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Ability to Execute on CSR Brings Long-Term Benefits to Local Communities in Myanmar

Seeing CSR as an enabler for business development by wanting Ooredoo to be a part of Myanmar's local communities and an ability to execute has resulted in Ooredoo Myanmar supporting an impressive suite of development projects. By providing connectivity and digital content to libraries, schools, and mobile health clinics, Ooredoo has contributed to the empowerment youth and women in cities and rural areas.

Since launching their mobile services in Myanmar just months ago, Ooredoo has already supported a mobile school for young boys, planned to make mobile health information services available through apps, connected libraries to the internet, and started an English-language project in cooperation with Oxford University and Yangon University.

More programs are in the pipeline, including mobile health clinics offering both health education and counselling, sports programs, entrepreneurship initiatives and a program that will train and employ 30 thousand women as mobile retail agents.

CSR has been a business enabler for Ooredoo in Myanmar and community engagement is part of their corporate strategy. In the licence requirements there is a long-term commitment to invest in CSR for the people of Myanmar. As the amount is not an insignificant one, Ooredoo's management and board want to see the effects of their investments, such as the number of cases treated in their mobile health clinics. The combination of incorporating CSR as a part of the operational strategy and wanting to see immediate effects of their programs might be one reason why Ooredoo has been able to successfully set up such an impressive number of development programs in Myanmar in such a short period of time.

Ooredoo Myanmar's Head of Business Development, Partnerships and CSR, Carson Wolfer, said, "CSR has been an enabler for us in Myanmar. CSR here is not just about giving back to local communities but also a mutual benefit for the company – and that's huge."

Ooredoo's licence commitments include providing network connectivity in rural Myanmar as well as connecting public places as libraries. In the BeyondAccess initiative Ooredoo will provide good network infrastructure to 5,000 libraries across Myanmar. Tablets in the libraries will have applications that allow the general public to access information about topics such as health, education, and agriculture – which fall under the three core Ooredoo CSR pillars.

Identifying good local partners and making sure the CSR programs are aligned with local needs have been important to Ooredoo's entry into Myanmar. Because there is so much funding to various NGOs in the country it has been important to identify and partner with the NGOs that create real impact and focus where the need is greatest. One example of an NGO that Ooredoo has partnered up with is PACT. USAID is one of the larger donors to PACT, which ensures that the work done in the communities is tracked and evaluated for local impact on a regular basis.

"Because we're spending a not insignificant amount on CSR our management would like to see the effects measured in for example number of people being treated in our mobile health clinics," Wolfer said.

CSR and community engagement has eased the work required in rolling out a nationwide network for mobile communications, while at the same time increasing Ooredoo's understanding of local needs in communities. This strategic engagement at a local level creates trust and understanding for Ooredoo's goals, which are to build mobile network capacity while remaining committed to CSR. The news has spread virally, providing a strong asset when putting up towers and rolling out infrastructure.

According to Wolfer, "Mobile telecommunications changes countries and will absolutely change Myanmar. It has already started and if we can write CSR as a part of that – that's how we start to see that propagate."

Toril Natvig helps companies, organisations, and universities assess their CSR work for better impact and community engagement. She has 18 years of experience from telecommunications and business development and is the owner of Natvig CR. She is also a Norwegian mother of three, a volunteer for Unicef, and an outdoor runner. You can reach her on her blog www.betterimpactblog.com.

The views and opinions expressed here are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Myanmar Business Today’s editorial opinion.

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