ISLAMABAD: The Universal Service Fund (USF) on Friday signed contracts worth Rs3.72 billion with Ufone to provide mobile broadband internet/3G services in Khuzdar and Chagai areas in Balochistan.

The USF signed an agreement with Ufone in a ceremony at the Ministry of Information Technology and Telecom. A memorandum of understanding between the USF and the National Telecommunication Corporation (NTC) was also signed on the occasion for the establishment of tele-centres, which will provide e-services, distance learning and employment opportunities besides bridging the digital divide in the country.

Finance Minister Ishaq Dar was accompanied by Minister of State for Information Technology and Telecom Anusha Rahman in the ceremony where USF CEO Faisal Sattar signed the contracts with Ufone CEO Rainer Rathgeber.

Speaking on the occasion, Mr Dar said financial and technical inclusion of the deprived and poor areas of Pakistan is the government’s policy. These projects will benefit hundreds of thousands of deserving people in under-developed areas, he said.

Mr Dar noted the government takes initiative for projects that are commercially nonviable with an objective of bringing under-served areas into the mainstream. “The policies of the government led to macroeconomic stability, which resulted in an increase in foreign direct investment in diverse sectors. Because of these policies, Pakistan has become visible on the world map,” he said.

From transportation to telecommunication, new projects are benefiting people in areas that are not viable for commercial projects, the finance minister added.

He also appreciated the NTS for allocating 30 locations for telecom centres. The new locations will be acquired to spread telecom services in far-flung areas of Pakistan, he said.

Speaking on the occasion, Ms Rahman said sustainable development projects will take the state-of-the-art 3G mobile broadband service to far-flung areas at a rapid pace, bringing them on a par with urban areas.

She said these contracts are the result of a policy decision by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif about providing maximum facilitation to remote areas of the country.

A population of 302,048 in Khuzdar and 147,057 in Chagai will benefit from these projects. Around 116 new base transceiver stations (BTS), or cell-phone towers, will also be installed under these contracts.

Published in Dawn, September 10th, 2016

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