International Telecommunications Union Ranks Pakistan Regulator Among Top 5 in Asia Pacific

International Communications Union has ranked Pakistan Telecommunications Authority (PTA) among top 5 regulators in Asia Pacific region.  Pakistan's ICT regulations are 4th generation (G4), more advanced than India's and Bangladesh's 3rd generation (G3) regulations, according to the ITU report titled “Global ICT Regulatory Outlook 2020 (GIRO)”. Only 8% states have managed to achieve G4 status of the 38 economies ranked in Asia-Pacific region. G4 regulations address both economic and social goals.  Among the key policy goals are financial inclusion and digital inclusion.

Telecom Regulators Grouped in 4 Generations. Source: ITU

Pakistan's ICT regulations are ranked 4th in Asia Pacific, ahead of Malaysia's ranked 5 but behind Singapore's ranked 1, Japan's ranked 2 and Australia's ranked 3.  Pakistan scores 88 and ranks 48th in the world among 193 countries. The report uses 50 indicators organized across four pillars: regulatory authority, regulatory mandate, regulatory regime, competition framework. Pakistan scores 20/20 for regulatory authority, 22/30 for regulatory regime and 27/28 for competition framework and 19/22 for regulatory mandate.

ITU's Definition of 4 Generations of ICT Regulatory Regimes. Source: ITU

The Global ICT Regulatory Outlook 2020 benchmarks regulatory progress across no fewer than 193 countries worldwide. In three years, the report claims it has established itself as the go-to reference for regulators and policy-makers seeking to shape meaningful, regulatory change that will benefit all.

Pakistan Telecom Indicators As Of December 31, 2019

Pakistan's designation as G4 country and its high rank is in part due to its efforts to use its regulatory powers to close the digital divide. Pakistan's Universal Service Fund (USF) promotes the development of telecommunication services in un-served and under-served areas and populations throughout across the country. The fund consists of contributions (1.5% of adjusted revenues) by the Telecom Operators with no Government funding involved.

Internet traffic in Pakistan has surged 15% amid COVID-19 lockdown, according to Pakistan Telecommunications Authority (PTA). This spike has occurred in spite the fact that Netflix and YouTube have reduced their bandwidth requirements during the current health crisis. Netflix says it has cut its bandwidth use by 25% without sacrificing quality.  Google's YouTube video platform has decided to temporarily change the quality of all videos on YouTube to standard definition.The increased traffic is mainly due to people working from homes. Pakistan has nearly 80 million 
broadband subscribers as of now.

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Riaz Haq said…
China’s Digital Silk Road after the Coronavirus
April 13, 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic will be a history-altering event. But where will it take us? In “On the Horizon,” a new CSIS series, our scholars offer their insights into the fundamental changes we might anticipate for our future social and economic world.


https://www.csis.org/analysis/chinas-digital-silk-road-after-coronavirus

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Just a few months ago, China’s technology ambitions appeared imperiled by Covid-19, then raging through the center of the country, bringing its economy to a standstill, and wreaking havoc to global supply chains. But the pandemic is already providing new opportunities for China’s rise as a technology power and global provider of digital infrastructure. Indeed, in the months and years ahead, China’s Digital Silk Road will only accelerate and expand.

Consider the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), which Chinese officials have touted as the BRI’s flagship. Since CPEC was announced five years ago, over 60 percent of its projects have been transportation and energy, and many have been bogged down with delays. While proposed pipeline and railway connections between China and Pakistan remain pipedreams, Huawei was able to lay a fiber-optic cable across their border and deep into Pakistan in under two years. Stretching 820 kilometers, the project cost just $44 million—less than it costs to build only four kilometers of railway in Pakistan. Given Pakistan’s mounting debt, the second phase of CPEC, much like the future of the BRI, will place a greater emphasis on smaller, higher-tech projects.

The less visible nature of digital infrastructure also fits more easily into the geopolitical environment that Chinese firms will face as the Covid-19 crisis abates. Prior to the crisis, China’s approach to delivering large projects in foreign countries, which relies heavily on its own companies and workers, stoked resentment among local communities. In recent years, Chinese workers have been attacked in Bangladesh, Kazakhstan, and Kenya, among other stops along the BRI. Given the source of the outbreak, Chinese workers are more likely to face discrimination abroad. Digital infrastructure projects are typically less visible, and less disruptive, to local communities than large transport and energy projects.

Chinese tech companies also see an opening to pitch their products as part of responding to the current outbreak and preventing future pandemics. Hikvision, Dahua, and other leading surveillance companies have introduced thermal imaging systems to detect fevers. Alipay and Tencent have developed health apps that generate QR codes indicating a user’s health status. Naturally, these companies are looking to sell these products overseas. Alibaba is already offering its cloud services to model regional outbreaks and connect health professionals. These offerings are not unique to Chinese companies, but they often come with fewer privacy protections than their Western counterparts.
Riaz Haq said…
Telenor signs a contract with USF for High Speed #Internet For Underserved Area in #Pakistan. Contract worth Rs. 588 Million will add #broadband coverage to 500 mauzas in #Sanghar (#Sindh) to serve an area 12,000 sq. km and benefit 1.47 million people. https://www.phoneworld.com.pk/usf-awards-contract-to-telenor-to-provide-broadband/

Federal Minister IT& Telecom, Syed Amin ul Haque inaugurated the Next Generation Broadband for Sustainable Development project in Sanghar (Districts of Sanghar and Umerkot) at a ceremony held at Ministry of IT & Telecom on Thursday. The contract was signed by Haaris Manhood Chaudhry, CEO USF and Irfan Wahab Khan, CEO Telenor Pakistan. Secretary IT, Shoaib Ahmad Siddiqui was also present at the ceremony.

