Daily Briefs

Photo : Dawn

6 March 2020, Friday

Inclusive Internet Index: Pakistan is South Asia’s least internet inclusive country

PR Daily Brief | Lakshmi V Menon

The ‘Inclusive Internet Index 2020’, produced annually since 2017 by The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) and commissioned by Facebook, ranked Pakistan 76thout of the 100 countries surveyed and 24thout of 26 Asian countries (where one stands for best and 100 for worst); placing it in the final quartile of the “global index overall”. Pakistan ranked lowest in South Asia with Bangladesh ranking 70th, Sri Lanka ranking 56thand India ranking 46th. Sweden topped the index, followed by New Zealand and the US. (Dawn, 5 March 2020) 

The EIU said “Notable among its (Pakistan’s) weaknesses is by far the largest gender gaps in the index, in both mobile and internet access. Low levels of digital literacy and relatively poor network quality are major impediments to internet inclusion.” (Dawn, 5 March 2020)

As per the Executive summary, “the Inclusive Internet Index…seeks to measure the extent to which the Internet is not only accessible and affordable but also relevant to all, allowing usage that enables positive social and economic outcomes at the individual and group level.”
In 2020, the index that covered 100 countries represented 91 per cent of the global population and 96 per cent of the world’s GDP, was published alongside the 2020 Value of Internet Survey. 4,953 respondents from 99 countries across the Americas, Asia-Pacific, Europe, Middle East, North Africa and Sub-Saharan Africa participated in the poll. 2020’s chief focus was on the usage of the Internet to manage finances. Nevertheless, it looked at levels of trust in online material, usage of the Internet to improve employment prospects, purchase of goods and services, and for skill development. The results reflect “Internet inclusion across social and economic domains, revealing trends and exploring how digital divides between and within countries are evolving.” (Inclusive Internet Index 2020: Executive summary)

The index measures four domains – availability, affordability, relevance and readiness – which together reflect a holistic image of internet inclusion. Pakistan fared poorly in all.

Pakistan ranked 86thin the availability domain – measuring “quality and breadth of available infrastructure required for access and levels of Internet usage”; 57thin the affordability domain (relatively better) – measuring “cost of access relative to income and the level of competition in the Internet marketplace”; 64thin the readiness domain – measuring “capacity to access the Internet, including skills, cultural acceptance and supporting policy”; and 71stin the relevance domain – measuring “existence and extent of local-language content and relevant content”.

Facebook reported that 4.1bn people (more than half of the global population) enjoys internet connectivity and over 3.5bn are deprived of internet-related opportunities. Additionally, the social media giant made noteworthy observations – first, mobile data has become a game-changer for lower-income groups; second, although narrowing, a wide gender gap remains (unfavourable to women); third, rate of uptake is lessening in hard-to-access regions; and fourth, that the spread of mobile devices does not promise to play an enabler’s role for world’s poorest women.

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