Freelancers seek govt-association collaboration for IT park success

In Business
March 28, 2024



KARACHI:

Praising the approval for Pakistan’s largest Information Technology (IT) park, set to benefit 6,000 freelancers, the Pakistan Freelancers Association (PAFLA) and industry experts call for government collaboration to optimise resources, address IT challenges, and boost e-service exports.

In discussions with The Express Tribune, they stress the need for consultation with PAFLA and Pakistan Software Houses Association (P@SHA) to navigate the project effectively, ensuring freelancer-friendly facilities and avoiding bureaucratic hurdles.

The recent approval by the Special Investment Facilitation Council (SIFC) for the largest IT park in Islamabad aims to enhance the skills of freelancers and contribute significantly to the national economy through IT services. However, there is a pressing need for innovative thinking in bureaucratic circles to drive policy initiatives, implement regulatory reforms, and launch supportive programmes from grassroots to university levels. Additionally, it is crucial for the government to provide ethics training to freelancers to bridge the gap between rhetoric and action.

They highlighted that skilled freelancers play a crucial role in securing business opportunities and contributing to the national economy. Currently, with the economy’s paramount importance, individuals are increasingly seeking opportunities in US dollars. While less skilled freelancers face challenges in producing quality content, those proficient in their fields aim to advance their expertise, particularly in Artificial Intelligence (AI). As the national economy strengthens and people diversify their investments away from property and stocks, there’s a growing shift towards the tech industry, fostering the development of innovative software and startups that create jobs and address local economic challenges.

Read Thousands of freelancers set to benefit as Pakistan’s largest IT park gets go-ahead

“Freelancers encounter several challenges across cities, including limited access to fast and affordable internet connectivity and inconsistent electricity supply, which significantly impact their productivity and timely client deliverables,” stated PAFLA Chairman Ibrahim Amin. He noted recent government efforts to address some of these issues and reiterated the need for gradual measures to support foreign exchange earners.

Amin highlighted that the government, through banks, now enables freelancers to retain 50% of their earnings in foreign currency accounts for larger projects. Additionally, various banking channels offer options for receiving payments from foreign clients. He commended the government’s initiatives to establish freelancer workspaces like the IT park, which are crucial in mitigating internet and electricity-related challenges.

AI Strategist and Freelancer Coach Khawaja Fahad Shakeel highlighted several challenges faced by freelancers, including payment delays, limited access to international clients, and inadequate online payment methods. He called for the government to focus on skill development, payment facilitation, legal protection, and regulatory reforms as solutions to these issues.

Shakeel suggested collaboration with financial regulators and international partners to enhance access to online payment platforms like PayPal for secure transactions. He also proposed government support for initiatives that assist freelancers in marketing their services globally through training in marketing and networking skills. Lastly, he stressed the importance of promoting work-life balance among freelancers to manage their workload.

IT Analyst Muhammad Yasir highlighted the challenges faced by freelancers globally, including those in Pakistan, due to the rapid emergence of new technologies like AI, which are gradually replacing their roles or increasing their workload.

He underlined the necessity for freelancers to continually adapt to these advancements, enhancing their expertise to efficiently complete projects. Yasir reiterated the importance of mastering policies and strategies for attracting clients and maintaining a positive reputation to thrive in the evolving freelance landscape.

Published in The Express Tribune, March 28th, 2024.

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