Khyber Pakhtunkhwa to provide free internet for students

By Danish Yousafzai


Students of the University of Peshawar use electronic devices in May. [Danish Yousafzai]

PESHAWAR -- An ambitious programme to spread free Wi-Fi to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) universities will ease learning and counter terrorism, officials are saying.

In May, the KP Ministry of Information Technology began working on a project called "KP Open Wi-Fi".

In the first phase, free Wi-Fi will come to the University of Peshawar, KP IT Minister Shahram Khan Tarakai. The second phase calls for expansion of the service to other universities in KP. Finally, educators envision bringing free Wi-Fi to the province's remaining schools.

"Students will use this service free of charge," Tarakai said.

He has ordered the KP Information Technology Board (KPITB) to draw up a plan to implement Wi-Fi fast, he said.

Meaningful use of IT is "the most effective way to create maximum employment opportunities for youth", Tarakai said, bringing up something -- the spectre of unemployment -- that militants have exploited before to recruit young Pakistanis.

The KPITB is installing wireless internet hubs throughout the University of Peshawar, KPITB Marketing Director Shahnaz Shamsher told Central Asia Online.

Students, lecturers look forward to Wi-Fi access

Students and educators are praising the government's initiative.

"We will be able to search for anything related to our course from our classroom in no time at all," University of Peshawar student Sumbal Ali told Central Asia Online.

Free internet access will help students prepare for exams and to obtain information on academic topics, Ali Imran, a lecturer at the university, told Central Asia Online.

Helping thwart radicalisation

At the same time, free Wi-Fi could come with risks and rewards in a province that has fought terrorism since 2001.

Hina Khan, a student at the University of Peshawar, suggested blocking social media from Wi-Fi on campus.

"Many students use social media like Facebook and Twitter during lectures," she said, referring to students with smartphones who already have paid internet access.

However, other students and educators see unalloyed benefits, rather than dangers, once free Wi-Fi becomes available to college students.

Free Wi-Fi will be "a very good way to engage the students in positive activities, instead of violence and terrorism", Gul Wahab, another lecturer at the university, told Central Asia Online. "[It will] engage the students in positive activities, instead of violence and terrorism."

Giving students free Wi-Fi will enable them to find constructive pursuits on the vast internet rather than misuse idle time to form negative thoughts, Jawad Ali Shah, a student at Abdulwali Khan University in Mardan, told Central Asia Online.

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