In the past 25 years, mobile connectivity has exploded in Asia, creating new industries, reshaping media, and transforming how we connect with each other. That growth story is often told through the prism of the region’s largest economies: China, India, Japan, and South Korea. But since the outbreak of COVID-19, we have seen the next wave of mass digital engagement and growth accelerate in markets throughout South and Southeast Asia.
To take stock of fast-changing digital lifestyles in the region, Telenor conducted a survey of over 8,000 people using mobile devices and internet across Bangladesh, Indonesia, Malaysia, Pakistan, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam.
The survey highlighted that they share a common appreciation for the benefits of an “always-on” life. Cutting across different markets and age groups, most respondents are united by a firm belief that connectivity empowers them with more economic opportunity, convenience, and entertainment options. At an interpersonal level, mobile devices enrich relationships and enable us to stay connected, even as the aftershocks of the pandemic continue to disrupt how we interact with one another in various settings across our daily lives.
However, our study also reveals gaps in digital transformation in these markets. Older and rural users find fewer benefits to mobile access than their young, urban counterparts. And skill gaps, privacy and security have become serious concerns in every country we surveyed, with those living in cities more likely to say privacy and security is a strong consideration in how they use mobile devices and apps than those residing in village or rural areas.
As mobile connectivity evolves from a nice-to-have to a must-have, the need to understand these gaps is becoming more important to policymakers, businesses, and individuals alike. Lacking the right skills, awareness, devices, or being off the grid can severely restrict access to education, healthcare, and employment. In tandem, bringing more people online and accelerating digital adoption requires greater energy consumption so there is a need to better understand the carbon footprint of our online habits. Insights from this survey can thus act as a map of where to bridge the widest digital divides.
We believe we have reached a digital inflection point for Asia. This year Telenor celebrates a quarter of a century of operations in Asia. As we look forward, we wish that future to be one where mobile connectivity is empowering and sustainable for all. We hope you too will find that our “Digital Life Decoded” study brings deep insights into building that future together.
Jorgen C. Arentz Rostrup
Head of Telenor Asia