Ooredoo, the communications giant operating across markets in the Middle East, North Africa and Southeast Asia, has challenged government and industry leaders to address infrastructure roadblocks to enable the next billion people to connect to the Internet.
Citing a UN Broadband Commission report, Council Lead Partner Ooredoo says some 2.3 billion people around the world now have access to the Internet. But that still leaves a huge number of people -- including a disproportionate amount of women and people in the developing world -- unable to access the life-enriching benefits of the online world. There are over 200 million fewer women online than men globally, underlining the significant disparity in access between men and women.
"We are passionate about bringing the next billion people online," said H.E. Sheikh Abdullah Bin Mohammed Bin Saud Al Thani, Chairman of Ooredoo Group. "However, the vast majority of people around the globe remain disconnected due to the substantial obstacles providers are facing,"
Operators need a level playing field
"While telecom providers are undertaking a great challenge by building infrastructures where none currently exist, these costs are significant and excessive sector-specific taxation is an impediment to growth," he added. "It is important for mobile operators to have a level playing field. As the voice of emerging markets consumers, Ooredoo urges governments and industry peers to become more involved, recognize the benefits they will realize from the networks we are building, and help defray the costs so growth and innovation can continue."
Qatar – where Ooredoo is headquartered in Doha -- has the second highest level of household broadband penetration (96.4%) of any developing country after Korea. However, other Ooredoo markets have a significant way to go. For example, both Tunisia and Iraq currently have less than 50% of the population online. Ooredoo's newest market, Myanmar, had just 1.2% of its population online at the time that the survey was conducted.
New initiatives address the problem
Ooredoo announced a number of major new initiatives at the recent 2014 Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) annual meeting in New York aimed at closing this gap. Among them:
- The Connected Women Program with GSMA and partners will conduct studies to understand the socio-economic benefits of greater inclusion of women in the telecommunications sector. The findings will be used by partners – including Ooredoo – to develop initiatives and services for female consumers and employees. In line with this commitment, Ooredoo recently launched Myanmar's first maternal health information app.
- The She Works program that has Ooredoo joining with the International Finance Corp., a member of the World Bank Group and a Council Advisor, and nine other companies to implement measures to enhance women's employment opportunities -- such as mentorship programs, flexible working arrangements, and leadership training to increase diversity in management.