A recent startup report revealed that despite Pakistan’s alarmingly high mobile phone penetration of 100 million Pakistanis, only 16 per cent of the country uses the internet on a regular basis. That means no Facebook, no Wikipedia, and no video sharing sites; a large portion of Pakistanis haven’t even heard of Google, which can provide answers to certain individuals that even the universe can’t.
That’s where Club Internet enters the picture.
Nestled away in an office in Arfa Technology Park in Lahore, Club Internet aims to teach others how to use a powerful tool that connects individuals to the world while staying in one place – the Internet. Their team comprises Hassan Baig, Fahad Rao, Sophia Pervez, and Shahbaz Ali Khan. Their company is backed by Acumen and Plan 9, the former of which is an incubator focusing on social enterprises around the world.
Club Internet recognises the issue of ‘unconnectedness’ in extremis. In fact, they claim that one out of three people in this world are unconnected and aren’t aware of the great and many benefits of the Internet.
At a recent startup event, Shahbaz Ali Khan, the operations manager of the company, was quoted saying the following: “‘Unconnectendess’ isn’t just limited to Pakistanis with low socioeconomic status. One great travesty of this country is that our senior citizens, on average, aren’t comfortable with using the Internet; be it for paying their bills or shopping online – even for their much needed medicines.”
Recently, Club Internet posted a video on how they guided a lay person to search for Shahrukh Khan’s videos on Google. Through simple and meticulous training, Club Internet managed to bring a smile on that person’s face, and a radiance emanating from him that could further emulate the famous maxim “Knowledge is Power”.
In a CNN report, Hassan Ali Baig, the company’s strategy head, noted, and commended, the high rate of mobile smartphone penetration in the country. That, to him, was a logical first step in teaching people how to use the Internet. He then felt that said individuals had to be explained “why they should use the internet at all”, and how to “get comfortable typing away their queries on relevant sites”. From there on in, users can then be guided on how to interact with others on social networks, and on how to buy the products they desire on relevant e-commerce sites.
Club Internet, then, doesn’t seem like such a far-fetched idea after all. Day by day, we see more and more low-income Pakistanis with affordable smartphones that can enable them to listen in to their favorite radio show, or watch a funny viral video. But, then again, these are sights from urban settings: it is reported that approximately 63% of Pakistanis live in rural areas. The introduction of 3G and 4G internet seeping in has given a company like Club Internet hope and ground to work on. The rest will take time and effort. In due time, every single Pakistani will be able to search for their favorite Bollywood Star on Google, or buy their life saving medicines through Sehat. That level of empowerment, and that level of joy, will then be credited to a pioneer in Digital Education in Pakistan: Club Internet.