The Federal Minister for Information Technology and Telecommunication Syed Aminul Haque has underlined the importance of upgrading the telecom sector’s infrastructure in order to improve the quality of its services in the country. This is a welcome statement from the Minister considering the severe digital divide that exists in this country and how connectivity is considered to be one of the most crucial pillars for any country that seeks to grow and progress.

While the sector has grown over the years and the number of mobile users has increased across the country, a lot of rural areas and other parts of the country such as GB and others continue to suffer from a lack of or poor coverage. Both 3G and 4G arrived late in Pakistan, and even now their coverage is limited while the rest of the world transitions towards 5G. Mr. Aminul Haque is right to emphasise the role of telecom companies when it comes to investing in infrastructure upgrades around the country in general and urban areas in particular. This is a successful model in many parts of the world where private companies spearhead investment in the infrastructure and improvement of services in exchange for incentives and subsidies from the government.

This is practiced in Pakistan as well, and some companies such as Telenor are more invested in such projects than others, but the pace and scale at which it is being done leaves a lot to be desired. The IT Minister has also pointed out that the government was 90 to 95 percent subsidy for providing mobile and broadband services to un-served and under-served areas of the country. It is hoped that such measures do translate into increasing investment on part of the major telecom players in the country, as in the long run it will be to their own benefit as well.

Given our deficiencies at the moment, the IT ministry should be working in overdrive to remove the obstacles that are hindering the development of the telecom sector so that digital inclusion can substantially be enhanced in the disadvantaged parts of the country. Immense potential in the country remains dormant due to a lack of access. Both the government and the private sector must work towards incorporating new technologies to bridge the digital and connectivity divide in the country.