ISLAMABAD: The Universal Service Fund (USF) has awarded more than Rs.10 billion Broadband Sustainable Projects during last year to various operators to ensure telecom services in under-served and far-flung areas.
These areas mainly included those in Balochistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhawa and Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA).
The areas of Balochistan 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, Dera Ismail Khan, Khyber and Dera Bugti.
The statistics showing achievements-2017 made by Ministry of Information Technology (MoIT) showed on Sunday that in addition, computer labs have been established at Pakistan Baitul Mal Centres in Balochistan.
The availability of telecom infrastructure and services in these areas will certainly enhance socio-economic betterment and increase effectiveness of the CPEC.
According to an estimate, out of more than 12.3 million population, 46 per cent of Balochistan 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 Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) for females, laid optic fiber to connect un-served Tehsils and worked for spreading 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.
By completing many successful programmes and laying foundation for several new projects in year 2017, USF has been able to create a drastic and unprecedented digital revolution in the country and has transformed lives of the people.
These projects are playing a huge role in socio-economic uplift of people and creating immense opportunities in far-flung areas for their progress and prosperity.
Besides, Broadband for Sustainable Development Projects , an allocation of Rs. 8 billion was made for Special Projects. In 2017, 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.
Moreover, thousands of women are being trained under ICTs for Girls programme in state-of-the-art computer labs established in collaboration with Microsoft and Pakistan Baitul Mal. The aim of project was to provide equitable learning opportunities to women in these centers so that they can contribute to socio-economic development of the country.
So far over 100 computer labs have been established in Pakistan Baitul Mal's Women Empowerment Centres and around 35,000 students will seek training annually at these centres.
Moreover, a new project for empowerment of SMEs/artisans through e-commerce has also been launched.
The second 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 near future, projects will be awarded for providing mobile broadband services in D.I.Khan and will be launched in 2018 for services in North Waziristan, South Waziristan, Kurram, F R Tank, Orakzai, FR Bannu and Lakki Marwat. In addition, project for optic fiber will be awarded to connect unserved Tehsils of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
Through project for empowerment of SMEs/artisans through e-commerce, USF will play a crucial role in uplift of marginalized communities by providing a platform for their businesses.