The coronavirus pandemic highlights the central role of the telecommunications industry in connecting people during times of crisis and fostering digital prosperity, writes VEON’s co-CEOs Sergi Herrero and Kaan Terzioglu.
The coronavirus is, first and foremost, a human tragedy that most of us could not have imagined even a few weeks ago.
Some countries are affected more than others, but what is clear is that the world will be struggling for some time. Health systems will be stretched, bankruptcies will rise, business models will be upended, unemployment will increase and work-from-home may well become the norm and not the exception. The longer-term impact on our way of life remains unknown.
The telecommunications industry has a social responsibility to ensure communities all over the world stay connected, to support those in need and, in time, encourage greater digital prosperity.
We are proud of the response from VEON’s employees and indeed those working for many of our competitors. Through free data and minutes for customers stranded abroad, free access to vital health sites and hotlines, reduced rates for doctors and nurses, and waived late fees, among other things, our industry has responded with compassion and care for the community. The telecommunications industry is stepping up at a time when the community needs us most.
As a provider of vital infrastructure we understand that connectivity is crucial and people need access to the best digital services possible. At VEON, we are prepared for the increased demand, to help our customers in every community we serve, particularly those on the frontline such as doctors and nurses, but also delivery drivers, supermarket workers and teachers.
Our industry must also focus – and focus now – on what happens after the coronavirus pandemic subsides. There is a seismic shift in attitudes to digital underway in every corner of the world, from the UK and US through to developing countries like Pakistan, Ukraine and Bangladesh – three of the ten countries where VEON operates. From content to fintech to telemedicine, the world now recognises that digital solutions are the secret to future prosperity.
The telecommunications industry has the customer relationships and the physical infrastructure to enable a rapid shift to digital. As the world eventually recovers, our industry must help governments, small businesses and individuals to capture the enormous opportunities of a digital future. With our help, developing countries have an opportunity to capitalise on new technologies and, in some cases, leapfrog more developed nations. This will in turn help to bridge the digital divide that has opened between developed and developing economies, and help these countries truly reach digital prosperity.
At VEON, we stand ready to respond to help society in whatever way we can to cope with and recover from the coronavirus pandemic, now and in the future.
By Sergi Herrero and Kaan Terzioglu, Co-CEOs of VEON