Mahmood & Shafique -Part 7
Computers at post offices
The Pakistan Post Office has used information technology to connect its main offices in 15 major cities, including Islamabad, Karachi, Lahore, Peshawar and Quetta. Furthermore, a fully computerized system has been developed that transfers money from 196 countries and territories to Pakistan, with the collaboration of Western Union. All major post offices in the country have been computerized (Pakistan Post, 2006).
Keeping the emerging e-learning trends in view, the "Virtual University of Pakistan" was established by the government as a public sector, not-for-profit institution with a clear mission to provide extremely affordable world-class education to aspiring students all over the country. The Virtual University is Pakistan's first university based completely on modern information and communication technologies. Using free-to-air satellite television broadcasts and the Internet, the Virtual University allows students to follow its rigorous programs regardless of their physical location. The University opened its virtual doors in 2002 and in a short span of time it has reached over 60 cities in the country with more than a hundred associated institutions providing infrastructure support to the students. Pakistani students residing in other countries of the region are also enrolled in the University's programs (Virtual University, 2007).
The Higher Education Commission (HEC) of Pakistan has launched the "National Digital Library." This program provides researchers in public and private universities in Pakistan and non-profit research and development organizations with access to high-quality, peer-reviewed journals, databases and articles across a wide range of disciplines. More than 20,000 journals can be accessed through this library (Pakistan National Digital Library, 2007).
Another HEC project worth mentioning is the Pakistan Research Repository, which promotes the international visibility of research originating from institutes of higher education in Pakistan. The aim of this service is to maintain a digital archive of the intellectual output of Pakistani institutions, to provide a single-entry access point to view this research, and to distribute this information as widely as possible. The repository, which is currently being populated with content, has already made the full text of over 550 Ph.D. theses available in high-quality digitized format, while a further 200 have been digitized and are in the process of being uploaded into the repository and made available through the Web. An additional 350 Ph.D. theses are in the process of digitization, and the HEC has introduced a systematic mechanism for the collection and digitization of the remaining theses. Once completed#044; the repository will include all Ph.D. theses published by institutions in Pakistan, which are estimated to be approximately 3,200 in number (Pakistan Research Repository, 2007).
Other ICT initiatives
Other ICT initiatives include the Pakistan Computer Bureau (PCB), which was established in 1971. In 2000, the Ministry of Information Technology was established and the PCB was attached to it. This unit has the following mandate: training of officers and staff in public sector organizations in IT; undertaking systems analysis, software development and implementation of computer-based systems; provision of advisory services for computerization in the government and public sector organizations; and, assisting in the implementation of initiatives of Ministry of Information Technology under the IT policy (Pakistan Computer Bureau, 2004).
The Pakistan Software Export Board (PSEB) is a guaranteed limited company with a Board of Directors comprised of representatives of the government, industry associations and the private sector. PSEB is government-owned, and is mandated to promote Pakistan's IT industry (Pakistan Software Export Board, 2007).