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In rural Pakistan, connectivity transforms the community of Gokina

(Nov. 2023) So close and yet so far!  As birds fly, the idyllic-looking village of Gokina is located a mere 25 kilometers away from Islamabad, the capital of Pakistan.  But its mountain location makes it seem like a world away. Pakistan is after all home to some of the world’s highest Himalayan peaks. It’s not the easiest country to get around in. 

Until recently, Gokina lacked in basic services. Because it has no doctors, anyone getting sick had to just hope that the ailment would somehow go away. The alternative was to hit the mountain roads and head to the nearest town.  Easier said than done if it's foggy or snowing!  As for schooling, students, especially girls, tended not to reach their full educational potential because of limited access to resources. 


The video Mashal shows how connectivity has transformed Gokina

Connectivity has changed all that. Gokina had the good fortune to be selected as a pilot project under the Smart Villages in Pakistan Initiative which aims to modernize isolated rural communities and drive sustainable digital growth and development.

To implement the project, Huawei worked with the Telecommunication Development Sector of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU-D), the Universal Service Fund (USF) established by the Ministry of Information Technology and Telecommunication of Pakistan, and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

The community of Gokina, isolated until recently despite being a mere 25 kms from Islamabad

A partnership agreement was signed on December 10, 2021. In June 2021, an inauguration ceremony was held for the project and witnessed by the Federal Minister for Information Technology and Telecommunication H.E. Syed Amin Ul-Haque, USF CEO Haaris Mahmood Chaudhary, ITU Area Representative for South East Asia Dr. Ismail Shah, and the CEO of Huawei Pakistan.

The collaboration has yielded tangible, life-changing results. 1000 homes in Gokina can now enjoy broadband connectivity. The Sehat Kahani e-health clinic now fills a big gap in terms of access to medical services. Before, local patients had to travel long distances for medical services and medicines, meaning their conditions could get worse as they travelled. Now, with the e-health clinic available in their community, they are able to consult doctors online and quickly and easily access medical services.

Gokina residents now can receive medical care via remote consultation. 

At the Islamabad Model School for Girls in Gokina, girls can enjoy connectivity and expand their learning opportunities. They are able to take online courses in smart classrooms, studying science and gaining access to brand-new opportunities.

“I am very happy to learn science subjects through the online classes that are now offered due to these smart classrooms,” says Shaiza, a 9th Grade student. “We never had this opportunity in the past.” (Full story here, from ITU.)

The ITU's Connecting Humanity study calls for universal and meaningful connectivity to be achieved, globally, by 2030. There is a clear and urgent need to promote digital connectivity: Three billion people – or half of the world's population over the age of 10 – have never used the Internet. Among these, 12% live in remote rural areas and gender inequality remains an issue. According to ITU estimates, achieving universal and meaningful connectivity by 2030 will require a total investment of US$428 billion to cover infrastructure development, policy and regulation formulation, digital skills and local content development, and access to affordable devices, data, and services. In addition, the ITU estimates that 70% of funds will go to rural and remote areas in low- and middle-income countries.

Better educational resources keep Gokina girls in school for longer.  

Pakistan has a large rural population – 63% of the total – but very poor digital infrastructure. The country's poverty rate sits at twice the global average, while its 3G coverage is 40% lower than the global average. Therefore, the country's top priorities are providing rural connectivity and bridging the digital skills gap. Meanwhile, the main barriers to improved rural digital connectivity and digital development are geographic remoteness and challenges such as low population density, high cost of network deployment, low returns on investment, and low per capita income. The high costs of access devices and data services are also major barriers to broadband connectivity and Internet adoption. In addition, high illiteracy rates, a lack of digital skills and awareness of Internet use, gender inequality, and a number of unfavorable social norms are holding Internet development back.

Huawei staff played a key role in connecting Gokina with 4G

Huawei provided 4G or equivalent-quality broadband access services and Wi-Fi hotspots in public areas of Gokina, supporting digital education programs and telemedicine, accelerating digital literacy, improving digital skills, and promoting self-education.

More information:

  • Press release published in June 2021:
  • Press release published in July 2023: