|Topic:||Reshaping lives through connectivity|
|Title:||President and CEO|
Rashid Khan is the President and CEO of Mobilink, part of the Orascom Telecom Holding, in Pakistan. Prior to this he was the Managing Director and CEO of Banglalink, a cellular operator in Bangladesh. Earlier Mr Khan was the Executive Vice President and Chief Commercial Officer of Mobilink. Mr Khan has extensive experience in telecommunications, IT, and other technologies in both developed and emerging markets. Mr Khan has been associated with various international companies and has been awarded patents in the United States of America for his inventions. Rashid Khan holds a Masters Degree in Electrical Engineering.
In developing countries like Pakistan, mobile phones have brought cutting-edge services and enhanced the speed of communications. Increased accessibility has enabled unprecedented convenience and accelerated social, commercial and industrial activity. In addition to traditional voice and message services, mobile phones will soon provide a wide range of otherwise unavailable services in developing regions. Mobile banking, mCommerce, medical support services, eGovernment, travel and transport arrangements, literacy programmes and social networking are but a few of the services that mobiles will facilitate.
The human race has always sought a wider spectrum of connectivity for more frequent, closer and more economical communications and interaction throughout the global society. This creates and strengthens relationships, enables quicker execution of tasks and coordination among organizations and groups. Today, our society relies increasingly upon machines, electro-mechanical systems and devices, for smooth functioning in daily life. There is a growing need to remotely control, monitor and maintain such equipment. Over the past two decades, rapid developments in connectivity have been made across the globe. With the telecommunications revolution and the reduction in size of the embedded communication chips, communications devices are becoming smaller every day. Microprocessors are connected to numerous networks, linking a wide range of gadgets to centralized communication systems. These networks enable the creation of sophisticated communication facilities and services. What began as a luxury is a commodity today. Billions of cell phones now provide constant and instant connectivity via telecom networks spread around the world. Hi-tech networks establish cross-continental link adding a new dimension to global accessibility. Recent developments suggest that using embedded communication chips connectivity devices will soon shrink almost to invisibility. Soon, everything will be truly connected and interactivity between person and machine will move to the next level. This will enable complete control, care and maintenance of machines and buildings from afar. Highly evolved connectivity is enabling the creation of virtual organizations that can perform myriad tasks with unmatched agility and execute projects with immaculate finesse. Virtual companies can operate globally in a diverse range of businesses through electronically created and transmitted data. The inputs and outputs of a virtual company are the same, but its lean structure enables superior efficiency and proactive functioning, resulting in unmatched value addition. These organizations use a bare minimum of human resources. In the developed world, there are virtual companies managed by a single entrepreneur, alone. The virtual office is another cutting-edge concept based on connectivity and efficiency. In a virtual office, working rooms are not permanently allocated to specific employees. Every workstation is flexible, convertible and well connected allowing any employee from any department to carry out his tasks comfortably. These workstations provide accessibility to the relevant software and electronic files authorised for the employee working on it. Operating in a virtual office environment entails substantial savings on office space and other overhead costs. In developed regions of the world, the third generation of mobile telecommunication (3G) provide wireless download speeds ranging between 3.6Mbps and 7.2Mbps. These 3G networks deliver enhanced information services more efficiently, including wireless accessibility to interactive websites in their original format. Fourth generation (4G) networks are also emerging; they provide even higher speed Internet access on computers as well as cell phone handsets. Technologically advanced countries with extensive cellular penetration and ample demand for cutting-edge services are deploying 4G networks; these will better support mobile commerce ventures, branchless banking, advanced multi-media applications and the like. In developing countries like Pakistan, revolutionary advances in IT/Telecom have enabled the introduction of cutting-edge services and enhanced the speed of communications across the nation. This has enabled unprecedented convenience to speed up the social, commercial and industrial activity, with increased accessibility and reduced distances. The introduction of mobile banking offers great economic advantages for developing countries like Pakistan. According to the State Bank website, only 15 per cent of the population has access to formal bank accounts, whereas telecommunication facilities are being used by over 60 per cent of Pakistan’s population. The cellular operator’ networks are ideally positioned to fill the gap between the unbanked population and access to financial services. Cellular connectivity has enabled the rapid and economical establishment of branchless banking networks in rural areas. Branchless banking is an effective medium for delivering banking services to the remotest villages. This enables the underprivileged population to participate freely in mainstream commercial activity and expands the business community by enhancing market access. In developing countries, the rural-urban migration is always