Rural Internet as Essential Infrastructure
It can be difficult to separate the analysis from the hype when it comes to talking about the internet and how it might contribute to development. Better and easier access to information and certain services could lead to some benefits, yet some claims of how internet access would fundamentally transform human life seem too exaggerated to be useful as a way to set priorities.
Shah Meer Baloch and Zafar Musyani put forward where and how a lack of internet access can actually hurt communities, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. As schools are closed to protect public health, rural students find they can't access remote learning tools, and thus risk falling even further behind their urban peers. It is a reminder that things the upper- and even middle-classes may take for granted do not exist for those outside of the city.
It may not be as flashy as 5G, but providing basic connectivity would go a long way in reducing the inequality between urban and rural/remote communities. Pakistan is not alone: rural connectivity is poor in countries as wide apart as India and the United States. If the internet truly is a basic need, the answer comes through rural cable and public services that can work on cheap devices.