On 19th August 2022, a two-member delegation of the Alliance for Affordable Internet (A4AI), Washington, USA, visited COMSATS Secretariat. The visiting delegates comprising Ms. Onica Makwakwa, Regional Head of Africa; and Ms. Anju Manga, Regional Head of Asia and Pacific, held a meeting with Mr. Irfan Hayee, Additional Director (Programmes); Mr. Nisar Ahmad, Additional Director (Systems); and Engr. Qaiser Nawab, Assistant Director (Programmes). The meeting was aimed at exploring and breaking grounds for cooperation in areas of mutual interest.
During the meeting, Mr. Hayee acknowledged A4AI’s interest in collaborating with COMSATS and briefed them about COMSATS’ mission, core areas of work, as well as organizational framework. He also shared COMSATS’ programmes and projects over the years that, he added, are benefitting its member states, scientific communities, policy makers and other stakeholders. An overview of COMSATS’ flagship projects and international outreach was also a part of the briefing. Mr. Hayee hoped that COMSATS could benefit from the advocacy activities of A4AI and learn from its programmatic endeavors in Asia, Africa, and Latin America.
Introducing A4AI as a global coalition, Ms. Makwakwa mentioned that it is working to increase Internet affordability and access in low and middle-income countries through policy reforms and regulatory frameworks. As its members, organizations from across the globe actively engage in A4AI’s advocacy, research, and in-country engagements to help achieve the shared goal. In terms of policy advocacy, it was explained that A4AI promotes good regulatory practices, affordable internet, and meaningful connectivity for strengthening rural broadband policy framework, while also providing technical assistance where required.
It was learnt that A4AI has active operations in a number of countries of Asia, Africa and Latin America where it works in close collaboration with national governments for formalizing partnerships through Memoranda of Understanding and building national coalitions involving public, private, and civil society sectors. Ms. Makwakwa also added that A4AI also passes on the benefits of cost-effective service for social and economic development that has practical use for masses.
Being the Regional Head for Africa, Ms. Makwakwa further highlighted Alliance’s activities and achievements in the African region. She noted that with A4AI’s support, Ghanaian multi-stakeholder coalition was formed to strengthen government’s initiatives to help bring affordable Internet across the country and similar model is being emulated to benefit other African countries. She also mentioned that A4AI helped develop ICT policy of Liberia.
The visiting delegation appreciated COMSATS’ endeavors and expressed willingness to build synergy through formalization of an agreement in the future. The meeting concluded on a note of cooperation.
The delegates of A4AI were visiting Islamabad in connection with a workshop on ‘Digital Gender Sensitization’ co-organized by A4AI and Pakistan Telecom Authority (PTA) wherein Engr. Nawab represented COMSATS and shared his views and suggestions for improving participation of women in ICTs as well as overcoming cultural barriers. He also introduced COMSATS Telehealth Programme as a flagship project of COMSATS that is, internalize, empowering women in remote areas through creating employment opportunities.