Switch headers Switch to TIGweb.org

Are you an TIG Member?
Click here to switch to TIGweb.org

HomeHomeExpress YourselfPanoramaMobile phones for development: A report on Southeast Asia
a TakingITGlobal online publication

(Advanced Search)

Panorama Home
Issue Archive
Current Issue
Next Issue
Featured Writer
TIG Magazine
Short Story
My Content

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.
Mobile phones for development: A report on Southeast Asia Printable Version PRINTABLE VERSION
by Upasna, India Mar 5, 2007
Technology , Human Rights   Opinions


Innovation in mobile services

Several techniques have been tried out in an attempt to innovate and make mobile services suited to the needs of rural people. One such technique has been devised in Bangladesh where the concept of a “mobile lady” has been floated. The mobile lady with mobile phone in hand goes from door-to-door in villages giving poor people access by phone to advisers at help desks. The earnings from the “help line” services have been deemed enough to cover both fixed and variable costs and have been observed to be financially viable for the mobile lady. However, the financial viability problem for the help desk has not been resolved.
This experimentation in job-related content provided by telephone help desks has been making an impact on the livelihood of the poor people in rural Bangladesh since 2003. As the mobile lady moves door-to-door, the delivery of services and the promotion of services take place simultaneously.
Much like the mobile-lady, rural entrepreneurs have been encouraged all over South Asia to start up rural mobile phone centres with the help of micro-finance institutes which provide loans to these people for the initial capital expenditure.
Such an approach has also been started in rural areas in India where farmer help line numbers, accessible through mobile phones, are provided by advisers moving across fields, encouraging farmers to make calls using the mobile devices. This model has seen moderate success. Meanwhile, some farmers are able to receive better prices for their crops because they have access to information on market prices, primarily via mobile phones. And new technology is allowing the local villagers to sell mobile phone time to the poor in even smaller units - through prepay top-ups that are done through phone-to-phone links rather than using cards
As mentioned before, apart from the major towns, mobile coverage has remained fragmented and this has been in-part because the electricity network, used to power the mobile network infrastructure, is often unreliable and does not cover the whole of the country. For instance, one third of Indian homes are not connected to the power grid and demand for mobile phones is growing rapidly. A pilot scheme has been started in India, wherein mobile firms hope to overcome some of these problems by using mobile base stations that use generators running on biodiesel. Crops grown in the area will be used to generate biodiesel to fuel the stations.

The impact of mobile phones

An enormous number of people, including taxi drivers and tradesmen, now rely on mobile phones to run their small businesses. The mobile phone boom has transformed ordinary people into micro-entrepreneurs.
Increased mobile phone usage has created a socio-psychological change amongst users. Studies show that users perceive themselves to have entered the modern public sphere when they can get access to information and services, and participate in up-streaming of information. They become contactable, locatable, and traceable for institutions who want to improve their livelihood. They feel that they have better credibility and creditworthiness when they have a mobile phone. Family relationships and social networks are strengthened as people can better maintain ties with people that don’t live nearby.

The way ahead

Despite success, mobile-phone based service delivery systems have had a number of limitations to date:
• Limited services: Generally only help-line and commercial phone services are available in most poor countries with developing communications networks;
• Financial Sustainability: The cost of mobile phone service and equipment have been dropping in price, so there is threat to the financial viability and the average revenue per user is low. This has meant that service providers have not catered as much to poorer areas.
• Lack of local content: Local content generation is not an easy task as traditionally these areas have lacked services directed towards them and there isn’t an inherent interest among a population unfamiliar with this sort of content.
• National policies: Even though most nations have recognized the power of mobiles, the laws in place still favour traditional service providers and efforts have to be made to foster development and better serve the rural masses.

The importance of information and communication technology to populations in the rural and remote areas is undeniable. Several new business models are being developed which would increase the penetration levels of mobile phone service and ensure that the products are better tailored to users. The challenge is to learn from both the successes and the failures to move ahead!

« Previous page  1 2     


You must be logged in to add tags.

Writer Profile

I am a telecommunications engineer with a policy background. Writing is something I love doing. It helps me pull together my views well and send a question, if any, to the cosmic world around me...one day I may get my answers...
You must be a TakingITGlobal member to post a comment. Sign up for free or login.