While evaluating our telecom sector's contribution to the overall development of the country, generally we put more emphasis on the way it has brought the digital communication services within the reach of the public. But we tend to overlook the fact that in addition to bringing telephony services in people's hands, the telecom sector has made a remarkable contribution to our growing economy by bringing forth a plethora of employment opportunities that did not exist earlier. According to GSM Association, our telecom sector contributed 6.2 per cent to our GDP in 2015, and it is likely to generate $17billion of economic value by 2020. In the same year, the number of direct and indirect employment opportunities in this sector is expected to reach 8,50,000.
As promising as the telecom sector may seem in terms of employment prospects, there is a growing concern over its dependency on manpower. The reason behind this concern lies in the epoch-changing phenomenon of digitalisation, and the way it has overhauled nearly every industry in the world. As the telecom sector is predominantly technology-based, it is undergoing a profound change due to digitalisation.
There is no denying that digitalisation will bring crucial changes in the fundamental dynamics of the telecom industry, but whether the changes will eventually reduce the necessity of manpower is a subject that requires a thorough analysis.
Before delving into the matter, it is necessary to understand how digitalisation has impacted different industries and in which direction it is likely to lead them in future. Undoubtedly, the most prominent aspect of digitalisation is the scope it provides to different industries for bringing innovations in their functions and approaches. Innovations have always been the driving force behind the development of each and every industry, but the way digitalisation has facilitated innovations by opening up innumerable opportunities is unprecedented.
Leveraging the opportunities, telecom operators are trying to bring a wide range of new digital services with a view to meeting the demands of the digital era. There was a time when the role of telecom operators was confined to providing basic telephony services. But now the scenario has changed dramatically, thanks to the telecom industry's adoption of digitalisation and its commitment to adding more values to customers' lives. Digitalisation has impacted the telecom industry to such an extent that telecom operators from all over the world are now striving to transform into digital service providers.
If telecom operators' transformation into digital service providers is inevitable, the number of digital services provided by them will continue to rise at an ever-increasing rate, and it is likely to drive the gradual expansion of the entire industry. Many telecom operators, especially the ones operating in developed countries, have already launched Internet of Things and Artificial Intelligence based services. If the industry keeps expanding this way, it will undoubtedly require more manpower to cope with its potential growth. For this reason, despite making some occupations obsolete in future, digitalisation will continue to create new employment opportunities.
There is no room for argument against this consequence of digitalisation as this is the reason why it was introduced in the first place. The ultimate purpose of digitalisation is to enhance the functionality of an industry so that it can serve customers in a more significant way. This continuous process will surely impact the workforce by bringing it in tune with the new technologies applied for ensuring better outcomes.
Anticipating the consequences of the ongoing transformation, telecom operators have already started restructuring their human resource operations. For example, a few years back there were no separate digital team and business intelligence team at Banglalink. But due to the growing importance of digital initiatives and business intelligence, we had to form two different teams consisting of skilled professionals, who have become integral parts of our organisation. Separate positions for data scientists have also been created in a bid to turn Banglalink into a more future-ready digital service provider. I believe that the same thing is happening in other industries as well.
The professionals already working in the telecom industry and the future-professionals willing to establish their careers in the industry must realise this fact and prepare themselves accordingly. As the new occupations that are likely to emerge due to digitalisation will require new skill-sets, the professionals working in the industry need to be adaptive, agile and innovative. It goes without saying that an industry, which itself is going through a massive transformation, needs professionals who are prepared to face challenges and explore new opportunities.
Digitalisation is such a dynamic phenomenon that it is nearly impossible to accurately estimate the course it is going to take in future. However, based on the way it has evolved over the years, it can be predicted that despite disrupting the modus operandi of the telecom industry, digitalisation is unlikely to take it to a point where manpower will turn into a secondary necessity. After all, digitalisation is a great enabler – perhaps the greatest enabler the industry has ever witnessed – but intelligence, creativity, foresightedness and other human qualities will always be indispensable when it comes to ensuring its proper utilisation.
Monzula Morshed is the chief human resources and administration officer of Banglalink Digital Communications Ltd.