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Building digital societies in Asia

GSMA Intelligence is today publishing the first in a series of three reports, in collaboration with the GSMA’s Asia regional team, focused on efforts to accelerate the implementation of digital societies in Asia.

A number of countries in the region have articulated, and in some cases legislated, digital society initiatives as part of their medium- to long-term economic development goals. Their aim is to effect the development of scalable solutions that can increase the level of engagement between governments, businesses and citizens, improve service delivery, drive efficiency in resource utilisation, stimulate economic diversification, create new jobs, and increase overall productivity.

The purpose of this report is to analyse and articulate the key enablers in realising the socioeconomic benefits of digitisation, focusing on the proposed plans of six key countries – Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Pakistan and Thailand. Subsequent reports in this series will take a deep dive into specific applications within a digital society, namely smart transportation and digital commerce.

The effective operation of a digital society heavily depends on a set of interdependent enablers;

  1. a critical mass of digitally literate users,
  2. a variety of relevant content and applications,
  3. a robust infrastructure and technology, and
  4. a set of government initiatives that support innovation and investment.

Mobile technology is central to delivering the required connectivity and content for a digital society; wireless networks cover a wide area with greater efficiency than many other technologies, particularly in emerging countries with underdeveloped fixed network infrastructure and low levels of urbanisation. Mobile technology has also evolved considerably over the last decade with the development of high-speed mobile broadband technologies, and the increasing availability and affordability of high specification devices capable of supporting a variety of feature-rich content and value-added services.

This has already led to mobile making a sizeable contribution to the Asia Pacific economy; 4.7% of the region’s GDP in 2014, over half of which (2.7%) was as a result of improved productivity. Looking forward, growth in mobile penetration and usage of mobile services will lead to an even greater increase in productivity, contributing as much as 6% of GDP in the focus markets by 2020. This would complement the wider benefits of digitisation, such as job creation, improved education and healthcare, and an increase in financial inclusion and commerce.

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