February 9, Islamabad: National Rural Support Programme (NRSP) with support from Google.org, Google’s philanthropic arm, launched today the ‘’Internet Dost and Internet Zabardast’’ project in an online event held in connection to Safer Internet Day 2022. With this $475K grant, this project aims to contribute towards a Digitally Literate and Safe Pakistan.

The “Internet Dost and Internet Zabardast” project is poised to train 18,000 rural women from all over Pakistan to use Internet and digital technologies to enhance their quality of lives. In addition, 25,000 schoolchildren (adolescent boys and girls) will be educated regarding the safe and positive use of digital technology and how to be ‘safe internet explorers.’

Speaking during a keynote address speaker for the digital launch, Shafqat Mahmood, Federal Minister for Federal Education and Professional Training, highlighted the importance of technology during the pandemic.

‘’As we embrace online life, we have understood that the Internet is a powerful tool with enormous opportunities for learning, enhancing skills and acquiring new abilities and knowledge, as highlighted during the COVID-19 pandemic,’’ he added. He also reiterated the government’s commitment to bridge the digital divide and provide Internet for all.

CEO NRSP, Rashid Bajwa while introducing the Internet Dost and Internet Zabardast programmes said that despite rapid advancements in internet access in Pakistan, particularly via mobile internet use, which has nearly doubled from 2018-2020, the digital divide between men and women remains stark. Bajwa stressed that while the elimination of the digital divide must be a priority in the nation’s efforts to increase internet access, these efforts must also consider the unique or disproportionate vulnerabilities children and many digitally disadvantaged people may face from the internet.

Farhan Quraishi, Regional Director for Pakistan, Bangladesh and Srilanka added,‘’ We are confident that our initiatives will build a critical role in helping the women and youth of Pakistan not only learn digital skills but also explore the online world with safety and confidence”.

Experts at the digital launch highlighted how governments, development partners, community networks and big tech companies can come together to support women, men and children to gain access and skills so that dividends can be truly reaped for digital technologies.

In his closing remarks, Shoaib Sultan Khan, Chairman NRSP said that a long-term strategy is needed to close the digital divide to address the issue of offline inequalities manifesting themselves online.