Jazib Zaman is a Presidential award-winner entrepreneur and CEO of TechAbout. Dedicated to uplift Pakistan’s IT sector.
Pakistan’s tech industry is changing. Government-sponsored initiatives have allowed for the creation of special technology zones, which aim to boose the IT economy of the country.
The goal is simple: Incentivize tech companies to open their operations within the country through the use of tax-exempt programs.
Pakistan’s tech industry was already thriving. As stated by STZA, Pakistan is the second-highest rated country in South Asia for the ease of doing business, places in the top top 10 for accelerated business climate reform, and boasts a 70% increase in IT exports over the last three years. The inclusion of special technology zones only serves to increase interest further.
What are special technology zones?
Pakistan’s tech industry was already a booming entity. Special technology zones aim to capitalize on this growth, accelerating the speed of development throughout Pakistan’s IT sector.
Pakistan’s Tech Industry
Pakistan is already a host to a number of goliath IT companies. Big names such as NETSOL Technologies, System Limited, TechAbout and TRG Pakistan have already contributed enormously to Pakistan’s fast-growing industry IT economy.
Alongside this, its blossoming e-commerce industry, worth $1 billion, has attracted investment contributions from companies such as Amazon, Alibaba and Rocket Internet due to the unprecedented growth Pakistan has been host to.
The Projected Future Of Pakistan’s Tech Industry
While special technology zones will undoubtedly encourage massive growth rates within the tech industry, the level of growth seen before the implementation of the zones was already something to behold.
It’s an understatement to say that Pakistan wasn’t already an up-and-coming challenger to the global tech industry. There has been a multitude of similar projects in Pakistan’s past, such as the planned $1 billion investment in technology parks. Although the planned targets for success weren’t met, the effort alone, and the interest in investing in this sector, proves Pakistan’s commitment to improving its tech economy.
Why does Pakistan’s tech industry need zones?
It’s difficult to say if these are actually a “need,” as existing evidence points toward the fact that Pakistan, in the past five years, has been continuously growing at a substantial pace.
The growth of the tech industry in Pakistan has not gone unnoticed by its own government, however. According to the STZA, Pakistan boasts:
• 300 IT/ITeS organizations.
• 13,000 registered IT companies.
• The third-largest source of digital labor.
• And a 47% growth in tech exports.
There are other accolades that point toward great economic success for the IT industry, and this was the precursor for investing further in that industry.
By capitalizing on substantial growth, they plan to further exceed this by implementing special technology zones. Comparing the current growth to five years ago, the economic status of Pakistan’s tech industry will skyrocket beyond its current regional competitors.
The Past 5 Years
A 2019 survey from Arpanet states, “Overall business has crossed 3.3 billion in the year 2018 and 2.8 billion in the duration of 2016-2017, as per the record of Pakistan Software Export Board (PSEB).”
This shows that between 2017 and 2018, overall business increased by a total of $700 million. Before the special technology zones were even a concept, Pakistan became a global contender for exports and IT development.
Why create special technology zones if growth was already massive?
This type of growth is important in Pakistan’s strategy. The zones themselves not only encourage participation from native companies, but they’ve also set their sights on big business around the globe. The zones allow native companies to see less burden on their taxes. This means more resources to spend on internal development, employee retention and training and imports and exports.
Another reason for the zones is to nurture the younger generation of IT experts. A document published by the Pakistani government states that 10,000 students become IT graduates every year, adding to a pool of 300,000 IT experts. Furthermore, 60% of Pakistan’s population belongs to the 15 to 29 age group, meaning technology zones can encourage a higher number of jobs, along with investment in training and employee care.
As stated previously, the zone’s alternative objective is to encourage bigger businesses from the global IT market, whose presence within the country will become an even bigger authority in the overall technology industry across the world.
A Breakdown Of Special Technology Zones
The benefits for enterprises consist of tax exemptions, dividend income, capital gains and quality of life benefits, such as a forex account and no restrictions on oversea payments. The benefits for developers consist of the same, focusing on an exemption of property tax.
Combined, this opens property development incentives, from construction to ad hoc custom architecture, meaning businesses that take up residence there can exceed their potential for growth by a bigger margin than anywhere outside the zones.
Where are they located?
Currently, technology zones are located in Islamabad, Punjab, Sindh, KPK, Balochistan, GB and AJK, with some locations already being established and others in the process of being established.
Whilst it’s not possible to have control of government taxes, set up special technology zones or anything similar, there are takeaways we can use for ourselves here at home.
Pakistan’s economic growth can stand to teach us a lesson on how to operate our own businesses. Investment in youth can lead to a stronger workforce over time, meaning the capacity for future profits can be shared between all.
By having specific areas dedicated to an industry, you can nurture a workforce with skills that can be used anywhere. The true takeaway is collaboration and the opportunity to nurture your younger employees. Pakistan has shown all of us that long-term investment can indeed move a country into the big leagues. Imagine what it could do for you, on a smaller scale, in five years’ time.