The question isn’t what 3G will change – it’s, what won’t 3G change?
The potential of high-speed Internet carries within it the inherent possibilities for social and economic change. Especially for a country like Pakistan where the government is unable to provide its citizens with adequate resources and infrastructure, internet-based technologies born out of both necessity and innovation will play a greater role in solving social problems and addressing gaps in service provision.
Where once people got stuck on roads due to bad weather, accidents and road works, now they will be able to track their journeys and delays with their smartphones applications that can assist us with road-conditions, maps and much more in real time.
Doctors and hospitals will be able to make better use of faster Internet through the transmission of scans and reports, especially when transporting patients. For a country dependent on sporadic and insufficient electricity, wireless connections give them a chance to work, connect, learn and play. Not to mention, it will also boost the telecom industry and avert the crisis it is facing.
Nowhere will this change be more apparent than in the IT industry. High-speed Internet forms the backbone of new blood entering this sector, and in supporting existing enterprises grow bigger and better. Much of the focus these past few years has been on supporting a growing number of startups springing up all over Pakistan. As Syed Ismail Shah, Chairman PTA, explained in an interview to MORE magazine, “These next generation services will encourage such innovators and play their role in the overall development of the IT and Telecom industry.”
These are young and talented techies and entrepreneurs who are losing out due to issues with electricity, slow Internet and in some areas of Pakistan, even access to Internet. Such services will increase the access of people living in areas where this is not available, as Syed Ismail Shah went on to explain: “Without such wireless technology, broadband penetration in the far flung areas is difficult”
However, these potential developments are not to be mistaken for viewing 3G as some sort of boundless opportunity, and not understanding that there are certain limits to what 3G can establish on its own.
According to Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTS) figures as of March 2014, the percentage of Annual Cellular Mobile Teledensity in Pakistan is 74.9 percent. But according to a Pew Research study, the figure is somewhat different. It states that 53 percent of Pakistanis own cell phones, and out of these 3 percent own smartphones. This is a dismal figure, given the opportunities people with this facility can avail.
Given that emerging startups in Pakistan, especially those developing new apps, need public interest and support to grow, this small percentage of smartphone users poses a problem.
The provision of 3G services has created the opportunity for the public to connect with these budding entrepreneurs in what can be a mutually beneficial relationship, where entrepreneurs come up with ideas that solve existing problems in our society, and the public responds by adopting these and increasing their business potential.
However, the scope of this process is likely to remain limited unless more people get involved in using these services.
3G Will Pave The Way
It is expected that the long wait and hype around new packages and faster internet services will get more people excited about getting on board with smartphones and faster 3G speeds, and this will spur a new generation of techies catering to the needs and interests of millions of new users.
While 3G alone is not sufficient to guarantee a boost in the IT industry, it is a necessary component of the process, and this sector cannot move forward without this facility being available to new and old movers and shakers.
This is not to say there aren’t many economic benefits accruing solely to the introduction of 3G services in Pakistan. The development of infrastructure, the increased connectivity, the increase in job creation and many other benefits factor into the increase in GDP that will result for the country.
A feature in the Economist stated: “A recent study by a British consulting firm, commissioned by the Pakistani government, predicted that by increasing economic activity it could help create up to 900,000 jobs over the next four years, and bring in hundreds of millions of dollars a year of new tax revenues.”
Writer is an accomplished business leader with expertise in affiliate marketing, social media, and business development and SEO. His latest venture is called PakWired.com, a site focused on business, technology, and the startup culture in Pakistan.