Govt to provide telecom, internet services at key tourist spots

ISLAMABAD: The government has decided to provide telecom or internet facilities to key tourist spots in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Gilgit-Baltistan.

According to officials, the Universal Service Fund on Friday approved a ‘special connectivity project’ to provide basic telecom and internet services at tourist spots, including Babusar Top, Saiful Malook Lake and Kumrat Valley.

It may be noted that the IT ministry had earlier forwarded a proposal in this regard to the USF Board on the directives of Prime Minister Imran Khan.

“IT minister Syed Aminul Haque had advised the USF board to launch special projects at key tourist spots,” a ministry insider informed. “Connectivity in the modern era is like any other essential utility required to promote local and international tourism.”

During the meeting on Friday, IT & Telecom Secretary and Universal Service Fund (USF) Board Chairman Shoaib Ahmad Siddiqui noted that the main issue with tourist areas was that the number of users increased significantly during the summer months, whereas the number of resident users remained low.

“The new programme, titled ‘Next Generation Broadband for Sustainable Development Program for Tourist Locations’, will go a long way in the promotion of tourism in the country,” he maintained.

Meanwhile, USF Chief Executive Officer Haaris Mahmood Chaudhary briefed the meeting about the provision of high-speed mobile broadband services in tourist areas including Babusar Top, Lake Saiful Malook and Sharan Forest in Mansehra district, Kumrat Valley in Upper Dir district, Mahodand Lake in Swat district and several areas in Galiyat, Hazara Division.

“The project will not only ensure the provision of ICT services to domestic and foreign tourists, but will also play a significant role in sending timely response to the concerned agencies in case of an emergency,” he added.

The board decided that a team of USF experts, KP tourism department and telecom officials would jointly determine the base price for the auction of IT infrastructure development projects in these areas.

“The main issue with these areas is to determine the highest usage during peak tourist seasons so that investments may be made to meet that requirement,” said a senior official of the IT ministry.

The USF board also approved nine projects worth around Rs8.15 billion for internet services in several unserved and underserved areas of Punjab, Sindh, Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

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Ghulam Abbas
Ghulam Abbas
The writer is a member of the staff at the Islamabad Bureau. He can be reached at [email protected]
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