Why half the world is not online? Bringing high-speed internet to Pakistan by 2023

An open-access network that can revolutionise the electrical grid and overcome the digital divide


Sana Jamil Khan November 02, 2019
Founder and CEO Isfandiyar Shaheen of NetEquity speaks at the 021Disrupt Conference. PHOTO: EXPRESS TRIBUNE

KARACHI: The internet has become one of the most important aspects of our daily lives and has transformed the digital ecosystem of Pakistan.

A few years back, the concept of social media and usage of the internet seemed alien to people in the country, however, times have changed and thus there is a growing need for having undisruptive high-speed internet.

According to a report published by PTA, there are 44.61 million internet subscribers in Pakistan with an infiltration rate of 22% in January 2019 which is a 25.8% growth in internet subscribers from January 2018 to January 2019.

However, there is still a huge gap between the urban and rural areas in Pakistan and their access to the internet due to which there is low accessibility to work opportunities and global outreach in these areas which cause slow socio-economic development.

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Locating the problem:

Founder and CEO Isfandiyar Shaheen of NetEquity, an infrastructure sharing start-up is working towards solving this problem and making the internet for all financially feasible, he announced at the 021 Disrupt currently being held at Pearl Continental in Karachi.

The two-day event is where startups are given an opportunity to directly interact with leading investors of not just Pakistan but also from across the world. The event also consists of workshops, speaker sessions, moderation sessions, and interactive QnA.

“The singular problem if you take away from connectivity is that coverage is not connectivity, we live in a world where 3.3 billion people as of December 2018 were living in a mobile coverage area but were not online,” said Shaheen.

He further highlights that the main contributors to this problem are; infrastructure, affordability, consumer readiness, and content.

His company is working towards financing fiber like a utility and distributing bandwidth through an open-access network that can revolutionise the electrical grid and overcome the digital divide with a single investment.

A single strand of fibre has 10,000 times more capacity than competing wireless equipment.

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“If we need internet accessible for all we need to make video streaming on mobile affordable at 2% of individuals income,” Shaheen.

The report, titled “The power of mobile to accelerate digital transformation in Pakistan”, stated that Pakistan has been gaining socio-economic benefits from the digital revolution, however, increase in population has added pressure on the current infrastructure resultantly affect the social development.

High-speed internet is a growing need,  for the urban sector as well as for remote areas that need to adapt to the digital ecosystem of the country.

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