Internet inclusivity a challenge

Despite ranking first in the internet affordability metric, Pakistan had the worst performance in South Asia on the Inclusive Internet Index in 2021.

The Inclusive Internet Index was recently published by the Economist Intelligence Unit, and Pakistan was ranked 90th out of 120 countries.

The ranking is based on availability, quantity, infrastructure, and energy, as well as affordability in terms of price and competitive climate, literacy readiness, confidence, protection, and regulation, and relevance in terms of local and relevant content.

Due to lower cell phone prices and an improved competitive climate, Pakistan ranked first in the affordability component.

“While we must celebrate this as a nation because it allows for better accessibility,” SI Global CEO Noman Ahmed Said told The Express Tribune, “there are many reasons where we fail and we must devote our energies to improving on those fronts.” “One problem that requires immediate attention is the gender disparity in mobile phone access in our country.”

In Pakistan, most women are economically dependent and are paid less than their male counterparts, making it difficult for them to access these services, he explained.

Furthermore, cultural factors affecting gender inequality in Pakistan worsen the problems with mobile phone connectivity and expand the gender gap.

Furthermore, the pandemic increased global internet dependency, but it widened the gap between online and offline users in Pakistan, according to Said, because connectivity was a major problem for many people in the region.

“Not only did this cause significant disruptions in business operations, but it also resulted in significant gaps in educational access,” he said.

The quality of the internet is a big determinant of internet accessibility, and the country’s ranking has been harmed by the fact that 4G coverage is still patchy in many regions.

He went on to say that 2G remained the mainstay for local users, despite the fact that it was slow and incapable of supporting heavy internet use.

“We need to work together to bridge these parameters for a more equitable and widespread use of the internet, which is more important than ever,” he said.

Despite the government’s many initiatives and improvements in mobile phone connectivity in recent years, Pakistan still has a long way to go, according to Pakistan’s Digital Media Wing General Manager Imran Ghazali.

According to him, there were just 8 million Facebook users in 2013, but that number has now risen to over 50 million. 70 percent of these users are men, while the remaining 30% are women.

“In urban settings, this difference might not be as great because everybody has their own phone,” he said. “However, in rural areas, each family has only one cell phone, which is most likely operated by a male family member.”