Speech by Prime Minister Erna Solberg on her visit to Telenor at Snarøya 20 October 2015.
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It is sometimes said that "necessity is the mother of invention". I believe this to be true. There are three ways one can interpret the statement. I believe that Telenor as a company embodies all three interpretations.
Firstly, that necessity leads to invention can be understood in the simplest way: We invent what we need and what we want. products, services and solutions which are useful to us or bring us joy. I can think of few other products and services over the past decades which have had a greater positive impact on all of our lives than communication technology. From the leap to wireless telephony, to the smartphone revolution we are in the middle of right now, the shifts in telecommunications have changed the way we interact with our family, friends, colleagues – and complete strangers as well: for instance, one 19-year old girl here in Norway has 1.6 million followers on her Instagram account – I am sure many Norwegian politicians would envy that number!
Telenor is a part of these large technology trends. Every day you work hard to make it easier for people to access and share information, both here in Norway and abroad. It is especially apparent in parts of the world where such services have been lacking. Your entry into Myanmar is a good example, where you have gained more than 10 million customers in a year and see strong demand for mobile data. Such growth is testimony to the demand for your products and services. This is of course beneficial from a business perspective but also when considering the positive effects it will have for people’s ability to communicate and access information resources online – things that some of us often take for granted.
Telenor's forays into exciting new opportunities such as mobile financial services, the Internet of Things and online classifieds also demonstrate that you are responsive to customer behavior and open to new business opportunities which may arise.
This brings me to a second interpretation of the statement "necessity is the mother of invention". Innovation is necessary – I would say a prerequisite – for staying competitive and creating long-term value. Telenor faces many opportunities and challenges: there is a new digital landscape where traditional telecommunications providers such as Telenor are up against new types of competitors, shifting consumer behavior and pressure on existing infrastructure. This demands a willingness to invest for the future; a flexible, pragmatic approach; and a close ear to the market. Telenor has all of these qualities, investing heavily in networks and people, combining in-house research and development with partnerships, and organizing your approach around the end-user, the customer.
The Norwegian government puts great emphasis on innovation in business, both from a shareholder perspective and from a national welfare perspective. The need for innovation is more apparent than ever – the dramatic fall in the price of oil has underlined that we have to build new areas of value-creation. Norway is not unique in this respect: a fall in global commodity prices is a challenge in many parts of the world; ageing populations is another. High-productivity industries are key to securing continued growth. This demands new creative ideas. We do not know where these ideas will come from, but it is likely that they will come from both new and established businesses.
I believe Telenor can play an important role. The company is the second largest in Norway: it has an extensive customer base, a well-known brand, deep industry knowledge and a track record of innovation. These qualities make a good foundation for generating and trying out new ideas. When I am travelling in Europe or Asia, I am often reminded that these are qualities which characterize Telenor in many countries. It is sometimes difficult to comprehend the journey this company has been through. In roughly 20 years, it has transformed from a state monopoly in Norway to one of the world's leading telecommunications companies, approaching 200 million mobile subscribers and creating thousands of jobs and billions of shareholder value along the way. I believe this displays the power of change and innovation. It also shows that Telenor has had and continues to have great impact on countries and societies outside Norway.
Of course, this journey has only been made possible by all of you and the culture you have built up over the years – which brings me to the third interpretation of the statement "necessity is the mother of invention". I believe we as human beings not only innovate to create new products or to stay competitive – I believe we have an inherent need to innovate and create because it allows us to challenge and express ourselves. My impression is that there is a spirit of joy to what you do in Telenor, there is enthusiasm which I believe is not only about increasing market shares and earning profits; it is also about the joy of solving problems, generating exciting ideas and working together as a team. You have every reason to be proud of this culture and I hope you continue to cultivate it.
I wish all of you the best of luck and hope that we will see many more exciting ideas and innovations from Telenor in the years to come. Thank you.