ISLAMABAD ( STAFF REPORTER )
Federal Secretary Ministry of IT & Telecom Shoaib Ahmad Siddiqui chaired 72nd Board of Directors meeting of Universal Service Fund. Chairman PTA Maj. Gen (R) Amir Azeem Bajwa also attended the meeting through videoconferencing. The Board approved award of contracts to PMTL (Ufone) for Next Generation Broadband for Sustainable Development Projects in Balochistan worth PKR 518 Million in total. The projects comprise Bolan Lot (Kacchi Bolan and Jhal Magsi districts) and Gwadar district. The Hi-speed mobile Broadband services in Bolan lot will benefit an unserved population of around 440,293 people thereby covering 582 unserved mauzas and an approximate unserved area of 11,344 sq. km. Similarly, an unserved population of 2,760 will gain advantage from Hi-speed mobile Broadband services in 09 unserved mauzas of Gwadar district. The Secretary IT, Shoaib Ahmad Siddiqui put lot of emphasis on the evolving need for having access to hi-speed mobile Broadband due to spread of coronavirus to facilitate the people. He said that the connectivity in far-flung areas during the pandemic will enable the people to make use of government facilities. He added that these projects will help the people to seek online medical consultations, will enable the students to take online classes and to run businesses digitally. Moreover, the Federal Secretary stated that the Ministry of IT & Telecom is making every effort to bridge the digital divide under the vision of Digital Pakistan as the economy heavily relies on the hi-speed mobile broadband to minimize the disruption caused by Covid-19. The USF Board also approved the Operational & Programme Budget of USF for FY 20-21. In the next Financial Year, around 4,226 mauzas in 38 districts will be provided mobile broadband benefitting a population of more than 10 Million. In Optic Fiber Programme, around 4,652 kms of optic fiber cable will be laid which will connect 547 unserved Union Councils covering 18 districts. Other board members comprising Shabahat Ali Shah, Executive Director, NITB; Irfan Wahab, CEO-Telenor Pakistan; Imran Akhtar Shah, VP for Government Sales, Super Net Pvt Ltd and Nominee of Data Licensees; Rashid Khan, CEO PTCL and Nominee of Fixed Line Operators; Kaukab Iqbal, Chairman, Consumer Association of Pakistan and Nominee of Consumer Group and management of USF Co. also attended the meeting.