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Socio-economic advantages : Advance technology to bring a host of benefits.

With the auction of mobile spectrum licences in 3G band on April 23, the country is set to enter a phase of technology boom.

The advance technology will not only benefit consumers, but will also provide the government with an opportunity to set up an e-governance system, a critical step for sustainable development in the country.

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Broadband can enhance provision of education, health and government services by reducing delivery costs and improving service availability, according to Plum Consulting, a specialised firm that offers strategy, policy and regulatory advice on telecoms, online and spectrum issues.

The country already saw a glimpse of effectiveness of e-governance or mobile governance in last year’s general elections. As many as 52 million Pakistanis used the Election Commission of Pakistan’s SMS service to determine the location of their polling stations.

With the arrival of 3G, the opportunities will be unlimited. For instance, the dengue tracking system in Punjab – which relies on the use of Android smartphones to report breeding sites and more efficient reporting of sites – would have been enabled if 3G services were available, the report says.

Health benefits

Mobile broadband can be used to provide healthcare services in rural areas. It can connect patients in remote areas with health workers in big cities to receive free advice 24 hours a day, according to the Plum’s report.

It is estimated that the use of telemedicine delivered by broadband could achieve cost savings of between 10% and 20%, the report says.

Availability of 3G mobile services can enhance the scope of medical applications. In this way, healthcare services can be expanded to visual tele-monitoring and emergency room consultations.

Educational benefits

There are two main educational benefits of mobile broadband, the Plum report says. First, the internet can broaden the scope of education by enhancing remote communications and delivery of teaching material. This will enable students in rural areas with scarce educational resources to access online learning materials via mobile phones or laptops outside the classroom.

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Second, the broadband internet can improve the quality of education by expanding the range of learning opportunities through online services and applications, such as email, discussion boards, live webcasts, podcasts, blogs and customised course management platforms: Blackboard, Moodle and Sakai.

Internet-based startups

The country already has a host of online portals catering to the real estate, automobile, e-commerce (online retail) and food segments. The launch of 3G will only spur the growth of internet-based startups, creating more jobs and resulting in greater need for development of local apps.

In Bangladesh, the e-commerce transactions increased by 50% within three months of the launch of 3G service, according to sources.

Consumer benefits

The advance technology will provide consumers with better quality of voice services due to upgraded mobile networks. Secondly, it will provide high-speed internet on the go.

The arrival of 3G in Pakistan will bring all the benefits of 3G-enabled phones to the consumers, says Country General Manager for Nokia Pakistan and Afghanistan Arif Shafique.

Mobile phone users can feel more empowered while using their smartphones with faster streaming, video calls and other facilities that are part and parcel of 3G-enabled phones, he says.

Published in The Express Tribune, March 24th, 2014.