high; millions of rural workers migrate to cities or go abroad in search of better livelihoods. They rely heavily on money-order services or other informal channels to remit their income to their families back home. Conventional money order facilities are reliable, but somewhat inconvenient, and involve a time-consuming process of physical money transfer. Using cellular connectivity, the first Mobile Money Order (MMO) service has already been introduced in Pakistan. MMO enables instant, simple and highly secure transfer of funds to remote locations across the country, as it operates through secret PIN codes and electronic transfer of amounts. Based on mobile connectivity, many types of transactions are available using remote M-Banking facilities. For example, Mobilink Genie enables instant payment of utility bills through secured and convenient applications. Such services have facilitated the lives of many. Business functions, processes and methodologies have seen a total transformation based on mCommerce dynamics. Using mCommerce facilities, tomorrow’s customers, sitting anywhere, will be able to locate, procure and buy any imaginable merchandise or service, within minutes – at any hour. Robust financial institutions ensure the security of mCommerce transactions. Still an emerging phenomenon, branchless banking will generate tremendous benefits for customers dwelling in sub-urban and rural areas. Internet connectivity also enables airline reservations through mobile devices. A whole range of online travel facilitation services help one make quick journey arrangements – book your seats, reschedule your flights or book hotel accommodation – without visiting a travel agent. Subscribers can also receive important news, offers and quick updates on their mobiles to stay informed and alert. Modern cellular networks offer other useful features like conference calling, voice mail, GPRS/Edge and call forwarding facilities. With the increase in number of subscribers, cellular companies have gained economies-of-scale over the past two decades, and the cost of using cellular and Internet connections has gone down. Moreover, innovative uses of technology via mobile phones – such as special services for farmers that deliver farming advice, weather forecasts, commodity prices and market updates etc. – are driving social change. Due to disparity in the incomes and privileges of various population segments in developing nations, a digital divide has formed. Some segments of society use information and communication technology (ICT) to gain fabulous advantages for themselves, whereas, the less privileged population is deprived of the benefits that ICT brings. However, all segments of the next generation are increasingly tech savvy; they will help narrow the digital divide; we foresee well-integrated, technologically aware and robust societies in the developing world. The latest smartphones have converged highly innovative, user-friendly applications and offerings into mobile devices. These include Internet connectivity, push mail services, searches, high-resolution cameras and displays, Bluetooth, WiFi and real-time messengers. With cutting-edge smartphones, users can indulge in social networking on the move. It allows complex task-performance and rapid transmission of data including high quality graphics. The use of telecom technology for medical purposes is also bringing great benefits. In Pakistan, this is in its initial stages but the uptake is increasing. To give an example, cellular connectivity has played an instrumental role in the fight against Polio – a deadly but avoidable disease that remains endemic in only four countries including Pakistan. With the help of SMS messages, broadcasts and short codes that link users to the Polio Control Cell, parents can report children who were not vaccinated during Polio rounds to ensure maximum immunization. In the past year, many parents, especially those residing in high-risk districts have been informed regarding Polio vaccination rounds and the Polio Cell has dispatched teams to thousands of parents who have contacted them through SMS to have their children vaccinated. A literacy-promotion project launched by UNESCO and Mobilink, implemented with the help of a NGO, is using SMS messaging on cell phones as a tool to disseminate educational programmes and boost female literacy in underprivileged areas throughout Pakistan. This innovative initiative offers a mobile phone solution to an important question; mobile phones have become the most desired daily means of communication among the youth population. The project delivers a mobile-based, distance post-literacy programme. Newly literates receive post-literacy materials via SMS messages on their mobile phones, read, and respond to them. The method proves to be far more effective than conventional print-material-based post-literacy programmes in keeping up the literates’ interest in literacy communication. The learners have shown significant improvement in their literacy skills through the SMS literacy program. In the near future, we foresee the scope of these products and services will expand to offer much more value. Public transport companies will issue charge cards to the passengers and fit special card-reader devices on all buses; using ICTs they will then monitor on-the-road automatic ticketing processes. Home, building and premises security are already being raised to the next level with the advent of wireless connected systems, so it is now possible to access an entire security system via a computer or cell phone and view a security camera feed online. There are pros and cons to everything. We must evaluate the features, possible health hazards and potential of misuse posed by innovations. The unintended consequences of a technological breakthrough sometimes far outweigh the positive impact. For communication and connectivity to make a deep, resounding impact, it must be safe, secure and should add true value to life, as we know it.