Increasing Access To 4G Vital In Bridging Digital Divide, Says Jazz CCO

With Jazz Reaching Close To 70 Million Subscribers, Asif Aziz, Jazz CCO, Talked About How Only Around 29 Million Of Them Were 4G Users.

Making smartphones affordable is the key to shifting current 2G users to 4G, and all stakeholders, including manufacturers, mobile operators, regulators, and fintech providers are required to play their respective roles to ensure more and more people can avail the opportunities offered by mobile broadband. This was the crux of a virtual session hosted by The World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS), featuring panelists from the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority, Jazz, Digit, and Finja.

With Jazz Reaching Close To 70 Million Subscribers, Asif Aziz, CCO At Jazz, Talked About How Only Around 29 Million Of Them Were 4G Users. “That Is Not Good Enough, Because That Really Means That The Bulk Of Pakistan Remains Offline And What I Now See In Our Own Network Is A Huge Digital Divide”. He further discussed the high social gap in internet access between people living in rural and urban areas and the very low percentage of women using the internet. As per a recent report by the Economist Intelligence Unit, Pakistan’s gender gap for internet access is 65pc and the gap for mobile phone ownership is 51pc.

Bringing attention to the still prevalent 2G technology in the country, Asif pointed out device affordability as one of the major reasons why people were not yet ready to shift to 4G. “And so, we’ve taken the lead here and introduced an affordable button phone, which is a smart feature phone with a very simple operating system and some inbuilt apps as well as a touch screen. Its easy-to-use interface will help in 4G adoption among people who lack knowledge of operating smartphones and are more comfortable using 2G button phones.

Asif also raised concerns over the matter of heavy tax charges that individuals have to pay on the purchase of a recharge. “They are first taxed on the top up, and then they are taxed again on their usage and these things become barriers to internet access. About 18 months ago, a reduction in taxes saw the usage increase quite dramatically at that particular time.”

He further added along with relieving customers from excessive taxes charged on airtime or a smartphone, policy interventions should prioritize assembly of 4G compatible smartphones while banning the production and import of 2G-only phones. Telecom industry players believe that Pakistan needs to take radical measures at the policy level, considering that currently, a significant number of users lack access to modern devices and connectivity. A digital revolution is difficult when a large number of people in the country own basic, voice-only handsets, the experts noted.

This news was originally published at Tribune.

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