Changing lives through free-of-cost IT learning initiatives

Published September 5, 2023
Ten-year-old Amna Shehzad works on her computer. — Dawn
Ten-year-old Amna Shehzad works on her computer. — Dawn

• Success stories, start-ups are emerging as govt-backed IT programmes begin to pay dividends
• PIAIC COO Ziaullah says one must really be patient and disciplined to achieve something

KARACHI: Amid soaring inflation and joblessness, the introduction of some Information Technology training programmes has provided a ray of hope for people, especially the middle class, to fight tough economic conditions by equipping themselves with various skills in the field.

Irrespective of their age, profession and gender, most people are now trying to turn around their lives by getting themselves enrolled in the IT training programmes including the Presidential Initiative for Artificial Intelligence & Computing (PIAIC), Sindh Governor’s IT initiative for youths, Saylani’s IT programmes, Jamaat-i-Islami’s Bano Qabil scheme, etc.

Among the programmes, the PIAIC was the old one as it was launched in 2018 by President Arif Alvi to provide opportunities to the people, especially youth, to learn courses in Artificial Intelligence, blockchain, internet of things and cloud computing.

The latest programme is launched by Sindh Governor Kamran Tessori to train 50,000 people. About half a million people have already appeared in entrance tests.

Most of these programme are free of cost while some charge a nominal fees that can be afforded by almost everyone.

Ten-year-old Amna Shehzad is one of the success stories of the PIAIC programme. She has landed a paid internship in the Technology Park of the Karachi University’s International Centre for Chemical and Biological Sciences where she will be working as a front-end developer.

“I started my journey with learning graphic designing and later got into web and app development. It took me a year to be trained enough to land a job or work as a freelancer,” she told Dawn.

“As of now, I only do freelance work of graphic designing. One gig pays no less than $8-$10 per hour,” she said, adding: “I’m also working as a teaching assistant in Saylani [IT programme] and by next year I will be a full-time teacher, so it will be another revenue stream for me.”

While the 10-year-old plans to find her way in the freelance world after her internship at KU technology park, Faiza Aziz, a housewife, is earning around $2,000 a month from the comfort of her home through freelancing after completing one-year course under the PIAIC.

New entrepreneurs

Ms Aziz enrolled herself in the programme in 2019 and learnt web and app development and cloud computing and became a full-stack developer (one who knows both font-end and back-end development).

“When I passed out in 2020, I got a job in a Pakistan-based software house where I was earning more than Rs100,000 a month. Later, I started my own start-up and landed a remote job from a US-based company as well. Right now we have a small team of four people in total, but all of us earn nearly $2,000 every month,” she said.

Discussing her journey of training days, she said that it indeed was a task to manage being a housewife, but her husband and family supported her a lot. “Also, the classes used to be on weekends, thanks to PIAIC, so my husband used to take care of our children while I was away.”

Alifya Hussain, mother of four, who was previously assisting her husband with his business, also stepped into the IT world again after a long gap. She is successfully running her start-up after completing a one-year course from the PIAIC.

“I had an IT background, but after my marriage, I gave up on that and started helping my husband in his business while being a housewife. But as I saw this training, I planned to get back in the field and started my own start-up while I was still enrolled in the programme,” she told Dawn.

“We plan on making our own product, but right now we are working as a solution provider company and have eight to 10 employees,” she said, adding: “We, as of now, have 13 retained clients, of which 10 are local and three are international.”

Alifya, however, is not the only one who is running a successful start-up.

Twenty-five-year-old Ameen Alam joined the Saylani IT programme as he was interested in the sector and ended up establishing a start-up.

“I started working in a local software house, but very early I got a long-term international client through Upwork — a web-based freelancing platform — which used to pay me on an hourly basis, and by the end of the month the total used to be around $1,500 after working for some hours in a day,” he shared with Dawn.

“However, I wanted to launch a start-up and for that, it was necessary to be in the corporate world to understand how it works. So, I quit freelancing and entered the corporate world to understand the dynamics,” he added.

“There is a major gap between what I was making in the job and what I was earning through freelancing. I was not making even half of what I was making in freelance, but I was determined to make my own product which was why I sacrificed. I then joined different banks because the product I had in my mind was related to financial technology, and now I am working on that,” he said.

‘Be patient’

PIAIC chief operating officer Zia Khan, who is the man behind these success stories, strongly believes that one must really be patient and disciplined to achieve something in this field.

“Like every other field, this is not easy and requires a lot of discipline. But our people think they will start making thousands of dollars the day they complete the course. This is not how it works,” he said while talking to Dawn.

“You need to know the right things. Give time to it and then it is not that big of a task to earn over a million rupees from your home,” he said, adding: “Right now, let’s say the average pay rate per hour for a graphic designer is $10. If you are working 40 hours a week and 160 hours a month, then you are earning $1,600 per month (or nearly Rs500,000).”

“The app and web developments pay way more than that. So, it is not impossible, just consistency is required.” he stressed.

Published in Dawn, September 5th, 2023

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