Pakistan has one of the lowest internet speeds in the world, while a huge chunk of the population still lacks access to the internet, said a new report on the digital landscape and human rights in the country on Monday.
The report prepared by Bytes for All, Pakistan, a prominent digital rights organisation, stated that while Pakistan has made some gains in terms of internet access and overall governance, there was still a lot more to be desired as the country remained among the worst performers, even within Asia.
Despite increased internet penetration, around 15 per cent of the population has no access to internet and telecom services, while the rest suffers through slow speeds and erratic service, said the report titled ‘Internet Landscape Report 2022’
As of December 2022, Ookla’s Speedtest Global Index saw Pakistan ranked 118 out of 141 countries in terms of mobile internet speed, and 150 out of 178 countries for fixed broadband speed, with an average speed of 10.15-15.5Mbps, according to a press release.
Around 15pc people still lack broadband access; cybercrime rises, net banking sees boom
The gender gap in terms of mobile ownership also widened in Pakistan with just half of women owning a mobile phone, as compared to over 75pc men.
Cybercrime, blasphemy, disinformation
The report also stated that cybercrime was on the rise with over 100,000 complaints registered by December 2022, marking the highest number in the last five years.
Women continue to make up the majority of victims facing harassment and blackmail online.
“The online environment remains perilous, with the threat of blasphemy allegations, online campaigning, mob organising, and subsequent violence, including lynching,” according to the report.
No meaningful action was taken by the authorities over cases originating from accusations in the digital space, it added.
The report stated over 0.3m cybercrime complaints were registered between 2020 and 2022, but only 124 people were convicted, as per the interior ministry data.
Meanwhile, the state continued with its alleged attempts to muzzle criticism and control online spaces, including filing cases against journalists, activists and political opponents “for expressing unfavourable views on social media”.
“Attempts were also made to pass stricter defamation laws to suppress dissent,” the report added.
Internet banking boom
The local e-commerce and fintech sectors experienced negative trends due to the global economic downturn and Pakistan’s crises, the report said, adding that funding for startups significantly declined in the second half of 2022.
Despite the decline in funding, Pakistan’s startups managed to secure $348 million in funds.
On the other hand, internet banking transactions witnessed a steep rise of 51.7pc in 2022, as internet banking users increased by almost 60pc to 3.1 million.
The State Bank’s move to issue a licensing framework for digital banks will further accelerate the progress towards digital banking, the report said. The report also featured analysis from IT and Telecommunication Minister Syed Aminul Haq; Bytes for All, Pakistan Senior Program Manager Haroon Baloch and other stakeholders.