Two years ago, when the coronavirus pandemic triggered targeted lockdowns and changed life as we knew it, we were forced to think about out-of-the-box solutions. Large gatherings were restricted overnight, and personal business operations were also affected. With no other option available, companies encouraged their employees to work from home and the remote lifestyle was quickly embraced by businesses of all sizes, educational institutions, etc. However, remote work was made possible only by internet connections.
According to the 2022 Inclusive Internet Index, Pakistan is at the bottom of a group of 22 Asian countries. In the two categories “Availability” and “Relevance”, Pakistan ranks last in Asia. Our strongest performance is in the affordability sector, which is primarily driven by a dynamic and competitive environment driven by broadband operator market share.
To say the world is a global village would be an understatement. Climate change diseases and disasters bypass borders and strike whenever and wherever they want. Although it is difficult to fully subdue them, it is possible to hold hands and prevent them from doing heavy damage. No single industry is capable of solving the challenges we face today on its own. Collaboration between business leaders is the need of the hour.
It is time for thought leaders to make greater efforts to engage a wider range of stakeholders in all aspects of life. Always optimistic, I believe we are reaching a point where the increasing influx of young men and women into the workforce and consumer base is increasingly prompting large companies to adopt socially responsible practices. Millennials and Gen Zs are now demanding that companies operate with more climate-friendly policies. That, I believe, is changing itself for the better.
Cell phone networks give women more job opportunities
Long before the advent of technology as we know it, when people didn’t communicate via text messages, social media, or email, they still found ways to connect in times of joy and sorrow. Take the death of Queen Elizabeth II, for example. It has been easier for people to unite in their grief through online connectivity. These are just a few ways people have found using the tools at their disposal. We build on the foundations laid by our elders and pass the torch to tomorrow’s younger leaders to achieve an equally connected society.
The other end of the cellular spectrum suggests that devices impede human communication and distract us from those around us. However, Telenor Asia – Digital Lives Decoded, a recent report on the role of mobile devices in shaping the lives of people in Asia, refutes this notion and suggests that our relationships have in fact improved.
The report argues that mobile phones enable people to experience stronger relationships with one another, spread more awareness, and increase productivity and efficiency.
The report also highlights gender disparities in mobile usage; more women (64 percent) believe mobile devices significantly improve their lives compared to men (52 percent).
This important finding can enrich women’s lives by giving them better access to information, entertainment and equal opportunities. Additionally, women across Asia, including Pakistan, have reported expanded employment opportunities thanks to mobile connectivity.
Seeing young people, especially women, achieve their goals through mobile fuels is my hope for a better connected world beyond the fear-based divisions that are holding us back. The world is becoming mobile and we need to increase our capacities across the board to keep up with the changing times.
It is also a fundamental time for us to understand the carbon footprint of our online habits and make mobile connectivity equally empowering and sustainable for all. We have a responsibility to ask ourselves where the electricity we use comes from and more importantly what can be done to make it eco-friendly.
Being truly connected means creating space for difficult conversations that require the ability to find solutions in a mutually respectful and transparent manner. In today’s hyper-connected world, where it’s easy to feel divided by the abundance of opinions on social media, we can either widen those gaps or find ways to connect more deeply. I choose the latter, and I hope you will too.
The author is CEO of Telenor Pakistan, Chairman of Telenor Microfinance Bank and Past President of Overseas Investors Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
He tweets @IrfanWahabKhan
Published in Dawn, The Business and Finance Weekly, October 3, 2022