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Pakistan among world’s worst performers in internet access in 2022

Pakistan in 2022 remained among the world’s worst performers in terms of internet access and digital governance, according to a report released on Monday.

Titled “Pakistan’s Internet Landscape 2022”, the report was released by Bytes For All — a human rights and advocacy organization — which explores in detail the relationship between human rights and information and communication technologies in Pakistan last year.

“In terms of internet access and overall governance, Pakistan made some gains, but in the context of the world, the country remains among the worst performers, even within just Asia,” according to the report.

It highlights that despite an increase in internet penetration, approximately 15 per cent of the population still lacked access to the internet and mobile or telecom services.

“Add to this a lack of inclusivity and digital literacy, one of the biggest global gender gaps in access and a struggle to stay online due to load-shedding and blackouts brought on by an energy crisis and catastrophic floods, and a dismal picture emerges,” it said.

It pointed out that Pakistan ranked last out of 22 countries in Asia overall, and 79 globally across the key indicators of availability, affordability, relevance and readiness.

Moreover, “a massive gender gap in both internet access and mobile phone access for females was noted as a major issue in the country”.

The Bytes for All report said they highlighted Pakistan’s poor standing in terms of access for females, though noting that the gap had narrowed slightly over time. “In summary, Pakistan had the widest gender gap in mobile ownership of all countries surveyed with just half of women owning a mobile phone, as compared to over 75 per cent of men,” it stated.

The report also highlighted the failure to realise the digital governance potential and said both the federal and provincial governments introduced a number of online initiatives, but the momentum for a ‘Digital Pakistan’ could not make progress.

The report also highlighted the impact of catastrophic floods in the second half of 2022 in this regard, stating that they proved to be “the greatest challenge for the government, with 33 million people affected and extensive damage to infrastructure — including telecom and the internet.

It also concluded that cybercrime in Pakistan saw a steady rise, with over 100,000 complaints registered by December 2022, marking the highest number in the last five years.

It further stated that disinformation proliferated online while the government tried to stifle the online space. Internet banking transactions witnessed a steep rise of 51.7 per cent in the fiscal year 2022, reflecting the growing adoption of digital financial services in Pakistan.

According to the report, internet banking users increased by almost 60 per cent to 3.1 million in 2022. PTI

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