No one will dispute that Pakistan has witnessed phenomenal growth and seen massive investment in its telecom sector in the last decade. The reality, however, is that Pakistan was late in tapping this market. When it comes to internet and communication services, a study titled “Unleashing the Potential of the Internet in Central Asia and Beyond: Pakistan in Focus” states that the country’s location could enable it to become a supply route for internet and communication services for land-locked neighbouring countries. We have heard such assertions before with Pakistan always being on the radar for its strategic location. It could reap rich dividends if it takes advantage of the area’s geography.
The report — prepared by Internet Society in collaboration with the UN and the ADB — however, also cautioned that the time for Pakistan to avail this opportunity is limited. At 13.8 per cent, Pakistan’s internet user density is the lowest in the region. When it comes to adopting technology, the population at large, lags behind. With rural areas still celebrating electricity as a ‘gift’ from the heavens, it is clear that internet connectivity is a dream that is much farther away. To say that Pakistan is technology-depressed would be an understatement. The correct way to put it would be to term Pakistan an education-deprived country. People would not know how to use the internet to their advantage even if they could avail its services for free because to do so requires a certain level of education and knowledge base, which is lacking here. This is a serious problem if we wish to increase internet user density and establish a hub for internet and communication services. There is a great opportunity waiting to be tapped that can help the country achieve its true potential, with companies the world over outsourcing work to areas where labour is cheap. Pakistan can only grab a bigger share of the pie if its population is literate and has access to the internet. But in a country where YouTube is still banned and where a regressive cybercrime bill may be enacted soon, this seems like a distant dream.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 20th, 2015.
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