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‘Facebook committed to Pakistan’s digital empowerment’

December 11, 2018

LAHORE: Facebook Vice President of Public Policy for the Asia Pacific Region Simon Milner has said the social media platform wants to help create social and economic impact that will empower Pakistan to thrive and embrace today’s digital world.

Facebook recently launched an initiative in Pakistan ‘SheMeansBusiness’ in partnership with the Universal Service Fund of Ministry of Information and Technology and Punjab Information Technology Board (PITB), which allows women to start businesses from home.

Under the programme, 20,000 women entrepreneurs across 150 women empowerment centres in Pakistan would be trained in collaboration with the Universal Service Fund Company (USFCo). “Nadia, one of our SheMeansBusiness partners, has empowered over 150,000 women entrepreneurs in her community who have started an online business using Facebook Pages,” he said.

Milner, currently visiting Pakistan, said in an interview with The News that Facebook would continue to provide a place where people express themselves freely and safely, and help small businesses and developers across Pakistan thrive and grow.

“We launched our blood donation product in Pakistan earlier this year because we want to make safe blood more accessible in Pakistan to all licensed blood banks and hospitals,” Milner informed.

“We have an ongoing partnership with SBTP (Safe Blood Authority) to train blood banks on how to find volunteer donors through Facebook. Since the launch in March this year, more than 1 million donors have signed up for donating blood in Pakistan.”

Further, Facebook partnered with Telenor Pakistan in early 2017 to train students and schools in digital literacy and online safety.

“Our partnership with Idea Croron Ka (ICK) gave community leaders in Pakistan a national platform to share their stories and vision. Each community leader will receive a grant of up to $20,000 (Rs240,000),” Milner said.

Facebook also launched Community Leadership Circles in Pakistan, a global programme that gives community leaders the opportunity to come together to share best practices, participate in trainings and workshops, support one another, and meet in person on an ongoing basis, he added.

According to Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) data, only 29 percent Pakistanis were online. Facebook wanted to bring more people online to address the digital divide in Pakistan, Simon said adding that Facebook was working with telcos partners to help innovate and explore new ways to connect rural communities that don't enjoy 4G and broadband coverage.

Simon said that Facebook also focused on innovation and helping grow the number of tech startups in Pakistan. “Our Facebook Developer Circles has a thriving community of 7,800 developer community members across Islamabad, Lahore, Sahiwal, Gujrat, and Faisalabad,” he added.

These communities come together regularly to collaborate on the latest tools and technology that helps drive innovation and business, the vice president of Public Policy for the Asia Pacific Region concluded.