A force for good: An alternative view of telecoms players


Telecoms players don’t get a lot of positive press coverage, if we’re honest. With roaming charges and expensive long-term contracts, it can be hard to find anyone prepared to stand up for the telco industry.

I think that needs to change. I have been part of this community for almost 20 years and I am proud of the industry’s contribution to sustainable development all over the world. I think the problem is that we in this industry are struggling to communicate this. We don’t seem to be able to spread the word about all the good initiatives driven by telco different players and their partners.

At the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona this year, this really hit me. In the first keynote session, the presenters were talking about sustainable development and showcasing concrete projects and good progress. It sounded fantastic. But the audience at MWC is mostly the industry.

We still need to reach out to the rest of the world and particularly our customers. I think the industry could gain so much, particularly in trustworthiness, if these good examples were more widely known.

So I urge all of us in the telecoms community to:

Be proud! Stand tall! Get it out there!


Let’s just consider one example. At MWC17, Chairwoman Gunn Wærsted said about Telenor's sustainability focus: “Access is key to #reducedinequalities for the many not the few”.

Almost the whole industry is focused on getting mobile infrastructure to as many as possible, to provide access and connect people. In today’s world, being connected is a key part of being included. The telecoms industry’s commitment to this is part of supporting the United Nation’s Sustainability Development Goals, that is Goal 10, which addresses inequalities among countries, including those related to representation, migration and development assistance.

For example, the initiative Internet.org was started in 2013 by Facebook, with telecoms companies as core members from the start, including Ericsson, Nokia, Mediatek, Opera, Qualcomm and Samsung. The initiative’s goal is to provide affordable internet connections for all, as a vital tool in communicating, accessing information, and working. All connections provide a “FreeBasics” package of internet services considered essential for learning and communicating, plus apps to support health, business start-ups and so on. Examples include Wikipedia, Encyclopedia, Facebook and WhatsApp. The package also includes BabyCenter, which provides vital health information for pregnancy and parenting and SmartBusiness, a South African website that helps people launch and run businesses. The roll out of these networks in undeveloped rural areas is in partnership with several operators by location.

At UNESCO’s 2017 Mobile Learning Week, with the theme of ‘Education in Emergencies and Crises’ the opening speech started:

“Mobile phones have transitioned from novelty items to lifelines. It is our task to find sustainable solutions to leverage this tool.”

Our world now has the highest levels of displacement ever recorded—an estimated 65.3 million people worldwide—which means that being connected is more vital than ever. But it is not just connection that matters. Operators are providing specific services for refuges, such as Vodafone’s Instant Network Schools, which enable young refugees and teachers to access digital educational content and the internet through a kit deployed in Kenyan refugee camps. Turkcell’s ‘Hello Hope’ app supports Syrian refugees by facilitating mobile opportunities to learn Turkish. It includes instant speech translation between Turkish and Arabic and provides information about essential services in Turkey for refugees who are navigating the settlement process.

Communications are vital in the modern world, and telecoms players have a key role to play in making sure people are connected and communicating. These are just a few of the good initiatives being run or supported by the industry. Perhaps the real question is how we can improve the bad press, and make sure word gets out about what is really happening.

So once again I urge all of us in the telecom community to:



About Author

Mari Nilsson Björkman

Senior Advisor

With almost 20 years’ experience in the Telecom space from many different perspectives, I am still intrigued by the fast change this segment is constantly undergoing. Everything that can gain from being connected will be - affecting us all both professional and privately. Right now I am amazed by how applying Analytics on the Data created brings so much value, insights and support in this huge digital transformation we are all participating in. Seeing proof of this almost every day I strongly believe in #analytics4good!

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