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ISLAMABAD: The Universal Service Fund (USF) Thursday awarded contract worth around Rs555 million to Telenor for providing high speed mobile broadband services in Nowshera, Mardan, Swabi, and Charsadda districts of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province.

Federal Minister for Information Technology and Telecommunication Syed Aminul Haque and Federal Minister for Defense Pervez Khattak witnessed the contract signing ceremony held here on Thursday. The contract was signed by Haaris Mahmood Chaudhry, chief executive officer (CEO) of the USF with Irfan Wahab Khan, CEO of Telenor Pakistan.

Federal Secretary Ministry of IT and Telecommunication and Chairman USF Board Dr Muhammad Sohail Rajput, Member Telecom Muhammad Omar Malik, and senior officers of the Ministry were also present at the ceremony.

Haque said the government believes in practical work. The proof is that in the last financial year, they have contracted 25 projects worth over Rs31 billion for the provision of high speed broadband services and laying of optical fiber cable in unserved and underserved areas of the country.

While the number of projects has been increased to 30 in the current financial year, this process will not stop here, rather the performance of all the institutes under the Ministry of IT and Telecommunication for the fulfillment of Digital Pakistan vision is becoming an example with each passing day, he added.

The minister further stated that mobile operators provide networking and broadband services in cities but in scattered or sparsely populated areas it is difficult for them to work from a business point of view.

In such cases, the Ministry of IT and Telecommunication through the USF not only identifies such areas but also pays subsidy that covers 80 to 90 percent of the project costs.

"We believe that the residents of remote areas are entitled to high speed mobile internet as much as city dwellers," said the minister, adding that the people of these areas will soon have the best mobile network and fastest internet service to connect themselves to the digital world. Talking to media, Haque said that 40 departments/organisations have been shifted on automation.

The Cabinet Division has been automated, which would help in saving millions of rupees. If anything is being leaked from the Cabinet, it is on individual level. The minister said that the automation of Parliament will be completed by December 2022 and if there is required any legislation, it would be carried.

He further said that one million cyber attacks are being reported daily and are being made unsuccessful. Most of the cyber attacks are reported from India, Iran and Russia, said the minister, adding that professional attackers are involved in these attacks.

Pervez Khattak said that the people of the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa districts are no less than any other big city in terms of capabilities. The high speed mobile broadband services in Charsadda, Swabi, Mardan, and Nowshera will help the youth of these districts in the field of education and serve the country and the nation.

Further, he added that the role of the Ministry of IT and Telecommunication in fulfilling the Prime Minister's Digital Pakistan vision is significant and commendable for which Federal Minister Syed Aminul Haque deserves congratulations.

The CEO of Telenor, Pakistan said that connectivity has fast become a fundamental need in the digital world today, and we strive to bring it to every Pakistani's life. Together with the USF, Telenor Pakistan has signed a contract to bring high-speed mobile internet to the underserved regions, he added.

The CEO of the USF said without the constant support of the Federal Minister for IT and Telecommunication, Syed Aminul Haque, it would not have been possible for the USF to launch 25 projects in the last fiscal year. As a result of the encouragement, we are going to launch 30 more projects in current financial year.

This project in the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa will benefit an unserved population of 0.16 million in 70 unserved Mauzas, thereby, covering an unserved area of 778 sq km of Nowshera, Mardan, Swabi, and Charsadda districts. I assure you that the project will be completed in a short span of 16 months.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021

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