Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) have played an instrumental role in making the world a global village since the 1990s. Every one of us have benefited from their use. Obviously those who have access to the ICTs have taken more advantage of these technologies. However, as most of the ICT users have been based in urban areas and located in mainstream city centres, they have been reaping more benefits. However, individuals and communities have also gained tremendously from their use and the same is true about the inhabitants of Pakistan’s rural areas. Nevertheless, there is a lot which residents of the countryside could obtain from the availability and extensive use of ICTs economically, culturally and educationally.
The ICTs provide great windows for the members of rural communities in Pakistan to have interactive knowledge of the developed countries, societies and communities, their way of life and socio-infrastructural settings. For this, they do not need physical dislocation. To have such an experience of developed environments is indeed important for cultivating the sense of development among them. In fact, one of the main factors in the underdevelopment of rural areas has been that the majority inhabitants seldom moved out of their immediate physical milieu to relatively developed socio-infrastructure settings to experience in order to fathom what development means. In such a situation it is extremely difficult to convince rural communities to play their role in development of their respective areas, whereas anywhere development without the participation of the local people is meaningless and unsustainable.
The ICTs by overcoming the barriers of time and space have facilitated and could potentially facilitate rural communities of Pakistan for reaching out to sociocultural settings outside their immediate environments to experience the world at large. With the ever-increasing number of mobile, telephone and internet, particularly social media subscribers, and the ever-expanding network of ICTs in Pakistan especially in rural areas, more and more members of the rural communities would now be able to have a look at developed social settings in their own countries and even of the world. Though this is going to be a virtual experience of the outside environments, it is still critical for engendering the sense of critically looking at the adverse conditions prevailing in Pakistan’s rural areas and more importantly how to improve them.
The access and use of internet by rural communities’ members bear great potential for the economic development of these communities. Internet provides opportunities for them to reach outside buyers and markets mainly for their agricultural produce as well as services. This could greatly address the problem of selling and marketing of their indigenously produced products. This is particularly important when there is increasing realisation in the world, particularly urban areas inhabitants, of the health value of bio products. The adroit use of the ICTs thus could greatly benefit these people financially and improve their economic status. Moreover, by ascertaining the demands of markets in cities and beyond through ICTs producers or rural areas in Pakistan could be better poise to grow crops, raise cattle and make handicrafts that could be readily sold and bring more profits to them.
The role of ICTs in providing educational facilities for the rural communities of Pakistan is great. Educational facilities in these areas have always left a lot to be desired. Their remoteness has been the main obstacle for the state to extend quality education facilities there. Now with ICTs they can pursue education without going out of their areas.
These ICTs hold immense potential for development of the rural areas of Pakistan in all respects. But to take advantage of it, there is a need to provide extensive and cheap access of these technologies to rural communities.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 30th, 2017.