Defined as the propulsion of global connectivity and mobile internet adoption in these parts, digital inclusion has the potential to bring forth broad economic and social benefits by raking in communication services in previously unchartered territories in Asia. What this spells out, is a significant reduction in poverty, upgrades in infrastructure and services, heightened awareness of the globe and marked increase in internet access and its usage.
Digital inclusion, of course, is the solution to the purported widening of the digital divide, where barriers are being looked at to be torn down and to ensnare communities that are at great risk of falling further behind.
“Mobile is dramatically changing everything: Mobile phones aren’t just a more convenient way to access the internet; they’re changing people’s fundamental connected behaviour. The agency advises that “success tomorrow won’t just be about a mobile web presence, but about optimizing your entire organization for a mobile-centric world.” – We Are Social, Campaign Asia-Pacific.
Amongst the biggest barriers in mobile internet adoption is the lack of awareness coupled with accompanying relevant content. China, though, has a stockpile of success stories when it comes to internet success stories: Baidu, Alibaba, WeChat, QQ, and Taobao.
Besides the difficulty in repurposing content that finds their origins in alphabets, Asia is home to languages that are built on characters, which poses a unique set of challenges i.e. technicalities in producing content, inputting/indexing content, and the use of diacritics.
On top of which, most of the content now available in Asia have a thematic focus on entertainment, which is dangerous for misperceptions that could arise amongst the nascent internet user. The internet as we know it, was definitely driven into existence for productivity.
Home to some of the poorest people on Earth, Asian markets have been known to uphold pretty cheap voice and data tariffs, with some countries (India, Indonesia, and Vietnam etc) citing affordability as the second largest barrier to mobile adoption. With less than a fifth of the Asian population surviving on less than $2 a day, and just over half surviving on a dollar more, the recent announcement of a $3 smartphone in India, called the ’Ringing Bells Freedom 251’, is cause for celebration.
Because the region is fast developing, money is pouring in into sectors like mobile healthcare, which is apparently growing at a rate of 80% year on year. Applications like remote patient monitoring, mobile nursing, mobile medical records access, access to free mobile healthcare information are all constituents to the cementing of Asia Pacific as the prime testing ground for mobile healthcare. Health, after all, is wealth.
In countries like the Philippines and Thailand, the presence of skills and knowledge was a particular barrier for its people not stepping over the digital threshold. In order for these underprivileged to acquire the real value of the Internet and the necessary digital skills with it, ICT needs to be inculcated in school curriculum from as early as primary school. Currently, Philippines sees ICT only being fed to its juniors at tertiary levels, where enrolment rates are, unsurprisingly low at a meagre 36%.
“It is actually not difficult to implement an IT-based education system because most youths are digital natives,” – Ms Chaerany Putri, founder of a youth group in Indonesia, who also referred to data which indicated that about 88 million Indonesians were Internet users, but their primary use for it was social media and messaging, with very little learning in between.
Digital Empowerment will be the fulcrum of global subscriber growth, with half of the numbers being accounted for by the Asia Pacific region, according to the recent GSMA Mobile World Congress that was held in Shangai, China. We are looking at a formidable figure of 3.1 billion by the end of the decade.