Bonton Connect: Helping Bangladesh get one more step closer to achieving SDGs
Bushra Shakil · 5th Jul 2021 · 7 minute read
To be successful in the truest sense, bringing a positive change is necessary. Bonton Connect is on a mission to democratize the internet and has its company goals aligned with Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). By reinventing the distribution of a digital necessity — the internet — Bonton Connect is helping Bangladesh get closer to truly becoming Digital Bangladesh.
Set by the United Nations and adopted by all UN member states, Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are a set of 17 goals that the 193 member countries are aiming to achieve by 2030. Via this global partnership, five pillars of sustainable development - namely, people, planet, prosperity, peace, and partnerships - are to be worked upon. These pillars also reinstate how intertwined the SDG framework is as it has taken into account poverty eradication, improved education, equality, and economic growth all the while being aware of climate change and biodiversity preservation.
SDGs in Focus
The three SDGs in focus are:
#9 Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure - Industrialization needs to be made inclusive and sustainable while also fostering innovation. Only through the inclusion of technology can long-lasting solutions to economic as well as environmental issues can be found. Communication infrastructure needs to be solidified so that no group is excluded from progress.
#10 Reduced Inequalities - Inequality in multiple forms exists within and among countries. It is a pressing problem that needs to be dealt with to ensure a country’s development benefits everyone. Vulnerable communities find themselves in a poverty trap due to their limited resources.
#11 Sustainable Cities and Communities - Rapid urbanization entails its problems. Urban sprawl and a rising number of slum dwellers are leading to a worsening of quality of life. Urban planning is vital to create inclusive and sustainable cities and communities.
What role does Bonton Connect play in the achievement of SDGs?
At its core, Bonton Connect makes internet connection affordable. Using its shared economy platform, users can have unlimited internet access by only paying BDT 5 to BDT 10 daily. To put things into perspective, someone belonging to the bottom 20% of the income distribution has to spend 11.4% of their monthly earnings to purchase 1 GB of mobile data - the medium consumption volume. With 96.5% of internet users depending on cellular networks for the internet, access to the internet being seemingly a luxury is an acute problem.
Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure
Bangladesh does have the infrastructure in place to ensure internet access to the majority of the country - 93% of the population is covered by the 3G network. However, till 2020, only 28% of the population was dependent on mobile data. This is where Bonton Connect steps in with its innovative approach to democratize internet access.
The telecommunication industry is capital intensive and hence, to recoup their high costs, telecoms charge a hefty price. This ends up excluding a significant proportion of the country from being a part of the bigger picture - the industrialization of Bangladesh as its reliance on the manufacturing sector increases. With its peer-to-peer wifi-sharing marketplace, Bonton Connect brings an innovative flair to the archaic telecommunication industry. By making the internet affordable, the industrialization and further development of Bangladesh can be made more inclusive. When more young minds will get to know about the country’s economic and environmental challenges, only then would they be able to propose more inventive solutions.
Due to COVID-19, the number of internet users soared to 112.71 million with an internet penetration rate close to 28.8% in January 2021. Mobile internet subscribers stand at 103.19 million, comprising 91.6% of the entire internet user base. The pandemic has substantially increased the reliance on the internet - approximately 16% to 29% more data consumption. Additionally, this being a difficult time for everyone, telecoms have taken multiple short-term measures to improve the affordability of mobile data. The question is, for how long will these discounts continue?
It is highly unlikely that telecoms will continue these discounts for long as they are already facing higher taxes - increased supplementary duty from 10% to 15% - and decreased earnings - an 8.2% fall in revenue along with a 6.5% fall in EBITDA. This further highlights why innovations like Bonton Connect are desperately needed.
Inequality in Bangladesh is increasing which is showcased by the rising Gini Coefficient - from 0.458 in 2010 to 0.482 in 2016. As Bangladesh enjoys further economic development, the gap between the rich and poor will become wider. Moreover, with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the situation will very likely exacerbate.
Hence, steps need to be undertaken to stop the situation from worsening further. Access to the internet brings numerous opportunities to people and hence, is a powerful weapon to eradicate poverty and inequality. Ensuring a uniform quality of education in schools of all the 64 districts is an uphill battle and will likely take decades. Educational technology has significantly improved but there is only one barrier stopping people from reaping its benefits: the internet. If the connection between students in rural areas and edtechs is built, these students can attain education of global standards.
Internet access is a necessity but the heavy price tag on it definitely shows otherwise. Bonton Connect ensures that people are not required to pay a significant portion of their incomes to buy a meager volume of internet. It ensures that something that is vital for prosperity is within the reach of everyone.
Moreover, lack of access to the internet is also causing women to fall behind their male counterparts. In Bangladesh, women are 29% less likely to own a mobile phone and are 52% less likely to use mobile data. A significant proportion of women only use the internet at home which is likely to have a strong linkage with mobile data being expensive. For women empowerment and reduced gender gap, women need to have access to the same amenities as men. While Bonton Connect provides the same solution to everyone, it may seem to be more beneficial to those who are victims of lower wages.
Smartphone prices are rapidly falling and are expected to be in the hands of 138 million users by 2025 - that is, a 75% adoption rate. This coupled with technological advancements like Bonton Connect will ensure that the population of Bangladesh does not fall behind its global peers.
Sustainable Cities and Communities
Cities are the driving force behind economic development and hence, people from rural areas flock to urban areas. This has been causing many problems - from environmental issues to economic ones. The main reason why people come to cities is obvious: in search of better living standards. But many fall victim to urban poverty.
The quality of education, healthcare, and jobs is better in urban areas than in rural areas and this is true for almost all countries in this world. As previously mentioned, if internet access is made within the grasp of everyone, uniformity in quality of education, jobs, and even healthcare can be maintained. Internet brings millions of opportunities to people and due to technological advancements, opportunities are only
Getting a wifi connection in rural areas is simply not feasible for many households but with the help of Bonton Connect, all households would not even require to get it. Internet sharing within communities is made significantly easier with the shared economy system provided by Bonton Connect. It also provides its users a source of income by utilizing their underused resources, adding an economic benefit angle. By decentralizing opportunities and democratizing the internet, Bonton Connect will aid cities to expand at a sustainable pace.
It may not be evident at first sight how vital access to the internet is for the prosperity of a country and its people, but once given some thought, it becomes blatantly obvious what significant changes internet access brings. Bonton Connect does one thing - it makes the internet affordable and hence, accessible.
Bonton Connect has launched its application on Google Play Store currently. You can download the app from here.
The author, Bushra Shakil, is a third-year undergrad student at IBA, University of Dhaka, who is a Shark Tank enthusiast and is aiming to build a career in finance.