ISLAMABAD: Broadband and connectivity are becoming engines of economic growth in Pakistan as already proven in other parts of the world. This theme emerged from the online seminar on Urban Connectivity Solutions for an Inclusive Digital Economy organized by Facebook, Internet Service Providers Association of Pakistan (ISPAK) and Telecom Infra Project (TIP), in which a large number of national and international industry and academia experts participated.
The panelists discussed various challenges and opportunities within the country to develop robust connectivity in urban areas, including Facebook’s recent investment to bring backbone fiber to the region.
The webinar covered several topics including challenges being faced in meeting connectivity policy goals, presence and importance of building a robust fiber broadband network, and the opportunities of embracing innovative urban internet connectivity and technology solutions with lessons from the Asian region. The webinar was well represented by panelists from Jazz, Telenor Pakistan, PTCL, Nayatel, GSMA, The World Bank, Telkom University Indonesia, Telecom Infra Project and Worldlink Nepal.
International ICT Consultant, Parvez Iftikhar in his keynote speech said, “Connectivity is paving the way for an economically stable Pakistan. Affordable, high-speed and reliable digital connectivity is a necessity. Fiber broadband solutions will be key, and we are thankful to the support that has been extended by Facebook in this regard. The ideas exchanged today - like promoting infra providers in smaller cities - will take us a step further to ensuring more inclusive connectivity.”
Speaking at the event, Alex Aime, Director, Network Investments - Emerging Markets, Facebook said, “It has been a pleasure to hear the exchange of ideas as well as expertise amongst the thought leaders today. Access to high-speed and reliable internet connectivity is pivotal to grow small and medium business, ensure equitable access to public services, and a foundational requirement for building smart cities. To meet the demands for new and existing network capacity, particularly in urban areas, innovative business models and technology solutions will need to be identified and adopted. This is especially critical if Pakistan is to achieve its digital vision of an inclusive and sustainable knowledge-based economy.”
In his closing note the founder of Internet Services Providers Association of Pakistan (ISPAK) Wahaj Siraaj said, “Broadband operators, like medics, have been on frontlines in pandemic to connect people. Customers’ expectations of Internet speed and quality is skyrocketing and the operators have to come up with innovative solutions to meet and exceed these demands. Openness and inclusiveness of the Internet have opened gates of innovation and job creation in Pakistan and this spirit needs to be strengthened. It’s time for the operators to innovate fast, expand coverage fast and improve fast so that digital connectivity becomes easy, affordable and reliable. We hope our exchange of ideas here today will ensure practical steps forward towards building a stronger Pakistan.”
The 2021 Inclusive Internet Index, an annual study conducted by The Economist Intelligence Unit and commissioned by Facebook, reported that overall Pakistan ranks in the bottom quartile of the index and second to last in the Asia region. While access to internet services has increased in recent years, there remains significant challenges with usage as only one-third of households have internet connectivity.
Facebook’s connectivity seminar series supports its mission of giving people the power to build community and bring the world closer together. Facebook is focused on closing the digital divide which involves deep partnerships with the local ICT ecosystem to solve the three main challenges of availability, affordability and relevance.
Copyright Business Recorder, 2021