Wednesday, January 21, 2004

Microsoft to invest $7m in IT sector

Microsoft to invest $7b in IT sector
ISLAMABAD – The global IT giant Microsoft on Tuesday announced to invest around seven billion dollars in Pakistan’s information technology sector to build a strong IT economy that will compete at global level.
“Microsoft is committed to work closely with the government of Pakistan and its leadership to develop a roadmap that will best serve the needs of its people and help them to build a strong IT economy,” said Emre Berkin, vice president of Microsoft, Europe, Middle East and Africa, here in an exclusive interview with The Nation on Tuesday.
During his two-day visit to Pakistan, Emre signed two MoUs with National Commission for Human Development (NCHD) and the Ministry of Education.
Talking to The Nation, he said, “Initially, we have selected few areas for initial investment. First of all, we are investing to establish our own presence in this region.” “For the last four years we have been working in Karachi and now we are heading towards Islamabad, Peshawar and so on,” he added.
He said that they were localising the IT products and in this regard most of the IT related things were being converted into Urdu with the cooperation of National Language Authority.
The Microsoft vice president said that they have also joined hands with the Ministry of Education in ‘Partners in Learning’ programme that would offer critical resources for student access, teachers’ training and skill development in the field of IT.
Talking about the IT related programme to be launched in Pakistan, Emre said that it was a global programme as 90 plus per cent population of the world did not have adequate access to the IT.
“In Pakistan, we are establishing IT centres in 16 different districts of the country that would primarily focus on the women development,” he added.
These 16 districts were not random selection but they had collected data from the NCHD and were investing in these most deserving areas, he said and added, work has already been started in these areas.
To a question, he said that they were optimistic about their future in Pakistan as it was a strategic country to invest.
Emre Berkin said Gates had talked to President General Musharraf on phone two months back and discussed with him a number of issues related to development of IT industry in Pakistan.
“I myself had meetings with President Musharraf, Investment Minister Hafeez Sheikh, Chairman Senate Mohammadmian Soomro and IT Minister Awais Leghari, on these lines and I am very much looking into turning plans into actions,” Emre said.
To another question about the security concerns, he said, “On the side of investment security, we are satisfied due to the forward looking and impressive leadership that has encouraged us to invest and go forward.”
To a query about physical security, he said that unfortunately, after 9/11, this issue has become same for the whole world and when it was an international problem then you could not blame anyone and so they were hopeful that they would be able to work safely in Pakistan.
He lauded Pakistan for showing great understanding on how IT could benefit its economy and citizens. He observed that there was still a lot to be done in the region for making the ‘Digital Age’ a reality and reducing the e-divide in countries with a higher population and lack of resources.
Emre said that they should strive collectively to ensure that every child of this region has access to basic education and technology.

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