We supply an enabling platform to information: Telenor Prez Baksaas
Jon Fredrik Baksaas has been President and CEO of Telenor Group since June 2002, He previously worked as the Deputy CEO, CFO and Executive Vice-president with the overall responsibility for Telenor’s networks and communication services in Norway, one of the World’s most advanced countries in ICT usage. During the Education Summit in Oslo, Telenor presented ways that internet could be usual in the learning process.
The Oslo Times Editor-in-Chief, Hatef Mokhtar caught up with Baksaas for an exclusive interview on how technology could be used as a platform to reach out to millions of children in the developing World.
Thank you Mr Baksaas, for being with us today. Very briefly, could you tell us about the conference and the role Telenor is playing at this conference?
The Oslo Education Summit has been very interesting from the Telenor perspective, because the conference itself focuses the need of bringing education for everyone and Telenor’s ambition is providing internet access to everyone.
We say “internet for all” enabling a platform upon which information and knowledge is available and so is technology. Since the number of users of this technology is rising, we can actually bring education to a lot of people who today are facing difficulties getting into both primary and secondary school. We demonstrated this in the Seminar in these couple of days. I have to say we got good feedback from all the participants.
Since you received good feedback from the participants in the Seminar, who are they?
The organizers here have brought together people working in education sectors at different parts of the World. Telenor is present in many countries in Asia where education is on the map. The ministers are here to speak on improving conditions and stress in broadening the perspective of education. The NGOs are here too in finding out the potential technology have in coming up with the ideas to provide education to all.
We neither supply teachers nor curriculum as it comes from the national authorities. But we supply an enabling platform through which people can connect to information. We have demonstrated this by showing an interactive class session with an online school in Bangladesh, where the teacher was in Dhaka and the pupils were sitting in rural areas where there was scarcity of teachers. That was the idea that we wanted to convey to all.
In how many countries are such provisions available till now?
We have this kind of ability in all the areas where we are providing services of this kind and in all our operations. Few years ago in Norway, e-learning was a type of concept before growing into importance in this country. This is now happening in other countries as well, because the connectivity is improving. If more and more people gain access to internet, we will have a platform in the distribution of education.
I would now like to slightly diverge from the topic, there are lots of dictatorial and authoritarian regimes around the World who are using the World-wide-web. And these nations are issuing technology for their own good. Firstly, do you have services in Uzbekistan?
No, this has nothing to do with Telenor. This is VimpelCom, a stock listing company in the US of which Telenor owns 30 per cent. The entry into Uzbekistan back in 2006 is a decision by the VimpelCom board. The general notion is that a high degree of connectivity sheds light into into many aspects of society, positive or negative, which means we need to be aware of the huge possibilities and also take responsibilities for this in the countries where Telenor operates. VimpelCom has to do likewise for them.
I think the big achievement is that Telenor has contributed to build a high level of usage of the mobile platform. From that usage, everyone is getting the opportunity to get on board putting you, me or anyone in the position to do new things. That way, we can roll the concept to education, access to medical information, financial services and create digital participation in the digital colony.
In this regard, there are so many opportunities that can improve people’s lives. We have seen how people’s lives improve when they gain access to information. The network effects in better understanding, wider network, understanding of market mechanisms for your products and services. It all comes from a high degree of connectivity.
What are the biggest challenges in front of you?
There are many challenges but lets be positive, challenges are also opportunities. Authorities’ eagerness to tax our services before we fully penetrate is one challenge. Governments need to strike the balance between taxation and incentives for investments because these are a known term investments that need to be put on the ground, before we get the opportunity to say a country like Pakistan has a full national coverage.
What do Human Rights mean to you?
Human Rights to me means equality to all, gender balance and equal access to opportunities and it earns respect for the individual as well. Human rights is very fundamental to how we operate it is the building blocks upon which the business culture in Telenor is built.
Before we wrap up, is there something else that you would like to share with our global audience?
Just to summarize everything, we want to be known as a customer oriented company that takes care of our customers in the long term and that we are effective and deliver relevant services to our customers in such a way that they receive the full benefit of having access to modern communication services. In some countries we take this for granted, but this necessarily is not the case in most other parts of the World. In Telenor we say “Internet for all” as an expression to bring everyone into this kind of technology.