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The Internet and productivity

Providing employees with unlimited Internet access, adequate management, and monitoring increases workplace productivity, motivation, and satisfaction.
K. D. Bhardwaj

13 May 2015

That e-mail and the Internet are deemed the most important communication and information tools among online workers was one of the key finding of a survey carried out by the Pew Research Center, Washington, DC, USA. Forty-six percent of respondents felt that the Internet increased their productivity. About 3 billion people, almost half of the world, now use the Internet and the number is growing rapidly every day. More than 48% of all Internet users hail from Asia. Soon all of us will be connected through the World Wide Web and in the very near future exist virtually with a digital presence somewhere.

The Internet has emerged as one of the best, most powerful digital teaching and learning tools. Providing employees with unlimited Internet access, with adequate management and monitoring, increases workplace productivity while keeping them motivated and satisfied The APO has successfully employed this medium in productivity promotion. More than 15,000 have directly benefitted through APO’s e-learning programs since 2006 and tens of thousands more have accessed productivity-related information and technical publications on the APO website free of charge. The APO is developing a Web-based portal to serve as the focal point for liaison officers, participants, experts, and other stakeholders to collaborate, access project information, browse databases, download e-books, and freely participate in self-learning e-courses. Recently, it has also launched a mobile app for the APO productivity database. All of these efforts create synergy by sharing the right information with the right people at a specific time, which is the key to productivity enhancement. The Internet has transformed the way the APO and NPOs promote, strengthen, and sustain the productivity movement in the region as well as in the way capacity-building methodologies and programs are conceived, developed, and executed worldwide for enhancing productivity. The APO is making its best efforts to keep pace with the latest developments.

Unrestricted access to the Internet allows users to find information, browse websites for millions of products/services and their specifications, and download apps for their devices. This makes the Internet unique. In the words of US President Barack Obama, “The Internet is a utility which should be accessible by all and open to everyone.” SMEs, which are vital to the Asian economy, today depend on the Internet to market their products/services, provide customer service, and operate around the world. The same goes for the public sector. As businesses and governments embrace the Internet and web-based applications, they record productivity gains. Investments in ICT provide high returns in terms of GDP growth. Governments should make efforts to ensure that Internet access reaches every corner of the country as soon as possible. This single but significant measure will give a major boost to productivity in all economic sectors.

Based on Internet World Stats, APO members the ROC, Japan, ROK, and Singapore are the leading Internet users in the membership, with 80%, 86%, 92%, and 80% Internet penetration (meaning percentage of the population online), respectively. Other member countries Bangladesh (24.5%), Cambodia (6%), Fiji (37%; World Bank), India (20%), Indonesia (28%), IR Iran (31.4; World Bank), Lao PDR (12.5%), Malaysia (67%), Mongolia (21.5%), Nepal (13.3%), Pakistan (14.8%), the Philippines (41%), Sri Lanka (21.9%), Thailand (29.7%), and Vietnam (43.9%) need to take urgent steps to catch up and utilize the potential of the Internet to increase their productivity.

One of the UN Sustainable Development Goals is to increase access to ICT and provide universal, affordable access to the Internet in LDCs by 2020. NPOs are requested to take the lead and encourage governments to promote the use of the Internet in schools and other educational institutions to begin with.

A current hot topic of discussion worldwide is the concept of net neutrality (also network neutrality, Internet neutrality, or net equality), which according to Wikipedia is: “the principle that Internet service providers and [others] should treat all data on the Internet equally, not discriminating or charging differentially by user, content, site, platform, application, type of attached equipment, or mode of communication. The term was coined by Columbia University media law Professor  Tim Wu in 2003, as an extension of the longstanding concept of a common carrier.” No matter how the Internet evolves, care should be taken to ensure that its use contributes to higher productivity and to a better quality of life.

by K. D. Bhardwaj, Former Senior Program Officer, Industry Department, Asian Productivity Organization

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