ISLAMABAD -  Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi on Friday asked the Ministry of Information and Technology to ensure reliable and cheap broadband connectivity across the country, particularly in remote areas, to ensure availability of digital facilities to the common man.

Addressing a ceremony at a contract signing of Broadband for Sustainable Development Projects in FATA; Khyber, Mohmand Agency, and DI Khan, the prime minister commended the initiative and said it would help bridge the gap between the urban and rural areas by providing modern facilities to the people at their doorstep.

The project for provision of telecom services to the un-served areas was being implemented by the Universal Service Fund, working under the Ministry of Information Technology. After the launch of the 3G and 4G services, it has provided internet service to 5,896 Mauzas. The new contract would enable it to extend these services to Khyber, Mohmand and D.I.Khan at a cost of Rs3.5 billion and facilitate over 4 million people in 1,187 Mauzas.

The premier tasked the IT ministry to complete the project in the next four months and provide connectivity at affordable rates.

He hoped that it would open up new horizons for the people and provide them e-commerce and a host of other services.

PM Abbasi said that e-services were a rapidly evolving field and could provide health, education and business opportunities to the people in remotest areas of the country. He said at a later stage it could also help in e-voting and help cut-down the cost of holding elections.

The prime minister also mentioned the initiative by the Universal Service Fund for the provision of information and communication technologies for girls in the delivery of IT and e-services in un-served and under-served areas.

Under the USF Project “ICT for Girls”, Microsoft has collaborated to train young girls to empower them to participate in the socio-economic development of the country. So far, 100 computer labs have been established in Pakistan Bait-ul-Maal’s Women Empowerment Centers that would train 35,000 students.

Prime Minister Abbasi termed it just the tip of the iceberg and said it would empower the women and enable them to earn a respectable income from the comfort of their homes.

Minister for Information Technology Anusha Rehman Khan said the USF was also providing ICT training to young girls at government schools in Islamabad through 226 computer labs. Microsoft would train 202 teachers who would impart training to over 70,000 girls.

She said the technology would help build social and economic growth and make it easier to provide e-health, e-education and several other facilities.

She said since 2013, contracts have been awarded for providing mobile broadband services in Kalat, Sibi, Zhob, Kohistan, Dera Bugti and Kharan-Washuk and said it was part of the programme towards a digital Pakistan.

The Prime Minister earlier witnessed inking of the contracts between the USF and Ufone and Telenor service providers.

PR adds: Telenor Pakistan has been awarded the Broadband for Sustainable Development (BSD) Program by Universal Service Fund (USF) under which the telecom provider, in pursuance of its commitment to connect the unconnected will bring connectivity to more than 1.7 million people of Dera Ismail Khan and Mohmand Agency. Telenor Pakistan has connected millions of people by establishing hundreds of cell sites across the underserved and remote areas of Pakistan under USF.