Pakistan has always had a rocky relationship with the internet. From blocking Facebook back in 2010 to YouTube, which is still blocked since 2012; it is probably no surprise that a majority of Pakistanis believe the internet has a negative effect on the morals of users. According to a recent survey by PEW Research released on Thursday, 31% of the respondents believed the internet had a bad influence on morality while 20% thought the internet positively impacts morality.
The PEW center’s research used a sample of 1,203 respondents for its survey on Pakistan who were chosen from different parts of the country. The survey was carried out from March 17 to June 5, 2014 using face-to-face interviews with the chosen respondents. The survey was conducted in a total of 32 countries, however, we will focus only on the factors directly related to Pakistan. Due to the low size of the sample, many of the report’s findings do not include Pakistan in their results.
Pakistan Ranks Lowest for Internet Access
According to official figures, almost 19% of Pakistan’s population has access to the internet with over 3.79 million broadband subscribers at the end of 2014. However, the PEW report portrays a completely different picture. A whopping 92% said that they do not access the internet while only 8% said they have access to the internet, at least occasionally.
With 8% internet penetration, Pakistan ranks at the bottom in 32 surveyed countries
With these numbers, Pakistan rates lowest in the list of the 32 surveyed countries in terms of internet access standing right behind Bangladesh (11%), Uganda (15%), Tanzania (19%), India (20%) and Indonesia (24%). The report makes an interesting observation with,
“Combined, these countries account for approximately a quarter of the world’s population.”
The report also found that only 3% of Pakistanis have a landline at home while the remaining 97% have no landline.
Effects of Age, Income and Education on Internet Use
The survey results show a rather interesting picture of internet usage and perception which vary according to the respondent’s income, age and education. The research found that people with a higher level of education were most likely to use the internet than those with lower or no education. The report says:
“Internet access and smartphone ownership rates in these emerging and developing nations are greatest among the well-educated and the young, i.e. those 18- to 34-year-olds who came of age in an era of massive technological advancement. People who read or speak English are also more likely to access to the internet.”
This is not surprising, especially for a country like Pakistan where speaking English is considered an extraordinary feat and almost half our population has never been to school. With English language content far outnumbering content in Pakistan’s national and regional languages, the internet is still perceived as something of a strange new invention by many Pakistanis.
Similar to education, per-capita income and age also play a great role in the number of people using the internet. The report found that:
“Richer countries in terms of gross domestic product per capita have more internet users among the adult population compared with poorer nations … Age also impacts whether someone uses the internet – older people are less likely to report using the internet than their younger counterparts.”
Mobile Phone Ownership Lowest in Pakistan
Interestingly, a large percentage of the Pakistani respondents said they did not own a cell phone. According to the report, 53% of the respondents do not have a cell phone, while 43% own dumb phones and only 4% said they own a smart phone. On the other hand, the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority’s (PTA) 2014 annual report stated:
“Mobile penetration has reached 76.6% with 139.9 million subscribers at the end of June 2014.”
While PTA claims that they have made great improvements and reported a solid growth rate in the telecom sector, there seems to be a lot of discrepancy between their claims and the report’s findings. From the report’s findings it is quite obvious that Pakistan is the only country where less than half of the country’s population own a cell phone.
Positive versus Negative Effects of the Internet
When asked about the influence of the growing use on the internet on Politics, Education, Morality, Economy and Personal Relationships, 22% believe it has had a positive effect on economy while 16% think it has a bad influence.
However, 54% of respondents said they either did not know or chose not to answer this question. Similarly, on the question of politics, the results were 20% good influence and 16% bad with 55% choosing not to answer. In terms of education, once again, a majority chose not to answer the question (43%) while 38% thought the rising use of the internet is a good influence. Only 16% thought it has a bad influence on education.
Surprisingly, the number of Pakistanis who believe the internet is a good influence on personal relationships is higher than those who believe the opposite standing at 23% and 21% respectively. Once again, the majority chose not to answer the question (50%).
The most interesting result of the survey is perhaps in how Pakistanis perceive the internet affects morality. Only 20% thought it has a good influence while 31% believe the growing use of the internet is having a bad influence. (Note: 40% refused to comment on the question). Considering the popularity of the decisions to block YouTube which the government attributes to the “sensitivity” of the people, this finding is perhaps not as surprising as finding out that more than half of Pakistan’s population does not even own a cell phone.
You can find the complete report here.