For students in Pakistan’s hilly Gilgit-Baltistan 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 northern Pakistan with a stable internet connection, especially as students attend online classes amidst 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
Tweep @RasheedKamil4 shared a picture of himself 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 times during my quizzes, papers and uploading assignments. SCO failed to provide internet services in GB [Gilgit-Baltistan]. Let other networks work as well. #Internet4GilgitBaltistan”
Similarly, Twitter user @ShehnazYousaf 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, @BerchaAyaz, 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 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.