A Solid and well-rounded education opens up minds and is the basis on which future livelihoods and families are founded. Education also holds the key to helping countries grow and meet their development agendas.
Instead of looking at education from a narrow spectrum and confining it in four walls, a broader vision is required. Parallel to education policy, a road map to spread broadband is also needed, which has taken centre stage as an enabler to education and learning.
As an enabling force for sustainable development, today, broadband internet has taken the centre stage in empowering people with the necessary knowledge, skills and values to lead a fulfilling and productive life.
Broadband Internet’s potential to transform education by extending the learning space beyond the four walls of a classroom needs to be capitalized upon. For the traditional brick-and-mortar schools broadband connectivity is also essential now, providing a variety of learning opportunities beyond the physical limits of school.
With the current accelerated growth in mobile devices, we are already witnessing emergence of flexible, open learning environments which enable real-time, interactive and personalized learning. New technology and communication tools, enabled by a collaborative broadband backbone are gradually blurring the boundaries between formal and non-formal education.
Broadband connectivity unfortunately is still a big deal in Pakistan. In a country of 180 million plus individuals and over 100 million adults, there are only 29.8. Million internet users. Out of a number of operators, only national carrier PTCL serves the rural and semi rural communities through its fixed and wireless broadband.
The signs are clear that a speedy improvement is required. Out of this number the major subscriber base resides in the cities.
One significant factor of having broadband at home depends upon income levels of the people. It must be understood at the rates of broadband rises, more and more middle to low income group’s chance of having broadband internet drops. With the current household income levels hovering at per capita income of only Rs 11,094 low cost broadband penetration is what actually required.
Poor communities are constantly being challenged by their lack of digital competency and there is no even learning landscape available to these communities when broadband penetration is low or is expensive. Rates need to be more realistic if the dream of universal broadband access is to be realized Comparing the overall price scenario, the lowest rates are probably being offered by PTCL which needs to be emulated by other market players as well.
The inequalities in internet access are less significant in the urban areas, but outside the main urban centres the situation is not good. Anyone, who has ever tried to do important work online can understand how not having fast, reliable internet, 24-seven, would hinder your best efforts to advance in work or education.
With a slow connection, it is much harder to participate fully in digital culture, and a society that is increasingly reliant upon digital tools for access to events, services, and greater choice-options in general.
The greatest service that broadband provides is the awareness for disadvantaged communities where teachers and students are able to access online educational material free of cost.
Similarly, it’s the schools where broadband plays an increasingly important role in building a sound foundation for future work skills. Pakistan’s private sector schools may recognize this need more than government schools, but even then they need affordable and seamless broadband connectivity for their computer labs.
Distance learning, cooperative work in virtual environments, online learning communities, and access to vast resources and databases are just some of the possibilities which broadband has offered resulting in improving the state of education and learning, both of which are desperately needed in Pakistan.
It’s imperative to facilitate national services providers like PTCL and other such organizations to expand the scale of broadband reach and to ensure that no one is left without access to digital tools and online literacy opportunities.
To maximally leverage the broadband potential a broad-based approach needs to be followed. Deployment of next-generation networks is essential to provide educational institutes with high-speed connectivity. This is of more significance in remote areas, where traditional methods of education lack behind. With faster speeds, people in remote areas can access real time lectures and education material, which will increase the literacy rate and provide more opportunities to far-flung communities.
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