Chief Guest of the ceremony, Syed Amin ul Haque stated that under the vision of Digital Pakistan, the Ministry of IT & Telecom is taking concrete steps to spread the benefits of digitalization to the masses. He said that during the spread of Coronavirus, Ministry of IT & Telecom will keep on making efforts to ensure that broadband connectivity helps us overcome this crisis. He added that the key stakeholders in IT & Telecom sector should work together vigorously to come up with innovative ways for fighting against Covid 19 through technology. He congratulated the teams of USF and Telenor Pakistan and also hoped that they will continue to achieve these milestones in future as well.

While sharing his views at the ceremony, Shoaib Ahmad Siddiqui said that the main objective of USF is to facilitate the masses through broadband technology in the country. He added that during the Corona Virus pandemic, Ministry of IT & Telecom is making sure that broadband connectivity plays an integral part in creating ease for people. He further said that USF projects are already making a huge difference in lives of people and with the new challenging scenario during the spread of Corona virus, these projects have become more crucial for socio-economic benefit.

Also speaking at the ceremony, Haaris Mahmood Chaudhry, CEO USF informed that Federal Minister, Syed Amin ul Haque, Secretary IT, Shoaib Ahmad Siddiqui and USF Board of Directors have been giving constant guidance and support to USF for making rapid progress. He also added that all these projects are playing an integral role in enabling people of Pakistan to carry on their activities through broadband technology during the Covid 19 pandemic.

Through the project in Sanghar lot, broadband coverage will be provided in 500 mauzas in Sanghar, covering an approximate unserved area of 12,000 sq. km andbenefitting a population of 1.47 million people.

Sharing his views on the development, Irfan Wahab Khan, CEO Telenor Pakistan said, “We are more committed than ever before to strengthen the pillar of connectivity as part of our purpose of connecting people to what matters most to them. At Telenor Pakistan we are driven to empower the country through enhanced connectivity, creating opportunities and uplifting the lives of millions and stand firm in our commitment to break socio-economic barriers through the use of mobile technology.”
Riaz Haq said…
#Pakistan #COVID 1166 helpline fielding 70,000 calls a day.
Call agents are trained on #coronavirus by Pakistan's National Institute of Health in #Islamabad. #PTI Government's Sehat Tahaffuz helpline is supported by #UNICEF, #WHO and Gates Foundation. https://www.unicef.org/stories/call-1166-covid-19-helpline-centre-pakistan

“How can I help you?” Pause. “Have you travelled out of the country recently?” Pause. “Please stay on the line. I am connecting you to a doctor.”

The young woman reassuring someone on the other end of the line is Sadia Saleem (pictured above), a call agent at the ‘Sehat Tahaffuz (meaning health protection in Urdu) 1166’ helpline centre in Islamabad, Pakistan.

Originally set up for parents and caregivers to get support and information about polio and other vaccines supported by UNICEF and partners, the helpline is now being inundated with tens of thousands of calls every day about the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

As part of its emergency response to the COVID-19 outbreak, the government has expanded the centre to help people get information on how to stay safe and connect them to a doctor when required.


“I received a phone call from a 75-year-old man this morning. He was so scared and confused because of the coronavirus situation. He asked if sunbathing could help him stay protected from the virus,” said Sadia. [It can't.] “I explained to him the symptoms of the virus and the preventive measures. He seemed relieved and thanked me.”

Sadia is one of 250 call agents currently staffing the helpline which operates in shifts, from 8:00 am to midnight every day, seven days a week.

More than 80 per cent of calls received every day at the helpline are related to basic information on COVID-19, such as symptoms.

“I’ve been working for the 1166 helpline since its inception. It’s stressful work, but I feel proud that I’m serving the people during this challenging time,” said Sadia. “In addition to receiving reliable information such as the symptoms of coronavirus and the contact information for the testing facility, I think most people feel some comfort just speaking with someone from the health system.”

“Initially, we were receiving about 1,000 calls a day. During the National Polio Immunization Campaign in February 2020 for example, people were calling to report missed children, clarify doubts about vaccines and lodge complaints when health and vaccine services were not working,” said Huma Shaukat, a Helpline Liaison Officer.

However, since the outbreak of COVID-19, the amount of calls has increased dramatically, to about 50,000 to 70,000 calls a day.

The number of calls grew to such an extent that the government stepped in to assign additional resources. The Prime Minister’s Office extended support to recruit an additional 165 agents and the National Institute of Health assigned 10 more doctors to the technical team.

Dr. Rabia Basri is one of the doctors working at the helpline. “Every day I receive about 40 calls, some last as long as 20 minutes,” said Dr. Rabia. “These are difficult times for everyone. I often advise people about personal hygiene and physical distancing, and if they are having symptoms, help connect them with a hospital for the coronavirus test and further medical support.”

At the helpline centre, television screens mounted on the wall display real-time information about incoming calls and graph representing the number of calls.

All call agents undergo a comprehensive training on COVID-19 by the National Institute of Health where they learn about the virus. These trainings are then followed by sessions on the helpline technology and interpersonal communication.

“The training and commitment of the call agents are very important. Otherwise the helpline will not work,” said Huma.

Many precautions are in place to make it a healthy work environment for agents and prevent the spread of COVID-19 – including checking individual temperatures at the entrance of the helpline building, providing masks to all agents and ensuring a supply of hand sanitizer.

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