Mobile phone use continues to transform lives

While social interactions have been driving the recent surge in mobile phone usage in Bangladesh, work demands will be the push in the coming days, says Telenor Asia Director Jorgen C Arentz Rostrup .

TBS report

October 29, 2022, 3:05 p.m.

Last modification: October 29, 2022, 3:12 PM

Even after an unprecedented pace of digital adoption, mobile data usage has continued to grow, more than doubling in two years of the pandemic, according to Telenor Asia research released last week.

A total of 73% of people in Bangladesh are expected to use mobile internet more in the coming years, Telenor Asia Director Jorgen C Arentz Rostrup said at the release event at a hotel in Dhaka.

The key behind that is the demands of the job, he said, adding that over the past six to 12 months the majority had used it for social interactions instead.

Telenor, the parent company of the country’s largest telecommunications operator, Grameenphone, conducted the study among 8,000 mobile internet users in eight countries in South and Southeast Asia to understand how people interact with mobile phones, their thoughts on digital life and the role of mobile connectivity in the way people live and work.

The other seven countries included are Indonesia, Malaysia, Pakistan, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

In his keynote address, Rostrup, also President of Grameenphone, explained how connectivity provides users with more economic opportunities, everyday convenience and better access to essential services.

“Bangladeshi respondents shared a phenomenal mood of enthusiasm and optimism regarding mobile connectivity and digital services,” he said.

Among respondents in Bangladesh, 91% used their phones for at least half a day, 20% of them constantly, according to the study titled “Digital Lives Decoded” released on the occasion of Telenor Asia’s 25th anniversary.

A total of 31% of users born between the late 1990s and early 2010s, known as Gen Z, said they were never without their phone.

When it comes to digital balance, 71% of Bangladeshis surveyed said they found a good balance.

Mobile connectivity: catalyst for inclusion and quality of life

In Bangladesh, 91% of respondents said mobile connectivity improved the quality of their lives, made it more convenient and easier to be part of the digital economy and also improved their social relationships, Rostrup said.

“People have been enthusiastic about the idea that mobile connectivity will bring better access to essential services – healthcare, finance and education,” Rostrup said, with rural people more grateful.

A remarkable finding was that women were more grateful for the everyday convenience found in a connected life, added Jorgen C Arentz Rostrup.

The study showed that 59% of Bangladeshi female mobile internet users said connectivity had significantly improved their lives, compared to 30% for males. The regional average rates were 63% and 52% respectively.

Digging deeper into the numbers, Telenor found that women had better and more options to generate income (38%) and access essential information and services through digital adoption.

Among women, 48% said connectivity provided better day-to-day decision-making, while 41% of men agreed.

Telenor Asia Director Jorgen C Arentz Rostrup speaks at the unveiling of the ‘Digital Lives Decoded’ report at Banani Seraton last week. Photo: courtesy

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Telenor Asia Director Jorgen C Arentz Rostrup speaks at the unveiling of the ‘Digital Lives Decoded’ report at Banani Seraton last week. Photo: courtesy

“When a woman can connect using mobile, she can earn more, be more efficient, learn new skills, take care of her finances and so on,” Rostrup said.

Among them, 64% find better access to education services thanks to the mobile Internet connection, while 55% think the same for health services.

Bangladeshi respondents (72% female, 67% male) were more confident that mobile devices and mobile technology significantly enhanced their career and skills development, Rostrup said.

In a panel discussion at the report release event, UNDP Deputy Resident Representative in Bangladesh Van Nguyen said that in her country, mobile connectivity in Vietnam has transformed the lives of people in big cities while that the urban-rural divide was closing due to the government’s emphasis on rural connectivity.

Through mobile connectivity, rural women could contribute financially to their families.

“Connectivity is the catalyst for the digital future,” she said.

In the age of fintech, technology is enabling greater financial inclusion.

A total of 94% of respondents in Bangladesh believe that mobile connectivity has increased their access to financial services.

“Inclusion is an increasingly important concept for all of us in our development as societies and human beings,” said Telenor Asia Head Rostrup.

The shrinking digital divide

Apart from including more women, mobile connectivity also bridges the urban-rural divide.

Grameenphone earlier this year demonstrated how rural people in Bangladesh are using mobile technology to take advantage of a digital world.

In March, some IT freelance communities in Madhupur, Tangail were struggling with their slow internet. Grameenphone has brought high-speed Internet to four of these communities, helping them to develop their skills, their businesses and to live well.

“It’s triggered a tremendous economic opportunity that can be triggered by the expansion of mobile usage when people have the right tools and the right knowledge to go with it,” Rostrup said.

“Put simply, technology is removing inequalities. What we do sitting in Dhaka, we are doing in rural areas,” Grameenphone chief executive Yasir Azman told a panel discussion.

The urban-rural gap has narrowed significantly in Vietnam, where 66% of urban rural people have the same spirit to learn and deliver on digital skills, said Dr. Asif Naimur Rashid, Chief Commercial Officer of Grameenphone, who moderated the round table.

The need for increased digital skills

Highlighting some concern, 97% of respondents in Bangladesh expressed concern about keeping pace with changes and technological developments, while the regional average of respondents concerned about developing relevant skills needed was 85%.

In total, 68% of Gen Z and 69% of Gen Y (kids of the early 1980s and mid-1990s) felt the same way.

“It highlights the importance of lifelong learning and investing in digital skills development,” Rostrup said.

In response to this problem, the Grameenphone Academy was born in partnership with CISCO to use digital learning to help young people acquire the skills they need.

For example, Sadmeena Mahreen Promi, a female graduate, who struggled to start her career, before enrolling in the first GP Explorer program, graduated to get a digital marketing position in one of the largest Bangladeshi consumer companies.

From left to right, Grameenphone Commercial Director Dr. Asif Naimur Rashid, UNDP Bangladesh Deputy Resident Representative Van Nguyen, Child Health Research Foundation Director and Scientist Senjuti Saha and GP CEO Yasir Azman , during a panel discussion at a hotel in the city last week. Photo: courtesy

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From left to right, Grameenphone Commercial Director Dr. Asif Naimur Rashid, UNDP Bangladesh Deputy Resident Representative Van Nguyen, Child Health Research Foundation Director and Scientist Senjuti Saha and GP CEO Yasir Azman , during a panel discussion at a hotel in the city last week.  Photo: courtesy

From left to right, Grameenphone Commercial Director Dr. Asif Naimur Rashid, UNDP Bangladesh Deputy Resident Representative Van Nguyen, Child Health Research Foundation Director and Scientist Senjuti Saha and GP CEO Yasir Azman , during a panel discussion at a hotel in the city last week. Photo: courtesy

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