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November 9, 2018

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Pakistan’s urban-rural mobile ownership divide set to close soon, study shows

Pakistan’s urban-rural mobile ownership divide set to close soon, study shows

COLOMBO: The mobile ownership gap between Pakistan’s rural and urban population is almost 5 percent as 57 percent of Pakistanis aged 15-65 have a cellular device of some type, an official from a leading regional information and computer technology (ICT) think-tank said.

“The very low smartphones ownership in Pakistan has a strong relevance to low internet usage in the country,” Helani Galpaya, CEO LIRNEasia, said presenting the findings of a study titled “After Access: ICT access and use in Asia and the Global South” at the launching ceremony of its Pakistan section of the report in Colombo.

“However, only two percent (of the population) owns computers, smartphone ownership is low at 22 percent, while 53 percent are still using non-Internet-enabled basic phones, which is the cause of low usage of Internet in the country.”

Galpaya said this was the actual barrier in internet usage growth in Pakistan and Pakistani government should ponder on how to increase smartphone usage in the country.

“Awareness of what Internet is is the most pertinent barrier; device ownership comes next, rural, women, less educated, and the aged are among those lagging behind in internet usage in Pakistan,” she said.

The Colombo-based think-tank has been conducting researches on ICT is actively working in Pakistan since 2006. This year it launched their aforementioned report.

The International Development Research Centre (IDRC), Canada, the Ford Foundation and the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA) supported the think-tank to conduct the research in the region, while in Pakistan, Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS) and Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) supported in conducting the surveys and other technical supports.

No sample frame was publicly available for Pakistan, but the sampling of enumerator areas (EAs) using the base methodology from the national census sample frame was carried out by the PBS in accordance with the requirements of LIRNEasia.

A sample of 2,000 households and individuals were surveyed from 100 census enumerator areas in October-December 2017 in Pakistan. Sampling was based on the 2017 Pakistan national census sample frame.

The Azad Jammu & Kashmir, Federally Administered Tribal Areas, and Gilgit-Baltistan provinces – amounting to approximately 2 percent of the population – were excluded from the sample frame due to practical and security considerations. Raw data collected was then weighted using 2017 national population stats.

According to the findings mobile ownership stands at 57 percent in Pakistan with closed urban-rural gap in mobile ownership of 5 percent but the gender gap between the mobile users persist at 37 percent, while rural women have the lowest level of mobile ownership in the country.

Nevertheless, the gap to own a mobile phone between high and low income groups is only 10 percent as compared to India’s 29 percent, and Bangladesh’s 18 percent.

The report identified that 28 percent of the zero income earners own a mobile phone in Pakistan out of which 58 percent lives in urban areas, 57 percent are women, 85 percent have less than primary or no education and 36 percent are 15-25 years old.

The report stated that 22 percent of Pakistanis are using smartphones, 25 percent feature phones, and 53 percent basic phones. However, only 26 percent Pakistanis cited affordability as a reason for not having/using a smartphone as compared to India’s 33 percent and Bangladesh 46 percent, which points to the relatively wealthier population in Pakistan compared to neighboring countries.

Similarly, only 10 percent Pakistanis responded that they do not know use of it as compared to India’s 11 percent and Bangladesh’s 15 percent. Ratio of keeping more than one SIM card is also low in Pakistan at 22 percent compared to India’s 25 percent and Bangladesh’s 32 percent.

The report finds that only 37 percent Pakistanis are aware of what Internet is. Awareness about internet is low among rural, female, less educated, lower income, basic phone owners, and among older people.

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