Did you know that Pakistan has a mobile phone penetration rate of 100 million users? That statistic implies that a little more than half of Pakistan’s 180 million citizens have access to a mobile phone. So far so good. But here’s another statistic that is bound to throw a spanner in the works – only 16% of Pakistani citizens know how to use the internet. This is in contrast to China’s 46% and India’s 19%. United States by comparison has a 86% ratio of internet-using citizens by total population alone.
The point here is that Pakistan can’t afford to be left behind in the 21st century and the internet happens to be a great equalizer when it comes to improving lifestyles, getting information, shopping for goods and communication amongst many other things. The average Pakistani shouldn’t be left behind when it comes to the internet. Imagine not keeping updated with flood or weather warnings over the internet. Imagine how timely warnings and updates could’ve given villagers in rural areas advance notice of important developments, saving lives and belongings as a result.
It is this concern that gave birth to the idea of Club Internet, a startup that wants to help more people to use internet all across Pakistan, especially in areas where the internet is unheard of or access to it is sorely lacking. With its head office in Arfa Technology Park in Lahore, Club Internet wants to equip people with the knowledge and know-how to make internet usage mainstream, by imparting education and training programs all across Pakistani cities and villages.
The Who’s Who of Club Internet
Club Internet is comprised of Hassan Baig, Fahad Rao, Sophia Pervez, and Shahbaz Ali Khan. They have the backing of Plan 9 and Acumen, incubators that are powering social enterprises locally and globally respectively.
A CNN Report Shines a Spotlight on the Startup
Club Internet was also featured at CNN, with Hassan Ali Baig, Head of Strategy, laying out how the vast mobile revolution in Pakistan has paved the way for his company to take the next logical step – educating people about how to use the internet via a bevy of specialized training programs.
”Employing usability testing guidelines laid out by the likes of Steve Krug, we frequently conduct tests to quantify the efficacy of our internet onboarding app. This video is a small sample of the kind of results we’ve seen.
Subjects here are mostly blue collar workers, but we have also conducted similar tests on people of higher social status – those who can afford to use the internet, but don’t use it because of a lack of context or culture.”
Club Internet’s Mission
The folks behind Club Internet want to minimize, if not eradicate, the plague of ‘unconnectedness’ with regards to the Pakistani populace. What they want is to arm people with the tools, foresight and knowledge of the internet to make life better. Be it learning a new language via a video-sharing site, ordering medicines from Sehat.com.pk or even hitching a ride with Savaree, the possibilities of what a better-connected Pakistan can do with these online tools is potentially limitless.
Shahbaz Ali Khan, Operations Manager of Club Internet ,recently spoke about this exact phenomenon of ‘unconnectedness’. According to him, ‘Unconnectendess’ isn’t just limited to Pakistanis with low socioeconomic status. One great travesty of this country is that our senior citizens, on average, aren’t comfortable with using the Internet; be it for paying their bills or shopping online – even for their much needed medicines”.
He further added that the Club Internet has received funding from Microsoft Innovation Lab to further their mission.
According to recent data, about 63% of Pakistanis reside in areas where the lack of awareness of internet is evident.
Why the rural areas? According to recent data, about 63% of Pakistanis reside in areas where the lack of awareness of internet is evident. It is in such areas that the influx of affordable smartphones from Chinese brands have also played a crucial role in making Club Internet’s goals reachable.
The infrastructure is almost there, with hardware and software technologies available to everyone. 3G/4G networks have also made internet access possible in otherwise infrastructure-deficient areas. All that’s left is the knowledge and training, and that’s where Club Internet is helping.
Thanks to Bilal Mumtaz for his contributions to this article