Punjab Information Technology Board (PITB)
The Punjab Information Technology Board, an autonomous body set by Government of the Punjab, provides the foundation for Punjab’s innovation economy. The Board aims at not only modernizing the governance techniques through transparency induced methods but also at increasing the digital literacy of the citizens - among many other services. PITB is committed to effectively and efficiently provide IT services and infrastructure to the government and local and international businesses.
The work of PITB Is absolutely fascinating. I got to see a lot of the different programmes in action over the 4 days I spent at Arfa Technology Park named after World's youngest Microsoft Certified Professional Arfa Karim , who died at the age of 16 .
One weekend in November the board also ran a 2-day tech festival called the Mix. It was honestly like I was in the States or the UK. Interesting talks, VR, street food and music!
I also randomly met 15 year old Muhammad Rizwan a games developer. Talent is everywhere but the opportunity is not.
The Mix was a great showcase of all the amazing things they are up to but was an event that enabled youth to find out more about the up and coming technology sector.
I also got to see the connection between charity and technology, got to meet Master Networks and meet Noman, who in collaboration with Rashida Trust have built a smart card system for 12,000 houses in a Village in Pakistan. Each household gets to tap in once every day and get their collection of clean water!
Herself is a programme by the women of PITB that conduct training programs for w omen who want to pursue their careers as entrepreneurs.
I got to see a workshop in action everything from a motivational workshop to practical workshops around graphic design.
The government of Pakistan understands the cultural constraints women has an is instead realising that the talent of women can be used in other ways by enabling them to start freelancing or start a business.
The Punjab Information Technology Board seeks to promote the sustainability of technology startups through PlanX which is Pakistan’s first accelerator of its kind. Founded in September 2014, PlanX aims to empower commercially viable mid-stage technology startups by providing access to multiple funding channels, specialized network of mentors and global exposure to establish high impact businesses. The goal is to bridge the gap between technology and businesses by providing facilitation in the shape of access to mentors, connection with angel investors and venture capitalists and support in gaining exposure to global markets.
I interviewed a few of the current startups and noticed it was heavily full of men but PITB is doing more to encourage women to get to that acceleration level.
Plan 9 :
Plan9, Pakistan’s pioneer tech incubator was established in 2012. Since then they strive to ensure the sustainable growth for early stage product based ideas by providing domain specific mentorship and investment opportunities to create commercially viable technology startups from Pakistan. They promote a culture of initiative, contemporary thinking, endless energy and innovation. It’s all about invigorating competition and celebrating the dreamers.
In Plan 9 there was a lot of women doing very interesting things from a games startup to e-commerce. What I also found fascinating were the startups using technology to help accessibility like the blind one.
PlanX women ran a project where they deliver workshops on confidence and cyber security at Government schools. This was a whole world apart from the tech scene that I had been exploring and it was an honour to also speak to them about my journey that despite being a Pakistani girl living abroad we share similar cultural issues.
I also visited the Institute of technology based next to Arfa Technology park which hosts a makerspace called Makistan to encourage people to make and get involved in hardware and robotics.
On the total other end of the spectrum I also visited LUMS university which is equivalent to Oxford in the region. I visited the incubation center there and also attended a Startup Grind event that was discussing the funding scene in Pakistan. Although there are many incubators, accelerators and lots of startups, funding is very limited which is stopping growth in the sector.
This was an experience of seeing the many different educational institutions in Pakistan and sadly the divide we have and it just goes to show it's important, that when it comes to tech and innovation we are raising everyone together.