Internet growth hinges on local content, cheap phones | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, March 09, 2014 / LAST MODIFIED: 01:53 AM, March 08, 2015

Internet growth hinges on local content, cheap phones

Internet growth hinges on local content, cheap phones

Analysts show ways to take internet to all

Bangla-language contents appropriate for the masses and lower prices of internet and smartphones are key to taking the internet to the majority of people, analysts said yesterday.
"We will have to tell people why internet is important and a great equaliser where they can do whatever they want to do," said Munir Hasan, president of Wikimedia Bangladesh.
He called for developing contents in Bangla to drive the growth of internet.
Vivek Sood, chief executive of Grameenphone, said mobile subscribers' education and awareness is important as 85 percent of the people do not know why and how they should use internet. "We have to make internet relevant for them. We also have to make internet affordable."
Their comments came as they joined nearly a dozen industry experts at Sonargaon Hotel in Dhaka to discuss how to take the internet to the masses.
The discussion was part of a campaign launched by Grameenphone and Telenor Group to take internet to half of the population of Bangladesh in three to four years.
With 114 million mobile phone subscribers, Bangladesh is one of the fastest growing markets in the world. The number of internet subscribers is, however, 3.5 crore, according to Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission.
Mobile operators, who are investing billions of dollars to expand networks to offer high speed and quality mobile connectivity, say people, business and society stand to benefit as data connectivity goes mobile.
They say getting Bangladesh's budding entrepreneurs and vast rural population online, and enabling them to take advantage of education, healthcare, financial and e-government services will be a shot in the arm for the economy and a life-changing endeavour for 80 million people.
Vivek Sood said internet would be the driving force for changes Bangladesh would like to see in the next few years.
"It will happen but the point is how we can make it faster. We will have to make it happen for the people living in the bottom of the pyramid."
He said long-term sustainability is also important as investors would have to have the opportunity to monetise.
Håkon Bruaset Kjøl, senior vice president of Telenor Group, said prices of mobile handsets -- both smart and feature phones -- need to go down faster to drive the growth of internet connectivity.
"We have to build infrastructure in villages."
He called for safe internet and suggested active participation of parents in familiarising children with internet.
Sonia Bashir Kabir, chief executive of Dell Bangladesh, said there has to be a paradigm shift in mindset to convince people that they need internet to improve the quality of their lives.
She said the government will have to take the lead to take internet to all the people.
Ahteram Uddin, marketing director of Opera Software for South Asia, said 73 percent mobile phone subscribers are accessing internet through feature phones.
"So, Bangladesh offers immense opportunity to device manufacturers to grow."
"In Bangladesh, we see very complex data plan which is complicated for many end-users. We need to keep it simple."
He said local entrepreneurs would have to think about how they can create content that feature phones can access.
Ahteram said there should be no worries over markets. "The moment we create the right services, the need will fall in place immediately."
He gave the example of online rail ticket purchase in India. "When the service was launched a few years ago, there was confusion whether people would be interested. Now more than 7,000 tickets are purchased through mobile phones in every minute."
Raihan Shamsi, CEO of Accenture Bangladesh, said following the voice revolution in the last one decade, the data revolution has become inevitable.  
He called for building an ecosystem consisting of mobile operators, content developers, regulators and the government.
Shamsi said the existing contents now serve the interests of 20 percent of the population. "There is nothing for the rest 80 percent."
Shameem Ahsan, president of Bangladesh Association of Software and Information Services, said 2014 would be a year of internet for Bangladesh, thanks to 3G services, declining internet prices, cheaper smartphones and growing number of local contents.  
He urged the government to take internet to more than three crore primary and high school students as their access to internet, he said, can double the country's gross national income.  
He said the industry will have to fulfil the basic needs of the bottom of the pyramid by providing services on agriculture, education, healthcare and disaster management.
Ahsan said availability of high-speed internet is a key to taking internet to all.
Sales of smartphones have skyrocketed to three lakh pieces now from 50,000 a year ago, said Mostafa Aminur Rashid, chairman of Symphony.
He said smartphone sales are growing at 200 percent compared to laptops and desktop computers, which are hovering around 15 percent.  
Nesar Maksud Khan, a director of Dhaka Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and MA Mobin Khan, CEO of Ethics Advanced Technology Ltd, also spoke. 

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