More than Rs.10 billion Broadband Sustainable Projects were awarded by the Universal Service Fund (USF) in 2017 to various telecom operators in the underserved and far-flung areas. These areas mainly include those in Baluchistan, Khyber Pakhtoonkhawa and FATA.
The areas of Baluchistan have been focused due to its emerging strategic significance with China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). The current USF projects include 3G services in CPEC adjoining areas such as Kharan-Washuk, Kalat, Khuzdar, Awaran-Lasbela , Sibi, Zhob, Kohistan, DI Khan, Khyber and Dera Bugti, it has been learnt.
In addition to this, computer labs have also been established at Pakistan Baitul Mal centres in Balochistan.
The availability of telecom infrastructure and services in these areas will certainly enhance the socio-economic betterment of these areas and will increase the effectiveness of the CPEC. Besides, Balochistan is the biggest untapped market for telecom operators with the lowest number of Mobile phone users.
According to an estimate, out of more than 12.3 million population, 46% of the province population has no access to either mobile, wireless or a fixed line network.
In 2017, USF continued its journey of success by providing 3G/mobile internet services in rural areas, facilitated use of ICTs for females, laid optic fiber to connect un-served tehsils across the country and worked for spreading the benefits of e-services throughout the country.
All these projects brought a phenomenal change in lives of people and empowered communities at a large scale, said a spokesperson at USF.
By completing many successful programs and laying foundation for several new projects in the year 2017, USF has been able to create a drastic and unprecedented digital revolution in the country and has transformed the lives of the people, she said.
Besides, Broadband for Sustainable Development Projects, an allocation of Rs. 8 billion was made for Special Projects. In 2017, the total worth of contracts awarded by USF is around Rs 11.54 billion.
Since its inception, USF has so far disbursed various development projects of more than Rs. 50.5 billion.
Telecom Sector Subsidies
Ufone was awarded 28 percent of the subsidy amount. It is followed by PTCL with 26 percent and Telenor with 24 percent share. Zong’s share stands at 10 percent whereas the share of Mobilink and Warid stands at less than one percent.
ICTs for Girls Program
In addition to these projects, ICTs for Girls program was also launched. Thousands of women are being trained at state of the art computer labs under the coaching and training program of Microsoft at Pakistan Baitul Mal. The aim of the project is to provide equitable learning opportunities to women in these centers so that they can contribute to socio-economic development of the country.
Moreover, a new project for the empowerment of SMEs/artisans through ecommerce has also been launched.
USF Projects in 2018
The 2nd wave of ICT Girls Program is covering girls’ schools in Islamabad to provide digital learning to thousands of students in one cycle. Through this programme, 226 computer labs are being established in Government Girls’ institutions in Islamabad Capital Territory and around 70,000 students and 202 teachers will be provided training by Microsoft.
In the near future, projects will be awarded for providing mobile broadband services in DI Khan and will be launched in 2018 for services in North Waziristan, South Waziristan, Kurram, FR Tank, Orakzai, FR Bannu and Lakki Marwat. In addition, project for optic fiber will be awarded to connect the unserved tehsils of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
Moreover, through the project for empowerment of SMEs/artisans through e-commerce, USF will play a crucial role in uplift of the marginalized communities by providing a platform for their businesses.