mobile connectivity in southeast asia

Findings from Malaysia, the Philippines, Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam, and Singapore in work productivity, lack of skills & knowledge, trust in technology and more.

The work landscape today is very different from the one we knew at the end of 2019. Mobile devices, virtual meetings, and digital collaboration tools are enabling employees to spend at least some of their week working away from the office. As we emerge from the pandemic, it is clear that our working lives will not return to the way they were. Gone is the need to work nine-to-five in an office in city centres, replaced by a much more flexible approach to work.

According to part two of Telenor's Asia's digital lives decoded study, eight out of 10 respondents to the survey felt their performance and productivity had somewhat or significantly improved as a result of using mobile technology. Of which, more than half believe personal productivity has increased by 20% or more from pre-pandemic levels. A majority of respondents in the survey still believe that using their mobile devices for work improves quality of life, however in Singapore, only two in 10 feel the improvement is significant – the lowest among all markets surveyed.

This report summarises findings from a survey of 8,227 mobile internet users across eight markets in South and Southeast Asia, including Bangladesh, Indonesia, Malaysia, Pakistan, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam. Respondents were evenly split by gender, ranging in age from 18 years and older, and crossing four generations: Gen Z, Millennials, Gen X, and Baby Boomers.

In addition to performance and productivity, nine out of 10 respondents also thought their careers and skills development have been positively impacted by the use of mobile technology. Moreover, over two-thirds identified greater connectivity as the key feature that has enabled them to enhance their work and work capabilities. A similar number also recognised that mobile devices facilitated better and faster team and customer communication.

Overall, the study shows that there is a high level of appreciation of the positive impact that mobile technology and connectivity have had on work performance and careers at an individual level. 

There were also some significant challenges highlighted, with more than two-thirds believing internal team communication (69%) is a key area in which their employer could improve the use and application of mobile technology. A close second was learning and development (62%), while the third most-often cited area for improvement was HR systems and processes (54%). Such challenges are more acute in large corporate organisations. Respondents from those businesses are more likely to think that their employer needed to improve HR systems and processes while nearly three quarters of all C-suite executives feel internal team communications could be enhanced with mobile technology.

The findings also indicated a need for employers to shift the way they look at building people’s skills. A sizeable number of respondents did not feel they are able to keep up with the pace of change of mobile technology and as a consequence their digital skills are lagging. Indeed, a recent study by regional economists alphabeta found that by 2025 the average worker will need to acquire seven new digital skills to keep pace with technological change. 

"Skill gaps, privacy and security have become serious concerns in every market we surveyed, with those living in cities more likely to say privacy and security is a strong consideration in how they use mobile devices and apps than those residing in rural areas," noted Jørgen C. Arentz Rostrup, Head of Telenor Asia in the study's foreward.

"As mobile connectivity evolves from a nice-to-have to a must-have, the need to understand these gaps is becoming more important to policymakers, businesses, and individuals alike."

Here we break down the survey results by country;


  • Singaporeans are least likely to feel that mobile devices have increased their personal productivity, with only 35% reporting an increase of 20% or more and only 8% reporting an increase of over 50%, significantly lower than the average.
  • Respondents here are also most likely to feel that they are not utilising mobile technologies to their fullest potential in relation to their work (22% versus 10% overall).
  • Singaporeans do not see mobile connectivity as important as their regional peers, with only 48% of respondents in Singapore, compared to 69% overall, saying this is very important to the success of their company.
  • While the majority still believe that using mobile devices for work improves quality of life, in Singapore, only 23% feel the improvement is significant (versus 44% overall). A notable 11% of respondents here say this has reduced or significantly reduced quality of life, compared to an average of 5%.
  • Only 29% of Singaporean respondents expect to significantly increase mobile usage for work in next six to 12 months, the least among all markets and considerably lower than the 45% average.


