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The Internet as the great equaliser

Håkon Bruaset Kjøl, Senior Vice-President and Head of Corporate Affairs, Asia, Telenor Group | Oct. 2, 2015
It allows knowledge and opportunity for all, regardless of where people live or what background they are from.

This vendor-written piece has been edited by Executive Networks Media to eliminate product promotion, but readers should note it will likely favour the submitter's approach.

Håkon Bruaset Kjøl, Telenor
Photo: Håkon Bruaset Kjøl

Right now in Myanmar, there is a digital revolution taking place. Every month, hundreds of thousands of people are getting access to telecommunications services for the first time, drastically changing the way they work, learn and interact. Just less than four years ago, virtually nobody had access to the Internet or mobile communications, but within the next five years, 90 percent of the country's population is slated to have coverage.

With changes such as this, we are at a tipping point when it comes to the ability for emerging economies to lead the way into the digital world. This newfound access to the educational, professional and social opportunities brought by the mobile Internet can bring about a sea change in the entrenched socioeconomic gaps faced by many in emerging Asia.

I recently spoke on a panel in Singapore about the need to tackle rising inequality in Asia. The discussion centred around the concern that inequality — whether income or social — seems to be widening in Asia due to the rapid economic growth in the region.

In fact, a report published by the Asia Development Bank (ADB) last year found that Asian inequality as measured by the Gini coefficient rose about 1 percent each year throughout the 1990s and 2000s. The ADB also found that while GDP in Asia Pacific grew at an average rate of 8.2 percent in the 2000s, average living standards did not keep pace.

The ADB cites various factors contributing to this, but highlights unequal access to opportunity as a major element, referring especially to education and health services. In about half of Asia's countries, including India, spending on education is less than 4 percent of GDP. Compare this to an average of 5.2 percent in more developed countries. While these are major issues that governments in this region must tackle, the private sector is also responsible for fostering an inclusive society and driving change as the engine for economic growth.

As a telecommunications provider, Telenor Group believes that the Internet is the great equaliser. It allows knowledge and opportunity for all, regardless of where people live or what background they are from. The impact that access to digital communications has had on people, societies and local communities is immeasurable – it is a matter of continuing to improve access through an unwavering commitment to enabling a digital future for all, not just the few.


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