Military-run Pakistan Aeronautical Complex (PAC) at Kamra has launched manufacturing of Android tablets, Android eBook readers and Windows/Linux notebook computers.
All three products are being offered by Commercial Products Manufacturing Cell (CPMC), a join venture of Pakistan Aeronautical Complex Kamra (PAC) and Hong Kong-based INNAVTEK. Initial prices range from Rs. 8,000 for PAC eBook reader tablet, to Rs. 15,000 for PAC PAD 1 tablet computer and Rs. 23,500 for PAC nBook notebook.
PAC PAD is the first to be manufactured in Pakistan, but not the first tablet offered for sale in Pakistan. Last year, PTCL also launched an Android based thin 7 inch tablet computer with EVO 3G and WiFi connectivity built-in. 3G EVO Tab is a 7 inch touch screen tablet with built-in EVO service to offer wireless broadband internet on the go in more than 100 cities and towns across Pakistan. Powered by Google Android Froyo 2.2 Operating system, 3G EVO Tab offers support for both 3G and Wi-Fi for an un-interrupted on-the-go connectivity. With a 5 MegaPixel Camera, a variety of built-in applications, 3G EVO Tab lets users browse, snap, share, communicate, navigate, play games and do a lot more on-the go, thereby making it an ideal connectivity solution for users looking for high speed on-the-go 3G connectivity on an Android platform. PTCL 3G EVO Tab offers convenience and speed with three diverse economy packages to suit individual needs and pockets. Its 12-month bundle offer has been very successful with majority sales in this bracket.Customers can get EVO Tab for as low as Rs 7,999 plus 12-month unlimited EVO service, all at Rs 31,999. In addition to the 12-month contract, EVO Tab offers bundled packages based on 3 and 6 month contracts at Rs 27,999 and Rs 29,999, respectively with 3 and 6 month of unlimited EVO service.
PAC's PAD is being built at Kamra complex that has set up advanced electronics manufacturing facilities used for building avionics for Pakistan's JF-17 fighter. A PAC press release issued at the launch of the project said that “for the joint production of JF-17, PAF [Pakistan Air Force] had established sufficient facilities which are appropriate for the production of both defence and commercial products.” CPMC website explains that “Innavtek jointly developed two products with (PAC's) Avionics Production Factory which are successfully flying on fleet of our JF-17 aircraft and three more products are under co development phase.”
History tells us that the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) has played a huge role in China's phenomenal industrial progress and its emergence as the factory of the world in the last few decades. Even in the free-market capitalist system of the United States, great inventions like semiconductor chips, computers the Internet have their origins in the defense establishment. The US military has played a key role in funding research, development and manufacturing industries to support America's military-industrial complex and its space program. In spite of some of the well-deserved criticisms of the the world's biggest military-industrial and space complex in America, no one can deny that a lot of innovation, jobs growth and economic expansion has flowed from it to benefit the American society at large.
The latest PAC-Kamra venture is a good example of how military projects can help spawn commercial industries in Pakistan, essentially replicating the American and the Chinese industrial experience.
With experience and economies of scale, PAC computer products are likely to follow the traditional cost curve of electronics products and become more powerful and affordable for larger numbers of Pakistani customers. Growing domestic market for computers should also attract private investment in the sector and stimulate the national economy by creating more skilled jobs, and help boost human development and productivity.
PAC computer products have the potential to enable huge opportunities for education, communication, business and entertainment. Take distance learning as an example. The quickest and the most cost-effective way to broaden access to education at all levels is through online schools, colleges and universities. Sitting at home in Pakistan, self-motivated learners can watch classroom lectures at world's top universities including UC Berkeley, MIT and Stanford. More Pakistanis can pursue advanced degrees by enrolling and attending the country's Virtual University that offers instructions to thousands of enrolled students via its website, video streaming and Youtube and television channels.
PAC products can be expected to contribute to the ongoing information revolution in Pakistan by making information and education more accessible to a larger cross-section of Pakistani society. Such a revolution is essential for Pakistan to rapidly move into the 21st century, and reap full demographic dividend of its youthful population which is naturally attracted to modern gadgetry of computing and communications.
I applaud Pakistan's military for taking a page from the Chinese PLA playbook. As the only robust and well-functioning institution of Pakistani state, the military should do whatever is necessary to strengthen the nation's industry, economy, human capital and national security, regardless of any critics, including Ayesha Siddiqa Agha and her myriad fans. This is the best way forward to a well-educated, industrialized, prosperous and democratic Pakistan in the future.