Women's empowerment and equality in the digital space
Gender equality and the empowerment of women are essential cornerstones of a just and thriving society. Beyond being a fundamental human right, they profoundly impact the modern workplace. Studies emphasise that promoting gender equality yields economic benefits, enhances productivity, and fosters sustainable development.
The Daily Star recently had a conversation with Sajjad Hasib, Chief Marketing Officer at Grameenphone on gender equality, the empowerment of women, and how these factors influence the telecom industry. Key snippets of the conversation are given below.
Grameenphone's journey started around 26 years ago through the Village Phone Program. Looking back, how has the country's largest telecom progressed women empowerment over the years?
Grameenphone embarked on its journey in Bangladesh over 26 years ago with the introduction of our pioneering Village Phone Program (Polli Phone) service. Our first customer was Laili Begum, to whom we delivered the Polli Phone. Since then, the principle of social empowerment has remained an integral component of our overall vision. Right from our inception, we have aimed to foster employment opportunities for women in rural areas through our Polli Phone initiative.
In the contemporary landscape, our trajectory is marked by a dynamic and accelerated pace of advancement. Having transitioned from conventional voice communications to cutting-edge 4G and 5G technologies, we are committed to the empowerment of women. Our efforts are centred around bridging the digital divide and engendering equitable work environments. You will be happy to learn about the thriving state of F-commerce in Bangladesh, which boasts over 300,000 pages. Notably, a majority of 70% is under the stewardship of women. This entrepreneurial cohort operates across diverse geographic regions, giving rise to a robust ecosystem where delivery and logistical services assume importance.
The transformative influence of these women-led enterprises extends to the socioeconomic landscape, significantly amplifying the country's economic growth. By harnessing the potential of technology, these visionary women entrepreneurs are effecting positive societal transformations. Our narrative's focal point persists in the digitalisation of remote pockets within the nation. Through this strategic initiative, Grameenphone remains steadfast in its commitment to empowering female entrepreneurs and propelling their ventures towards fruition and progress.
You have been working for Grameenphone for more than 17 years. Over the period, how have you seen Grameenphone deal with empowerment and equality?
I've been with Grameenphone for more than 17 years. One thing that keeps me motivated here is that we are playing a vital role in the digitalisation of our nation on a daily basis. We're pioneering women's empowerment and gender equality, similar to our journey's beginning.
Grameenphone's transformative journey continues as our efforts to empower women persist. Our gender diversity ratio grew from 11% five years ago to now exceeding 19%. Notably, our female staff operates nationwide, even in remote districts. Recognising societal limitations for working women, we've provided accommodations and transport at district levels, ensuring secure grassroots work environments.
Our commitment extends organisation-wide, with women at all levels, including a dedicated 'Gender Diversity Program' fostering specialised development. We're focused on cultivating female leadership, particularly in the technology sector. Moreover, collaboratively promoting successful women entrepreneurs with other leading organisations is helping us form a healthy network of female leaders throughout Bangladesh.
We have recently heard that Grameenphone is working in 2,000 unions to empower women. Can you tell us a bit about this initiative?
Our initiative, named 'Internet Er Duniya Shobar', aligns with this year's International Women's Day theme, 'DigitALL', which aims to integrate marginalised women into the digital space.
This initiative, operating at the grassroots level, seeks to expedite women's digital inclusion by educating them nationwide, unveiling the boundless potential of the internet. Engaging women from rural and semi-rural areas across 2000 unions, we're facilitating courtyard dialogues to enlighten them about how the internet can improve their lives and unlock new horizons.
These sessions will focus on dispelling taboos and stereotypes surrounding women's technological use, drawing from real-life examples and connecting participants with inspiring women who exemplify the potential and necessity of women's digital integration. In partnership with Plan International, our female colleagues will participate, enhancing the sessions with their insights on safe and beneficial internet usage.
Where does 5G fit in the Smart Bangladesh initiative? What role will it play in shaping the future?
We're actively collaborating with government regulators and technology partners to upgrade our systems. Recently, we secured 60 MHz in the 2600 band for 5G-ready spectrum. In collaboration with the government, we've commenced 5G trials in various districts.
To simplify, 'smart' means everything working together. When devices communicate through the Internet of Things, a smart system forms. 5G enters the picture by reducing delays and handling real-time data incredibly fast. To achieve this, three things are vital. Businesses, customers, and the government need to understand 5G's potential. Moreover, many 5G devices are needed to operate properly. On top of that, the partners are essential to build the 5G infrastructure.
5G is a connected system that needs discussions, support, and enhancements. Though progress will take time, we can invest in high-speed spectrums now, highlight the benefits of this advanced network, and educate people about how 5G can benefit the country.
How is Grameenphone moving towards building a Smart Bangladesh?
Our key role is to ensure connectivity in Smart Bangladesh. We're focused on giving customers, consumers, businesses, and the government the best experience. We're collaborating with partners to make our services easier.
Our MyGP app brings partners together, offering a one-stop solution for customers. We've partnered with the government to provide digital connectivity to 40,000 primary schools, enabling online classes. We're striving to boost national connectivity by providing access, promoting knowledge, and partnering with different groups.
What role can the private, public and development sector play in ensuring women's equality and empowerment?
I believe that we all need to work together to ensure that women are empowered in the workplace. We are trying to encourage women to come forward with their success stories and are using the technological solutions at our disposal to enhance their experience.
We believe that working with different stakeholders will help us as a community to bring easy solutions for empowering women in the workplace. We are working with Meta in a campaign called Boost Up where around 300 small and medium female business owners participated in in-depth discussions and helped them by providing a specific budget on their Facebook accounts to boost their businesses.
How does Grameenphone stand out in this era?
Grameenphone's distinction in this digital age rests on three pillars. Firstly, we uphold compliance, ethics, and national regulations diligently. By doing right and staying ethical, our work becomes smooth as we adhere to the law, which all employees follow.
Secondly, our customers are our driving force. Serving them is our core focus, ensuring swift solutions. Everything we do revolves around customers.
Lastly, our employees are our greatest strength. We continually enhance their skills, progressing from manual processes to full digitalisation. All operations are app-based now. In this digital age, we ensure employees stay updated through global training programs across departments. This is how we stand out in this digital era.
Transcribed by Tanzid Samad Choudhury