In a positive development related to improved digital connectivity across the country, the Universal Service Fund (USF) Board has approved the award of 10 contracts worth Rs 21 billion for the provision of information technology and mobile broadband services to unserved and underserved communities in all provinces of the country. This is especially important given the setbacks we have faced as a result of COVID and now the devastating floods.
According to reports, high-speed mobile broadband projects for highways and fiber optic cable projects will provide 4G long-term evolution (LTE) connectivity and backhaul connectivity to 3.5 million people. The successful completion of these projects will connect 187 Union Councils with 1,554 km of fiber optic cable and ensure seamless connectivity with 622 km of unserved road sections on the M-8 highway and the N-35 highway. .
These projects are part of the plan to ensure meaningful connectivity and smartphones for all politics. It is encouraging to see the government push for such projects because nowadays digital access should be considered a basic right. Such initiatives can help increase social equality, job opportunities and digital literacy for people in unserved and underserved areas and strengthen the foundations of our digital infrastructure.
This is particularly important in terms of improving access to education, as this is a persistent challenge we face. COVID has brought unprecedented setbacks to the education sector in Pakistan as school closures have affected over 30 million children across the country. The situation has now worsened further following record torrential rains and floods due to which a third of the country was submerged in water. According to UN estimates, the flooding emergency has interrupted the education of nearly 3.5 million children in the country. Therefore, increased connectivity will help us identify innovative interventions to address learning loss by scaling up distance learning initiatives, especially for areas of the country that have historically lagged behind in education outcomes. learning, and are now in an even more vulnerable position in light of recent events.