Online Communities: Broadening virtual space amid coronavirus pandemic

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By Taj Nabi Khan 

ISLAMABAD, Jul 01 (APP):The ongoing outbreak of cross-border pandemic of novel coronavirus has brought about drastic changes in lifestyle of people by confining them to their homes while broadening their virtual space to connect online with a large number of people across the globe. In wake of the disease, the concept of “work-from-home” has got momentum in Pakistan.

However, only an office-like conducive environment for work at residence can help ensure diligence in carrying out the assigned tasks or handling software of online-task-management.

Similarly, the idea of seminars has changed into webinars to connect people online from different parts of the world on one platform.

The change is somehow new in the country which would slowly be absorbed by the people. No doubt, like elsewhere in the world, the digital landscape has also grown tremendously in Pakistan with a population of more than 200 million people.

Similarly, the coronavirus crisis has left people with no option but to connect online. The country which has more than 165 million mobile subscribers, 70 million active internet users and 60 million smart-phone users is learning a great deal about online work.

The digitization and technology hold the promise of progress and prosperity while the utility of the internet during the pandemic has amazed the people for making their tasks possible without mobility through video-meet-ups: google-meet, google-zoom, WeChat , skype and whatsapp to meet online.

The process of rapid digitization during the last two decades or so has transformed almost everything from physical to software-controlled on the face of earth from economy to education, healthcare to market-customers’ relations and government-citizens’ interaction to online-banking.

With increased internet penetration reaching to 70 percent or above in the country, several case studies have made manifestation of the fact that it opened up new possibilities for youth by successfully achieving their ambitions and turning their dreams into reality.

 People often utilize their time on social media websites when they get restricted to their homes and when there is no outdoor activity.

Likewise, people have got enough time to connect online and make virtual socialization while staying safe at home. 

The digital medium is considered cost-effective with a wider reach which comes with many benefits due the facts that people around the globe can easily get access to information anytime and anywhere through multiple devices. Moreover, the digital means of communication are considered quicker, result driven and adaptable.

The incumbent government has taken the initiative to upgrade digital banking infrastructure and ease conditions and exhausting paperwork for digital services such as e-payments, online transactions and the issuance of credit cards, and their use in online stores or in-stores shopping, at petrol pumps, online utility bills payment and university fee payment gateways etc.

According to Pakistan Telecommunication Authority, the number of mobile phone users in Pakistan has crossed 165 million while the provision of 4G/LTE services in remote areas of the country has made significant increase in overall 3G/4G subscribers as the number of 3G and 4G users in Pakistan have crossed 70 million. With an increase of 0.173 million users in just a month, it has become evident that 4G users in Pakistan are increasing at a rapid pace and will soon take over the 3G market after the launch of 5G services.

Talking to APP, Rawalpindi-based Information Technology Expert, Muhammad Tanveer Khan said that the online users of virtual video-meet have exponentially increased in a matter of days due to Covid-19. He said that the video-meet-up has given a great relief to people to connect online from their homes.

These days the international events were taking place virtually which were attended by more people due to easy access to it, he added. The IT expert said that “work-from-home” wherever possible could decrease travelling stress, expenses, fuel consumption and environmental degradation. However, lack of proper working environment and infrastructure such as internet connection, UPS backup etc sometimes affect the overall productivity of the employees.

Majid Khan, an Islamabad based IT expert while talking to the agency said that due to the pandemic, a spike was witnessed in the sale and purchase of smartphones and laptops for online teaching and learning in the country.

He said that people in general and students in particular had learnt a great deal about new software and productive use of android phones and computer technology. “However, it would be very difficult to go back to the normal routine”, he added.