The IT revolution in Punjab: Thank you, democracy.

I.T. revolution is taking place in Punjab

Guest post by: Qudrat Ullah

Information Technology (I.T.) is the acknowledged key of success in the 21st century as it supplements public development. Nations with command over I.T. do well than others as their agility to transform technological advancements into national development goals decisively decide the fate of the nation. Since the beginning of the 1980s, almost every other developed nation around the world is heavily investing in I.T and education sectors as these two areas have turned into huge global markets help strengthening national economies while information processing skills to transform data into knowledge are rapidly becoming basic requirements for the emergent information societies.

It has been observed that in third world countries, poor students often fail to acquire sufficient mathematical skills which are a necessary foundation for understanding scientific concepts or an adequate reading comprehension during their school years. And it is I.T., which provides necessary tools and contents to exercise these abilities, which are needed to take advantage of the vast amount of content available on the internet.

However, it is regretted to note down that successive Punjab governments, not only ignored I.T. and school education but also adopted an insensible approach towards them which consequently hampered the overall development process. Due to that, the necessary foundation of the nation i.e., school education was badly disregarded. Due to that, students from the lower strata of the society did not get any chance to learn and benefit from the Information Technology. On the other hand, India in our neighbor not only gave priority to the promotion of I.T in the middle of the 1980s at every level but also laid necessary foundation at provincial level. By dint of their hard work and conducive policies, India today is a leading I.T player in the world earning billions of rupees annually, while we were caught napping with no ‘Bangalores’ around. Now, the need is to speed up efforts to bridge the past gaps and meet rising needs.

The political maverick of our country, Muhammad Shahbaz Sharif is singularly credited to set up Punjab Information Technology Board (PITB) in Lahore during his previous regime and encouraging American I.T giant Oracle to invest in Punjab. During his visit to the USA and later Singapore in 1998, Shahbaz Sharif planned training programme in Oracle since there was dearth of the Oracle Certified Professionals (OCPs) in the country. It was but a small beginning as we were already late starter vis-à-vis our traditional enemy- India.

Now the Punjab government has formally launched the mega project of I.T. labs in high schools. According to the details of the project, a total of 4286 labs will be set up in public sector high schools with an amount of Rs.5 billion. In the next phase, the project will be extended to middle level schools. The government is going to introduce the computer education as an elective subject from next calendar year for the students of class 6 to 8. For this purpose, state of the art computer labs have been established in the schools in collaboration with the private sector. Every lab is equipped with a Server, AC, 15 terminals and a printer. PTCL has provided necessary interlinking facility to arrange for internet facilities for these laboratories. The education department has hired a total of 2436 I.T experts to run the labs and this staff has been given one week specialized training to enable them to affably educate the students with dissimilar intellectual horizons. Without compromising on merit and standard of teaching, the newly recruited I.T. Teachers and I.T. Assistants are having M.Sc and B.Sc Computer Science degrees to their credit and it is good that the government also plans to continue refresher courses for these teachers to make this scheme a viable achievement.

What is more important is that this step is an important achievement to provide easy and free access to the I.T for the students with poor and economically diffident milieus. As we are a nation with strong socio-moral values, therefore the teachers are directed to sensitize the students about the usage and abusage of I.T to the nascent youth so that they could not succumb to any sort of pornography. These laboratories are not limited to teaching only but they will also be helpful to develop school database. School websites will also be developed which will be beneficial for the parents for deciding the issue of admissions. Their websites facility will be equally useful for assessing comparative grading of different schools.

Teachers and students will now take advantage of the growing availability of educational resources in shape of new software packages and World Wide Web facility will encourage the students to become highly motivated towards learning. Teachers, now, need to become active participants for effective I.T educational use, such as providing guidance and usage rules for the students. Teachers are needed to organize the learning spaces and to guide toward the achievement of significant learning objectives.

Besides teaching, I.T plays a variety of roles inside a school. I.T if sensibly deployed, can positively affect many aspects of school life, from healthy teaching practices to gradual improvement of the quality, scope and depth of the learning environment, as well as to provide a remarkable opportunity for teachers’ development. I.T also have important roles to play in making school administration less burdensome and more effectively integrated to the official information flow about students, teachers, budgets and activities through the educational system information pipelines. They are also a good means for informing community members about educational policies and the needed role of society.

What is better is that the government has launched this scheme in cities as well as in remote hinterlands and now students of far flung villages will be found playing in I.T labs with their moving hands on the mouse and a new unseen world will be unfolded for them to learn and relearn.

It is indeed a new revolution. Only democracy and Shahbaz Sharif can do this.

Lahore Cantt., Pakistan