Pakistan ranked 90th among 120 countries in the “Inclusive Internet Index” 2021, released by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), falling into the last quartile of the global index overall. During the past few years, instead of getting the improved position, Pakistan is sliding down and becoming the least internet inclusive country. In 2020, Pakistan had acquired 76th slot out of 100 countries.
In its fifth year, the index covered 120 countries, representing 91pc of the world’s population and 96pc of global GDP. There was a strong competition between Sweden and the US and for the last three years, both these countries are competing with each other for the top slot. The US acquired the second slot this year whereas Sweden came first in terms of the best internet connectivity in South Asia.
Pakistan ranked least internet inclusive country
India came in the list of Top performers by ranking 49, whereas Sri Lanka was at 77, Bangladesh at 82 and Nepal at 83 rank. Sadly, Pakistan not only acquired the lowest slot in South Asia but also lagged behind other regional states, like Iran. which ranked 57th.
According to the report:
“At the 90th place overall, Pakistan ranks in the bottom quartile of the index and second to last in the Asia region.”
It also added:
“The country ranked highest in the Affordability pillar due to improvements in the competitive environment and a decrease in mobile phone costs.”
Pakistan ranked 67th in the “Affordability” category which shows that the cost of access relative to income is affordable. Pakistan ranked low in the “Relevance” category that examines the existence and extent of local language content and relevant content. As far as the “Readiness” category which measures the capacity to access the internet, cultural acceptance, and supporting policy, is concerned, Pakistan ranked 79th.
Another important category ie; “Availability” examined the quality and breadth of available infrastructure required for access and levels of internet usage and Pakistan ranked 97th in this category.
Considering the Prime Minister’s vision of Digital Pakistan, the 90th position of Pakistan as an Internet exclusive country is quite alarming. The overall rank of Pakistan reveals that most of the population still remains unconnected. Mobile data has remained a game-changer for lower-income groups however affordability is still a big question mark. The gender gap in internet access still remains significantly 65% whereas the gender gap to access mobile phones is 51%.
While the technology industry played a significant role in closing the digital divide, innovation in government policy could have an equally significant impact.