  • Malaysian respondents are least likely to feel that mobile technology provides opportunities to significantly improve career and skills development (45% compared to a 52% average).
  • In addition, those working in large corporates (51%) in Malaysia are more likely to believe that mobile technology significantly improves their career and skills development than those working in SMEs (35%).
  • They are also among the least likely to feel that mobile technologies create opportunities for new income generating streams (47% versus a 52% average), and new job and career opportunities (43% versus a 50% average).
  • Alongside those in Bangladesh, Malaysian respondents (57%) are most likely to cite a lack of skills and knowledge as barriers to utilising mobile technologies to their full potential in the workplace, compared to 49% overall.
  • Second only to those in Bangladesh, they are also most likely to feel that a lack of trust in technology is preventing them from using mobile technology to the fullest potential at work.


  • Filipinos report significant enhancements in productivity at work stemming from mobile technology – 69% say productivity has improved by over 20%, and 35% feel this has increased by 50% or more, significantly higher than the average.
  • Respondents here are most likely to feel that mobile phones have enhanced their ability to open new income streams (58% versus 52% average) and access new job and career opportunities (64% versus 50% average) – with the highest proportion of female respondents from the Philippines saying this.
  • They also value mobile connectivity, with 82% saying that mobile connectivity is very important to business success (versus 69% average).
  • Respondents in the Philippines are confident about their company’s use of mobile devices and mobile technology capabilities, with only 48%, compared to 62% overall, thinking that their employers are missing out on revenue opportunities because of underdeveloped use or application.


  • Alongside those in Thailand, Indonesian respondents (86%) are most likely to feel that their company is fully utilising mobile devices and mobile technology in the workplace, compared to a 76% average. 
  • Compared to peers, Gen X respondents in Indonesia are most likely (91%) to feel that their company is fully utilising potential use and application of mobile phone and technological capability, compared to the overall average of 74%.
  • Respondents here are also the most likely, alongside those in Philippines (93%), to say that mobile devices' use for work has improved the quality of their life (92% versus 83% overall).
  • Indonesian respondents, and their Vietnamese peers, feel most confident that they are using their mobile device and mobile technologies to their fullest potential, with 90% believing this, compared to an 82% average.
  • More men than women in Indonesia say that mobile connectivity opens new income streams (57% men versus 50% women) and provides access to new job and career opportunities (49% men versus 44% women), a contrast to most of the markets where the trend is reversed.


  • A notably larger proportion of women (61%) than men (39%) in Thailand feel their career and skills development is significantly improved by their mobile device, compared to an overall average of 54% of women and 52% of men.
  • C-suite executives in Thailand (44%) are least likely to report significant benefits in career and skills development stemming from mobile technology (61% C-suite overall).
  • Thai respondents are least concerned about keeping pace (25%) with mobile technology skills, compared to the overall average of 42%.
  • They are also most likely (87%) to say that their company is fully utilising the potential of mobile phones and technologies (versus 76% average).
  • They are the least likely (40%) to cite privacy and security concerns as barriers to utilising mobile technology to their full potential (versus 60% average).
  • Thai respondents are among the most positive about new income streams afforded by mobile devices, with 55% indicating this as compared to the overall 52%.


  • Significantly more women see greater benefits of mobile devices and technology in opening new income streams (58% women versus 39% men) and providing access to new job and career opportunities (55% women versus 33% men).
  • Respondents here are most confident about their level of digital skills, one in five (19%) feel their digital skills are advanced, the highest proportion from the markets surveyed.
  • Despite this, respondents in Vietnam are most keen (94%) to see more training by their employers on skills related to mobile technologies (overall average of 89%).
  • Their demand for training might be attributed to 98% of respondents in Vietnam believing that digital skills will give employees a competitive edge in the workplace in the future, the highest among all markets (95% overall).
  • Vietnamese respondents (72%) are among the most likely to think that their employer is missing out revenue opportunities, compared to overall average of 62%.

Lead image / Telenor Asia

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