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Yasir Azman on How Grameen Phone is Empowering Societies for more Than 25 Years

Our endeavour has always been to facilitate communication, harnessing the power of technology to connect people to what matters most to them.” – YASIR AZMAN, CEO, Grameenphone Ltd

What has been Grameenphone’s approach to supporting communities?

From our first customers – early adopters of mobile technology to today’s tech-savvy digital natives, our endeavour has always been to facilitate communication using the power of
technology to connect people to what matters most to them. To name a few initiatives that are etched in our hearts and bore fruits over the last 25 years, we had ‘Jibon Tori’; a floating medical centre on the boat that travelled around the riverine in Bangladesh, ‘Community Information Centre (CIC)’; a modern information centre across rural areas, and ‘Grameenphone Cricket Academy.

I believe that the medical team who reached out to remote villages to aid people with the power of connectivity still feel the same pulse today as they stand by those in need. To me, responsible business means laying a solid foundation of our core, which is connectivity– by always, without compromise, doing things right. This is our commitment to society through Social Impact initiatives.

What motivated you to work towards creating an inclusive national online safety awareness and curriculum?

With time, as more and more people started harnessing the power of the internet in Bangladesh, we realized that our job does not end with ensuring access to the online space. We must be active in our roles to make online presence safer for a better tomorrow.

The increased internet penetration has multiplied opportunities manifold, but it has also increased the pool of victims for online bullying, scamming and other harmful activities. Therefore, it is commendable how the Government of Bangladesh has enhanced efforts to safeguard our online presence by including initiatives such as online safety in the national curriculum and creating dedicated hotlines to address cybersecurity complaints and various other initiatives.

What steps did Grameenphone take to help communities during the pandemic?

In the face of the Covid-19 pandemic, we have shown resilience as a nation in rapid response and post-pandemic recovery. It was a collective effort from everyone in the ecosystem. We are thankful to our partners, a2i, DGHS, and UNICEF, with whom we served the nation, who helped us utilise BIG data to fight back against the spread of Covid-19. We are also grateful for BRAC’s ‘Dakche Amar Desh’ in 2020, followed by ‘Dakche Abar Desh’ in 2021, which provided support to ultra-poor communities. In 2020, we focused on ensuring even greater support than in previous years to assist the affected citizens.

Grampeenphone considers itself privileged to extend support to the greatest warriors of the pandemic, the medical frontlines. We pivoted to a new operating structure to cater to the increased demand for connectivity solutions even amidst the lockdown. Alongside this, leveraging our key strengths, we identified critical emergency infrastructure, engaged the youth, provided affordable data and voice packages considering the financial constraints, and stood beside business partners who suffered losses due to lockdown. Along with the challenges of Covid- 19, we also saw the woes of the victims of floods and collaborated with the Red Crescent Society of Bangladesh to support them during this crisis.

What do you think will be the role of Grameenphone in our society over the next 50 years?

As a tech service leader and digitalisation partner, we reflect and realize that a lot has been done, but there is still a lot more to do. The world around us is rapidly changing, and in keeping with our dynamic role over the last 25 years, we need to keep up with the evolving surroundings. While we relish our success, it our duty to keep up with the momentum and decide on our fate for the next 50 years as we witness an economic boom, which is being further accelerated by the digital revolution and adaptation. Where we will stand as a country depends significantly on human capital, and Bangladesh is fortunate to currently have a demographic dividend. And what could be a better combination than utilising our tech-savvy future generation and the accelerated ongoing digitalisation to achieve our Vision 2041, which will help us achieve a more important place in the global race? Future-fit capabilities and digitalisation are essential for reaping the benefits of the demographic dividend and sustaining this momentum post LDC graduation. Therefore, we have taken a youth-first approach to facilitate the country in building future-ready leaders, an ecosystem that taps into the potential of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

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