The recent approval given by the Universal Service Fund (USF) Board of 10 projects for providing broadband internet services to remote areas and tourist destinations will indeed prove to be beneficial for the country in the long run. The estimated cost of the project is Rs11.5 billion and projects such as the Optical Fiber Project will be initiated in more than 19 under-served districts of Pakistan.
We live in an age where the internet has become as essential as oil. The better connected a country is, the greater chance it has to prosper in the competitive global market where changes are being made and decision are being taken at rapid pace. The availability of high-speed internet in such remote areas will not only benefit the tourism industry but will also help bridge the vast social gap between urban and rural areas. Access to internet would make transportation and infrastructure development much easier. Such connectivity can bolster development and give Pakistan the opportunity to hone the immense potential that tourism has to offer. It would also encourage youtubers and bloggers to visit these areas which in turn would help improve the soft image of Pakistan. Moreover, this would also help empower locals, local businesses and the cottage industry by creating an online presence through which their products can be sold. This type of organic growth is what Pakistan needs to focus on in order to create strength from within. That being said, the initiative will also attract foreign investors as companies such as Elon Musk-owned Starlink are looking to launch internet services in the country — other competitors might follow suit.
The achievement of the project will eventually depend on the vision accompanied by it. This could be just another project implemented half-heartedly with only a few limited benefits; or it could be a project that could push-start the economy and pave the path towards future prosperity and development.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 17th, 2021.