The Broadband Policy of the GoP was rolled out with the aim of driving PC penetration, Broadband access and ICT services across all population segments and geographic areas of Pakistan. It was also realized that there are vast locations of un-served and underserved areas and populaces where market forces will have to be facilitated in rolling out voice and broadband data services due to lack of viable business cases. The Universal Service Fund framework is hence being devised to ensure availability of ICT and basic telecommunication services to these un-served/underserved populations and geographic areas through competitive offering of CAPEX subsidies.
Setting up of community telecentres offering broadband internet connectivity and access to E-services tailored for rural communities along with voice and other services, is considered to be an important component of the Universal Service Program. Such telecentres have proved to be instrumental in bridging the digital divide and in extension of better economic opportunity to rural populations in several developing countries. The USF policy is particularly designed to be technology neutral and upcoming innovative technologies are foreseen to play a significant part in realizing the objective of ubiquitous availability of a wide array of ICT services.
The USF policy is particularly designed to be technology neutral and upcoming innovative technologies are foreseen to play a significant part in realizing the objective of ubiquitous availability of a wide array of ICT services.
At present, a public-private-partnership model is being considered for implemen-tation in which private sector is involved in providing the basic infrastructure while the public sector would facilitate and support in deployment at the key locations.
Considerations for Effective Sustainable Deployment
Since the key consideration for effective deployment is to guarantee the sustainability of the centers and proper ownership for life to avoid wastage of the resources, the following have to be ensured during execution
- Facilities for deployment at identified districts have to be picked keeping in mind public accessibility, security and central or federal ownership for coherent uniform deployment and to avoid cross departmental coordination issues.
- Ownership of equipment and other resources of the project has to be fixed for continued upkeep and maintenance of the facility and coordinated operations. Replacement and maintenance of equipment to be included in the framework.
- Responsibility has to be fixed on a recognized project partner or other entity for ensuring continual operations with adequate management, manpower and other resources to ensure 12 or 16 hours operations. This could be the organisa-tion in whose facility the telecentres are housed or another project partner.
- Establishing the entitlement of collection of revenues or an appropriate revenue sharing arrangement and model for accounting of revenues etc.
Objectives and target areas
The central aim of these Telecentres is the provision of better governance by delivering government services, low cost telephone connectivity, providing ICT training, basic telemedicine, e-mail, information about farming, weather. It is envisaged that this will help translate into an economic impact on the common man and to make quality of life better.
Through the provision of telecommunication and ICT services being offered through the Information Telecentres under the USF, the following types of benefits are expected:
- Improved education
- Improved health
- Improved communication and social cohesion
- Access to government services
- Access to information
- Access to commercial services
- Access to markets
- Better employment opportunities
Hence, significant improvements in local economy and social well-being are expected as a result of successful establishment and operation of these centres.