Islamabad-International Telecommunication Union (ITU) and Universal Service Fund (USF) have collaborated to organize a two-day workshop on ‘Internet Access and Adoption’ which commenced on Wednesday. The workshop aims at enabling the developing nations to take full advantage of affordable internet access which has to be widely accessible and adopted by the citizens. The objective of the workshop is to foster information exchange on successful projects related to eliminating the digital divide in un-served and under-served communities. Delegates from Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bhutan, Indonesia, Malaysia, China and Bangladesh are participating in the workshop.

Speaking at the opening ceremony, the Chief Guest Federal Secretary for Information Technology, Maroof Afzal said that the current ICT indicators in Pakistan are showing positive trajectory and digital Pakistan policy is covering both demand and supply side. He added that internet use and digitalization is altering the lives of people not only in urban areas but in rural community as well. Therefore, socio-economic development of Pakistan is directly linked to access to internet and it is the endeavour of the ministry of IT to create opportunities for citizens of the country to effectively be part of the digital transformation. He thanked ITU for collaborating with USF and the foreign delegates for coming to Pakistan to share their experiences.

Speaking at the occasion, CEO-USF, Rizwan Mir said that Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) are playing a huge role in transforming education, health, banking and agriculture sectors all over the world and embracing digital transformation is now a requirement rather than a luxury. He added that Workshop will be a great learning experience and rural areas can also really increase their competitiveness by making use of latest technologies.

During the key-note address, Senior Advisor-IT said that that fifty per cent of the world’s population is expected to be connected to the Internet by the end of 2019 leaving an estimated 3.8 billion people unconnected and unable to benefit from key social and economic resources in our expanding digital world. He added that by 2025, all countries should have a funded national broadband plan or strategy and include broadband in their universal access and services definition. Therefore, governments must work more diligently to design universal access strategies to disperse the funds collected, ensuring that the USFs meet their mandate of enabling marginalized and underserved citizens to get online for digital inclusion. Senior officials of ministry of IT, USF, industry and academia representatives attended the opening ceremony. All the delegates are presenting successful USF projects in their respective countries during the workshop. Moreover, the relevance of emerging technologies like 5G, artificial intelligence, big data and blockchain is also being discussed during the two days.