Education, worldwide, has suffered immensely as a consequence of the pandemic. For developing countries, the problem has been even more widespread. In the case of Pakistan, inadequate infrastructure to improvements needed in the policymaking, academia, and curriculum, challenges exist at all levels.

Pakistan – with its population of over 200 million – has about 22.5 million out-of-school children, a majority of them being girls. The gender parity gap in education here is also broad with more girls being out of schools than boys (32% vs 21%). Pakistan’s literacy rate of 57% lags well behind its regional peers too.

It won’t take an expert to see how girls’ lack of education adversely affects their future earnings. Women, who make up about 39% of the Pakistani labor force, earn only half of what their male counterparts do when they only possess primary education. The figure jumps to 70% with secondary education.

The digital divide is even wider

Unfortunately, access to digital education in Pakistan is still limited to the privileged few. While the public education infrastructure is lagging to accommodate digital means of learning, a majority of affordable private schools are also without the right e-education infrastructure.

This worrying divide was further highlighted during the Covid-19 pandemic. While the virus disrupted life as we knew it, it saw the entire education system scrambling for digitalization. In the race, the underprivileged students and education providers were left behind, showing how unprepared our system is for such a crisis.

If anything, the pandemic showed our education system the way forward as the country moves to the digital era. But knowing where to go without the right tools and resources does the education providers no good as they still need support at all levels to become tech savvy.

Zong’s mission to reduce the digital divide

Much of Pakistan’s ongoing digitalization is ICT-driven, meaning digital devices such as mobile phones and tablets that are connected to mobile broadband are helping create the digital world Pakistan has long envisioned. And being the country’s digitization frontrunner, Zong is taking the lead on digitalizing education.

Having initiated revolutionary steps for the infusion of technology into different aspects of life, Zong is leveraging connectivity and technology to reduce the digital divide in the education sector of Pakistan too. By introducing e-Learning and digital education initiatives, especially for girls, the company is empowering and enabling Pakistanis for a better future.

As part of its sustainability efforts, Zong has partnered with schools and social organizations to promote digital education. The company has also joined forces with vocational centers for girls and women to provide skill development training and introduce them to digital means of learning.

In its latest measure on this front, Zong 4G has joined hands with Punjab Skills Development Fund (PSDF) to launch an online course called ‘How to E-lance’. The course will equip 10,000 youth with the knowledge to become professional freelancers, preparing these young learners to launch online careers on the world’s top two freelancing platforms: Fiverr and Upwork.

All PSDF students are also being provided with Zong 4G’s best-in-class data network and can access it free of cost between 8 AM and 2 PM.

Zong is also collaborating with PSDF to provide smart tablets to PSDF top students, encouraging them to use this platform to the fullest and make their future. This will expand the digital learning outreach and support even more young people, especially women, who face mobility and safety challenges to get digitally connected and establish online careers.

Prior to this, Zong also has established multiple digital labs in schools and girls’ orphanages to promote digital education among spheres that can’t afford to access it by other means. Realizing the severe need to narrow the digital divide in Pakistan, especially in the wake of Covid-19, Zong stays committed to promoting digital education and having a positive impact on the country’s education indicators.