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Internet woes: mainstream media highlights GB students’ movement

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Youngsters start #Internet4GilgitBaltistan campaign; pictures of students sitting on mountaintops with books and laptops highlight issue, reports Gulf News

Herald Report

A campaign for digital rights #Internet4GilgitBaltistan, launched by a group of techno-savvy student and social media activists last week continues to attract international media attention. Gulf News on Thursday published a report on the telecom crisis.

However, the telecom service provider and Higher Education Commission have not yet come up with an alternative solution to the problem being faced by about half a million users in Pakistan -administered Gilgit-Baltistan, Azad Jammu and Kashmir, Balochistan, former Tribal agencies of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and rural Sindh and southern Punjab.

The Gulf News in its report said, for students in Gilgit-Baltistan mountainous region, submitting an online assignment quite literally means climbing a mountain because of poor internet connection. Now, a telecommunications crisis in the area has given birth to a youth-led social media campaign — #Internet4GilgitBaltistan

The online protests aim to provide homes in GB with a stable internet connection, especially as students attend online classes amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Netizens are calling on Pakistan’s Higher Education Commission as well as Special Communications Organisation (SCO) that manages telecommunication in the region to provide a solution.

Mountaintops lined with students

Rasheed Kamil has shared his picture with a book and a laptop in a remote valley and wrote: “I have to walk kilometres daily to attend my classes, I faced net issues many a time during my quizzes, papers and uploading assignments. Complaining about the army-run telecom service provider in the region, Kamil says “SCO failed to provide internet services in GB [Gilgit-Baltistan]. Let other networks work as well. #Internet4GilgitBaltistan”

Similarly, Twitter user Shehnaz Yousaf Baig shared a picture of two students studying on a mountain and wrote: “I found them studying here. One of them is Urooj student of Hunza Model School class 7 and another is Haseeba student of AKHSS [Aga Khan Higher Secondary School] Hunza class 9. #Internet4GilgitBaltistan”

Tweep @drmuhdamjad shared a similar picture and wrote: “A vivid example of crisis of internet in Gilgit-Baltistan. #Internet4GilgitBaltistan”

Twitter user Bercha Ayaz highlighted the difficulty students who have to climb mountains for a stable connection face: “Imagine walking these heights for online classes. We are students, not mountaineers. #Internet4GilgitBaltistan”

Official twitter account of an advocacy organisation in Pakistan ‘Digital Rights Foundation’ tweeted about the issue: “’Students across Pakistan have been protesting against the shift to online classrooms, rightly pointing out that as students from less urban centres move back home, they either lack access to high-speed internet or no internet at all.’ #OnlineClasses #Internet4GilgitBaltistan”

It has been reported that students also organised multiple protests on the streets of Gilgit-Baltistan, however, the issue remains unresolved.

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