With so many businesses and services going digital in the last year, it can feel that the world’s transition to digital is near complete. In reality, we’ve just reached a tipping point.  

Joining us for the Future of Work, Now podcast, Duncan Jepson points out that approximately 45% of Asia’s population remains unconnected to the internet. This includes many of the vulnerable populations he seeks to help as Managing Director of Liberty Shared. 

Liberty Shared is a global NGO that aims to counter the trafficking of people and wildlife. One way it does this is by sharing information through its online platforms.

Here, Duncan answers questions about his work and how we can support the societies that remain unconnected.


Why do you think we still face challenges in transparency and knowing what’s happening in some parts of the world?

In some ways, it is the opposite. We know more about what’s happening in some places than we ever did before. On the other hand, many places remain unknown. One of the reasons for this is that there’s no motivation to go into these societies unless there’s a political purpose or the market decides it’s important. 

I think people also overestimate how much of the population has access to the internet or 3G phones. Without that access, these societies remain in the darkness.


How much of the population do you think still lacks access?

According to the Internet World Stats, 55% of Asia is connected to the internet, which leaves 45% that is not. What we see working with these vulnerable populations is that while some may have a mobile phone they use to make calls or send messages, they don’t have access to the internet. 

Others may be able to access an app like Facebook because it comes bundled with their SIM card. However, that may be their only exposure to the internet. They may not even realise that this whole other universe of information exists. 

On the other hand, those of us lucky enough to access it all are more cognisant of the internet's weaknesses.


How can businesses best support these societies?

I think businesses and other organisations can play a role in the economic development of these societies. This leads to improved welfare, improved utilities, and finally to some sort of prosperity.  

We do need to be careful to not cause any harm. One way we can do that is to be respectful about how they make decisions in their own communities. 

We also should also be careful about lending money for things like infrastructure. You don’t want societies to end up with a debt that they will not be able to service. That kind of activity can lead to disorder and conflict.


What can we do as individuals?

I hope that people start to realise that it is a big world out there. That interconnectedness will keep us going. 

I also think we need to be more patient with each other and try to listen and understand. We should be more thoughtful about what influences us, including what’s in our news feed.

There are a lot of people outside of our individual worlds that we just don’t think about. It is not because we are dismissive, but just that our lives are so busy. So, I’d advise to sit and think about other lives that are being lived. 

We have that capacity as humans to think outside of ourselves. I think being reflective of the wider world is one of the most important things we can do. 


Listen to the podcast to hear more from Duncan and learn how Liberty Shared is helping to fight against trafficking. 

Access the podcast on demand at our podcasts page, Spotify, and iTunes. You can also listen over at the Singapore Community Radio Twitch page, Facebook page, and website

Tune into our next episode at 1:00 p.m. SGT Friday, February 5 and hear from Fiza Malhotra, Global Marketing Director of Space Matrix who will share her perspectives on the design of future workspaces.  

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