A new report by the GSMA underscores the role mobile connectivity is playing in building digital societies across Asia and urges policymakers to support the development of digital ecosystems across the region.
The new GSMA Intelligence report, ‘Advancing Digital Societies in Asia’, was published today at the GSMA-ITU Digital Societies Policy Forum 2016 being held in Bangkok, 27-28 April. The Forum brings together key stakeholders, including governments, operators and industry partners, to work on ensuring that technology and infrastructure is meeting the demands of a digital society.
“Digital policy in Asia plays a crucial role in regional development, both in terms of helping define and promote forward-looking national digitisation agendas, and in supporting a harmonised, cross-border approach to regional issues,” said Alasdair Grant, Head of Asia, GSMA. “With this report, we will be able to work even more closely with our members and regulatory partners to develop and implement policies that support national development objectives.”
The new report focuses on the digital society initiatives underway in seven Asian countries, Australia, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Japan, Pakistan, Singapore and Thailand. As part of this analysis, each market is assessed on its levels of connectivity, digital citizenship, digital lifestyle and digital commerce. These markets are grouped into three categories reflecting the diverse nature of the region:
Emerging digital societies, represented in the report by Bangladesh and Pakistan. In these markets digitisation is primarily a tool for accelerating socioeconomic development and social inclusion. The priority is the provision of essential services in areas such as healthcare, education and financial services.
Transition digital societies, represented by Thailand and Indonesia. Digitisation in this category is focused on the personalisation of services that facilitate engagement between individuals and institutions. There is also a need for digital services to tackle the social, infrastructural and environmental issues that arise as a result of rapid urbanisation.
Advanced digital societies, represented by Australia, Japan and Singapore. Having already achieved ubiquitous network access and capacity, markets in this category are currently focused on developing interconnected and interoperable digital technologies between sectors. These markets are also assuming a regional leadership role in defining standards and best practice in key areas such as the Internet of Things (IoT).
Role of mobile in delivering a Digital Asia
A first step to building a digital society is fostering investment in robust and scalable digital infrastructure. Across Asia, mobile has emerged as the primary form of connectivity for the majority of citizens accessing digital services. Governments are encouraged to adopt policies designed to promote rapid mobile network coverage expansion and service uptake, including an efficient allocation of spectrum.
Globally, more than 3 billion people are accessing the internet using mobile devices and therefore directly benefiting from and contributing to the digital economy. However, more than 4 billion people remain offline, unable to participate in digital services. Overall mobile penetration rates in Asia Pacific continue to lag the global average, as the region contains a number of populous but relatively underpenetrated markets. Bangladesh, India and Pakistan, for example, have a combined population of over 1.6 billion, but an average unique subscriber penetration rate of only 36 per cent. Connecting the still unconnected populations across the region remains one of the major challenges facing both the mobile industry and policy makers over the coming years.
The GSMA’s Digital Societies Policy Forum is dedicated to eliminating barriers to investment around access to spectrum and sector taxation, as well as developing awareness-building campaigns for digital services, which should be easy to use and accessible via multiple channels and languages. Six countries in the region – Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Pakistan and Thailand – are participating in digital society initiatives.