Pakistan (Muhammad Yasir)
“In line with the Government’s Digital Pakistan vision and the UN SDGs, Smart Village Pakistan aims to digitally transform remote and rural communities with Internet connectivity and empower local residents with access to a range of digital services to improve their quality of life and well-being. It gives me great pleasure to announce that Pakistan is the first country to establish a Smart Village in the Asia Pacific region.” – Federal Minister for IT & Telecommunication (MoITT), Syed Amin Ul Haque said while addressing as Chief Guest at the Inauguration ceremony of Gokina Smart Village Project in a local hotel on Wednesday.
This pilot project comes under the umbrella of Smart Villages of Pakistan, a nationwide initiative launched by the MoITT in 2021 together with Universal Service Fund (USF), International Telecommunication Union (ITU) and Huawei.
While applauding the efforts of USF, ITU and Huawei, Federal Minister for MoITT, Syed Amin Ul Haque said, “It is anticipated that the pilot projects and the Smart Pakistan Village initiative as a whole will help overcome key challenges that people in rural areas face such as limited access to healthcare, education, financial, and digital services; lack of employment and income-creation opportunities; digital literacy and gender gaps; and a rural-urban divide exacerbated by uneven technology proliferation. The Smart Village Pakistan Projects will be initiated in all provinces very soon.”
Highlighting the Gokina Smart Village Project details IT Minister said that, three priority areas were identified through the needs assessment study in Gokina, a valley settlement located 21 kilometers away from Islamabad.
- Education– Gokina village has a high school for boys and for girls. However, it was found that there were no science teachers, particularly in girls’ school, which creates hurdles for students in getting benefits both, in terms of learning as well as competing for the future professional opportunities that science subject’s offer at national and international levels. The project has identified an e-education provider (Tele-Taleem) to bridge this gap.
- Health- There is a medical center in the village with limited to no medical services available. The health worker is responsible to provide very basic health advice and services to the community members. It was also highlighted that the biggest challenge in getting access to health services is time consuming as it involves commuting to Islamabad, no emergency services, no doctors and absence of pharmacy etc. The project has identified an e-health provider (Sehat Kahani) to bridge this gap.
- Digital Skills & Entrepreneurship– It was found that there is a clear need and demand for digital skills enhancement & entrepreneurship whereby community members can utilize a hybrid model of digital as well as non-digital tools to become entrepreneurs in the identified areas like fashion, stitching, handicrafts and other home businesses for women; modern agricultural skills, chef skills for local youth, marketing of products and access to finance and market for existing and upcoming businessmen in the communities.
Speaking on the occasion, Chairman NADRA, Tariq Malik said, “After the success of Mobile NADRA vehicle, we are excited to launch the NADRA Motorcycle Services – starting from Gokina Smart Village and shall soon be initiated all over Pakistan – where people will be able to avail all NADRA facilities close to their homes, such as family registration certificate, child registration certificate, etc.,”.
Earlier in his opening remarks, Haaris Mahmood Chaudhary, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of USF said; “Gokina Smart Village project is an exemplary model of how we envision the future of digital inclusivity in Pakistan. Sustainable digital growth is key to accelerating rural development and supporting the socio-economic stability of individuals. The agenda of the USF has been to empower unserved and underserved communities. We look forward to transformative collaborations with our esteemed partners ITU, Huawei, NADRA, and Jazz, as well as service providers TeleTaleem and Sehat Kahani, to have a significant impact on the lives of the peoples.”
Addressing the occasion, Atsuko Okuda, Reginal Director of ITU said, “The Smart Village Pakistan initiative promotes a whole-of-government approach to bring the benefits of digital transformation in sectors such as health, education and agriculture to the rural and remote communities, leaving no one behind and offline”.
While also addressing the occasion, Ahmed Bilal Masud, Deputy CEO of Huawei Technologies Pakistan said, “Huawei continues to progress in Pakistan as a market leader with USF projects in the rural areas through our operators. The challenges that come with digitalization are large, but the opportunity is even larger in Pakistan. Digitalization is essential for competitiveness, representing an incentive to increase the ability to play a more significant role in the international community.”