventh hour will be at two levels,” she said. “Firstly, we will have to start all over again in terms of marketing. Customers were expecting to see Pakistan and Gitex will think that we are not serious. The image of the local industry will be impacted negatively. Secondly, companies will also suffer a loss in terms of time, effort and money put into preparation. Their level of trust will be affected and they might not go through with it next year,” she added.

According to Zia, between Rs3-4 million goes into participating in this event and PSEB subsidises a large part of it. Companies collectively paid an amount of around Rs1.4 million to PSEB for participation this year.

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