LIRNEasia is a regional ICT policy and regulation think tank active across the Asia Pacific

Teleuse at the Bottom of the Pyramid 2 (Teleuse@BOP2)

Teleuse@BOP Part 1 (2007, Produced by TVE Asia Pacific for LIRNEasia)

Scroll down for Part 2

Asia is home to the largest concentration of poor people in the world. It is an accepted fact that the new growth markets in telecom (particularly mobile) are concentrated amongst the poor, or at the bottom of the pyramid or BOP . According to many industry experts, the next billion subscribers will come from such markets.

There is therefore a pressing need to understand the use to telecom services, and more broadly ICTs by the BOP, to see how best these markets can be served. Traditional business models which have been used to serve the high ends of the market, may not work in these emerging markets. Insight into the needs of the new emerging markets can help service providers to tailor business models appropriately.

There is also a need to evaluate in a systematic manner, to what extent the BOP is benefiting (if at all) from the reforms that are/have been taking place in such emerging markets. Such information would shed much light on the usefulness of past/current policies, and whether or not they need to be modified in some manner.

One of LIRNEasia ’s projects in 2005, Teleuse at the Bottom of the Pyramid 1 (Teleuse@BOP1), looked at the use of telecom services by low income earners across 11 localities in India and Sri Lanka. The survey sought to answer questions such as how do the financially constrained communicate? Why they choose to use the form of access that they use, i.e., fixed, mobile or public? How do they use telecom services? What benefits do they gain from use?

Based on the findings and the many lessons learnt in the 2005 research, LIRNEasia has undertaken a similar, but larger study in 2006. Certain aspects of the study design and methodology, were modified in the 2006 study; furthermore, the study was expanded across five countries in Asia, namely India, Pakistan, Philippines, Sri Lanka and Thailand . The study provides results that are representative of the BOP in these particular countries. This study seeks to provide understanding of how the poor [vis-à-vis non-poor] benefit from access to telecoms. Furthermore, the study seeks to understand how access patterns differ among countries.

The results of the study were released at a media workshop on 28 February 2007 at the Changi Village Hotel, Singapore. Some of the key findings can be downloaded below. A short video documentary on the project has been developed by TVE Asia Pacific and can be viewed below.

The quantitative component consists of two parts, including over 8,600 face-to face interviews using a questionnaire and the innovative placement of a diary, which the user records his/her phone usage for a period of two weeks with 50 percent of the sample. While the focus remains on low income users, their usage patterns need to be compared with higher income users; samples of high-income users were also therefore studied. A qualitative component was also implemented. The study was conducted in the respective local language(s) in each country. The field-work was conducted by AC Nielsen affiliates in the respective countries in July and August 2006.

Poverty reduction through telecom access at the ‘Bottom of the Pyramid’ – Harsha de Silva & Ayesha Zainudeen (March 2007. Paper prepared for Centre for Poverty Analysis Annual Symposium on Poverty Research in Sri Lanka 6-7 December 2007, Colombo | Presentation slides also available for download

Teleuse on a Shoestring: Beyond Universal Access . Presented at Communication Policy Research: South (CPRsouth), Research for Improving ICT governance in the Asia-Pacific, 19-21 January 2007, Manila, Philippines | Presentation slides also available for download

Teleuse at the bottom of the pyramid: Findings from a five country study . Background paper prepared for ‘3rd Global Knowledge Conference’, Kuala Lumpur, 11-13 December 2007.

Non-owner teleusers at the BOP: Removing the barriers to ownership . Presented at PTC’08: Telecom with Vision, 13-16 January 2008, Honolulu, USA | Presentation slides also available for download

Who’s got the phone? Gender and the use of the telephone at the bottom of the pyramid (pre-publication). Also  presented at 2008 International Communications Association conference, 26 May 2008 Montreal, Canada

Presentations made at media workshop, 28 February 2007, Singapore (three parts):
i) Research Methodology and Key Findings
ii) Cost Cutting Strategies at the Bottom of the Pyramid: The SMS Story, Missed Calls, and others
iii) The next billion customers

Connecting the rural millions Presentation made to the Office of the Universal Service Fund Administrator of India, New Delhi, India, 22 March 2007

Pakistan in Asian context Presentation made at Workshop on assessment of telecom regulatory environments , hosted by the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority, 14 June 2007, Islamabad, Pakistan

More than voice at the bottom of the pyramid Presentation made at 2nd BuzzCity-NUS Digitial Media Series , organised by NUS Enterpreneurship Center Techno-Venture Forum, 19 October 2007, Singapore

The gendered aspects of telecom access and use at the bottom of the pyramid in emerging Asia Presentation made at CPRsouth2, 16 December 2007, Chennai, India

More presentations can be found by using the search function, with terms such as ‘teleuse’, ‘bottom of the pyramid’, etc.


The full dataset for the study can be downloaded here . The use of this dataset is subject  to the Creative Commons Attribution-Non Commercial Share-Alike License 2.5 (

Video documentary Part 2 Scroll up for Part 1

This project is funded by IDRC of Canada .


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