Pakistan needs to declare a state of digital emergency if it is to realize the Digital Pakistan vision said Jazz CEO, Aamir Ibrahim, during a panel discussion on ‘Connecting Pakistan: Covid-19 Lessons for Digital Policy’ organized by Tabadlab.
Without the state’s urgent intervention, it is impossible for the private sector to put a smartphone and an internet connection in every hand, he added.
Pakistan has been listed amongst the top ten countries with the biggest share of internet users in Asia 2020 according to a report published by Statista. Over the years, the country has taken great strides in terms of IT exports, services export, and internet affordability however, we are still ranked as the least internet inclusive country in South Asia.
Internet is a great enabler and we have seen how its growth has enabled millions of Pakistanis with life-changing opportunities.
He mentioned that to avoid falling further behind other countries, it’s necessary to step up the digital game by passing legislation and introducing policies that are scalable, promote digital equity and support local digital inclusion strategies.
“Telcos are cross-sectional enablers. We build the digital highways which other sectors use to unlock value in this connectivity era. It is imperative that the decision-makers realize this. One-third of our revenue goes back to the government in the shape of corporate tax, GST, license, and spectrum fees. These funds could instead be used to provide connectivity in far-flung areas or lower the affordability barrier,” Aamir added, as an example.
On the topic of gender inequality in terms of connectivity and financial inclusion, he said that smartphone is a great facilitator, and focused policy intervention is required, in terms of affordability and accessibility, if Pakistan is to ensure that the benefits of connectivity are distributed more equally.
Jazz has taken several initiatives for women’s digital inclusion. Its flagship technology-based program, the Jazz Smart Schools, alone has trained 37,000 female students and 950 female teachers on digital skills and literacy.