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ISLAMABAD: The Universal Service Fund (USF), on Thursday, awarded contract worth Rs154 million to Jazz for providing high-speed mobile broadband services in Multan and Khanewal districts of southern Punjab. Federal Minister for Information Technology and Telecommunication Syed Aminul Haque and Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi witnessed the contract signing ceremony.

Haaris Mahmood Chaudhary, CEO USF, and Aamir Ibrahim, CEO Jazz on part of their respective organisations signed the contracts. The Federal Secretary for IT and Telecommunication and Chairman USF Board, Dr Muhammad Sohail Rajput, Parliamentary Secretary Zain Qureshi, and other senior officials were also present at the ceremony.

While addressing the ceremony, Haque said that the MoITT through the USF has contracted projects worth approximately Rs6.5 billion to provide high speed internet to 3.8 million people in southern Punjab. These include six high-speed mobile broadband projects and three optic fiber cable projects.

Haque said under these projects, the government is spending a total of Rs708 million for provision of high speed broadband services in three districts of Bahawalpur, Rahim Yar Khan, and Bahawalnagar. About 2.6 million people living in 846 villages will benefit from this. Further, in Dera Ghazi Khan division, four districts, DG Khan, Layyah, Muzaffargarh, and Rajanpur, Rs141 million is being spent.

While Rs4.47 billion is being spent on three projects related to the laying of optic fiber cable. With the completion of these projects, an area of about 2,000 sq km will be connected with OFC. More than 25 percent work has been done on broadband services projects. Completion of these projects will provide the fastest broadband services to 393 villages with a population of over 0.85 million.

Haque said all preparations have been completed for the auction of next generation mobile services spectrum next month. This will bring billions of rupees to the national exchequer. Parliament will be paperless from January 2023, said Haque, adding that whatever work they want to do in Sindh, they are being hindered. The development work should not be hampered.

Shah Mehmood Qureshi said that the MoITT is working for the fulfilment of the Prime Minister's Digital Pakistan vision. He said that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs would provide all possible assistance and support for the promotion of IT industry and showcasing of Pakistani IT products around the world because the Ministry of IT is at the forefront of those sectors through which numerous job opportunities and the country's economy can be strengthened.

Qureshi said the government is constantly striving to improve the people's quality of life and economic well-being by ensuring availability of accessible, affordable, reliable and high quality digital services.

"Our government firmly believes in mass adoption of emerging digital technologies and innovative applications to ensure cross-sectoral socio-economic development and transformation of governance model, social interaction and achievement of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)," said the foreign minister, adding that Pakistan was one of the first countries to endorse the SDGs.

He said our long-term development agenda and provincial development strategies are aligned with the SDGs. CEO Jazz Aamir Ibrahim said, "Jazz has invested $462 million during the last two years mainly to expand its 4G footprint in rural and semi-urban areas. This is in line with our mission to bridge the digital divide and to collaborate with the government of Pakistan in helping realize the Digital Pakistan vision. Today's contract signing is a testament of our commitment to create ICT-led socioeconomic opportunities for the masses."

The CEO-USF said that the Fund is committed to empower the marginalised communities. This project will benefit an unserved population of 0.48 million in 170 unserved mauzas, thereby covering an unserved area of 1,323 sq km of Multan and Khanewal districts. The project will be completed in 12 months.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021

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