Tuesday September 28, 2021

Covid-19 promotes cyber connectivity in south Punjab

April 28, 2020

MULTAN: "We have started dissemination of class work through WhatsApp to our students in all grades as a solution to closure of schools due to Covid-19 pandemic", Samina Khan, a school head, says.

The school has also developed a YouTube channel where class teachers deliver class work and lectures, she adds. She is heading the first school in a public sector in Multan where the use of cyber connectivity was rare before the coronavirus outbreak. "We are living in a digital era where emotions are dying fast. Though digital tools can perform class work but they lack attachment with teachers. Consequently, these digital tools will produce further digital tools not humans. Humanity is already suffering from scientific inventions. Digital tools without human touch will further aggravate human problems", she adds. However, parents and teachers have reservations frequently using the costly internet and they have asked the government to cut internet charges.

Senior headmasters and teachers serving in public sector schools fear teleschools and digitalisation in education will decline the system. "China had distributed free internet USBs among students before announcing the lockdown as compared to Pakistan where school students are left at the mercy of costly internet companies", they add.

A senior official at Pakistan Telecommunications Company Limited has pointed out that the company has received a sudden rise in online orders of student packages of digital subscriber line. "Corona social distancing has increased reliance on digital tools, information technology, communication through Skype, web-conferencing, WhatsApp and reducing human resource involvement in public affairs", a PTCL official tells The News. A senior physician Dr Imran Rafiq at Rural Health Centre, Mardanpur, is of the view that the corona world order fears to promote multiple waves of illness in the region. However, at the same time it brings a boom in digital connectivity, particularly in rural areas.

The Punjab government has restricted frequent visits of citizens to public offices in respective districts to promote social distancing. The citizens are asked to go online and lodge their complaints related to municipal services instead of physically visiting public offices. All the corona virus suspects admitted to the Multan quarantine centre are provided web and video call facilities to contact their families, officials at deputy commissioner office say. The Nishtar Hospital being the prime health facility in south Punjab has introduced a separate centre of telemedicine round the clock. The citizens are not only seeking advice about coronavirus but also telemedicine is providing consultation including ear, nose and throat (ENT), surgery, ophthalmology (eyes), post gynaecology (mother and child), medicines and other major departments. Talking to The News, Nishtar Medical College Principal Prof Dr Iftikhar Ahmed Khan says, "The telemedicine centre is receiving 500 medical queries via telephones round the clock. The telemedicine trends are developing fastly. We have provided eight consultants and numbers of doctors to attend public queries." The telemedicine centre is established to combat the growing rise in corona cases. Online trends are helping to intact social distancing, he adds.

Online grocery shopping has emerged as the first choice weeks after the corona outbreak and closure of giant super stores and fast food outlets. "Our fast food outlets have witnessed considerable increase in online orders in the last three weeks, particularly in night hours", Muhammad Shoaib said. He runs a popular fast food chain in Gulgasht area. Small and big stores have become deserted because of virus but the online business is rising. "At least 10,000-15,000 customers visit our grocery store in 12 hours, now, there are hardly 2,000-3,000 customers as most of them are placing online orders", says a superstore manager.

According to a report, there are 65.13 million mobile and fixed broadband users in Pakistan in January 2019. However, the ICT experts are expecting more than 50pc increase in broadband users at the end of 2020 following the Covid-19 outbreak.