More internet users unlock new challenges


Experts believe that empowering the country’s rural population with access to the internet has ushered in the next stage of the technology cycle – the need for quality content.

A research paper titled ‘Unlocking Digital in Rural Pakistan’, conducted by Google in collaboration with Kantar, shows that almost half of the rural population is now online. This is a big step for a nation of over 210 million people, where almost 60% of the population lives in rural areas and is deprived of some of the most basic necessities. According to the World Bank, for example, 64% of the population living in the country’s rural areas do not have access to safe drinking water.

Google Country Director for Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, Farhan S Qureshi said, “Research shows that approximately 62% of Pakistani Internet users, aged between 18 and 24, watch YouTube once a month or more. The same study also found that 48% of the population living in the rural areas are now online and YouTube was popular among 78% of them.”

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“55% of the content created by Pakistani YouTubers was viewed abroad,” he added.

Speaking to The Express-TribuneNoman Ahmed Said, general manager of Si Global, explained, “The number of Pakistanis surfing the web in recent years has increased and people in the rural areas are also benefiting from the internet, but there is still a lot to be done.”

“Now it could be helpful to encourage people from our rural areas to start their own channels to educate people in areas of their expertise – for example, a farmer who successfully harvests his desired amount of grain can earn additional income by sharing his experiential knowledge with the world. For this, it is important to educate the masses about the benefits of using social media,” he added.

“Although people in Pakistan are increasingly using YouTube, it is important to consider the nature of the content consumed, explained Said, adding that, “Entertainment videos are consumed more easily than productive, educational ones.

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If YouTube can succeed in marketing its videos and platform in a way that motivates these masses, a lot of untapped potential will be realized.”

“YouTube’s algorithm still has a long way to go in terms of quality control. Even though YouTube Kids was created in 2015, and claimed to provide safe content for young children to watch, Bridle (2017) found both human-generated and robot-generated content that used child-friendly characters such as Peppa Pig and Marvel superheroes and placed them in extremely violent and disturbing situations,” he lamented.

“Although YouTube is strengthening its approach to controlling children’s content, with 400 hours of videos uploaded to YouTube every minute, controlling malicious content is proving to be difficult,” said Si Global’s CEO.

Daraz Chief Marketing Officer, Muhammad Ammar Hassan opined that YouTube is one of the most effective advertising platforms on the internet. “With its growing penetration in rural areas especially, it has helped Pakistanis become more e-commerce savvy,” he said.

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“The numbers from our latest 11.11 campaign are a testament to this. About 51% of the orders we received were from outside Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad (KLI), while nearly 40% of our sellers belong to semi-urban areas,” Hassan said.

Director of YouTube Partner Development and Management (APAC), Marc Lefkowitz said, “The number of creators in Pakistan has grown so much over the past few years that there are over 5,400 Pakistani YouTube channels with over 100K subscribers. That’s an increase of 35% over the last year. More than 350 of these channels have over a million subscribers.”

“The platform intends to continue to extend its support to Pakistani creatives so that they can pursue their passions and build careers in a responsible manner,” Lefkowitz added.

Published in The Express Tribune, November 26th2022.

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