BOP


LIRNEasia was invited to introduce its work on understanding how people at the BOP in emerging Asia use ICTs and what kinds of new services they are likely to be interested in at the 4th Global Forum organized by infoDev and the Finnish government in Helsinki, May 28-June 2, 2011. Our research was presented at a “deep dive” session on m applications attended by around 100 people. The slides are here. You will not be able to see the video that I started with, from the above link. The video of Chamara is available here instead.
One problem with our Teleuse@BOP research is that people who use the findings tend to shed the nuances. We do not know the percentage of Pakistanis with multiple SIMs, only the percentage of those at the BOP. But I am confident the general claim being made is not erroneous. Pakistan has been ranked top among the regional countries in 2010 with the highest number of cellular phone subscribers having more than one connection of different operators, Lirneasia study reported recently. As per the estimates, the subscribers possessing multiple SIMs are estimated to mark 23 percent share in the overall stated base of the country.
LIRNEasia Senior Research Manager, Ayesha Zainudeen, was recently invited by Sesame Workshop India to give a special address at an action forum entitled, “M for Mobile: Exploring Technology for Social Development in India”, in New Delhi, India. It was organized with support from the Ford Foundation. The two-and-a-half day workshop brought together experts from mobile manufacturers, research, digital technology, service providers, donors, non-profit organizations, and policymakers to brainstorm on how mobiles could be effectively used for improving social development in India. Click here to view her presentation. The conference agenda can be viewed here.
As the owner of a G1, I can afford a little smirk about the ascendancy of Android. But really, the bigger story from the perspective of the people at the BOP who are our prime constituency, is the Gartner prediction that this is the cross-over year for those accessing the Internet through mobiles, though of course, one has to interrogate the basis of the prediction. Google’s operating system for cellphones has overtaken Nokia’s Symbian system as the market leader, ending the Finnish company’s long reign, a British research firm said Monday. In the three months through December, manufacturers shipped 33.3 million cellphones running Android, Google’s free, open-source cellphone operating system, up from just 4.
LIRNEasia Mobile 2.0 research on potential use of mobile money services among the BOP in emerging Asia has been published in the latest edition of ITID (Vol. 6, Issue 4). The paper entitled, “M-money for the BOP in the Philippines” is authored by Erwin Alampay, LIRNEasia Research Fellow, and Gemma Bala. Abstract This paper explores the reach and use of m-money among the bottom of the pyramid (BoP) in the Philippines using survey data from LIRNEasia’s 2008 Mobile 2.

PCs on the chopping block?

Posted by on December 2, 2010  /  0 Comments

We have been talking about an alternative path to the Internet for the BOP in emerging economies. We said this path would be through the mobile phone and talked about how it was converging with the conventional computer, through smartphone and netbooks that would percolate down to the BOP through second-hand markets. But now people beginning to talk about this happening to TOP markets in rich countries as well. Below is Item 7 in a list entitled the ten businesses the smartphone has destroyed: There are plenty of studies that insist that smartphones will begin to replace the PC as the common vehicle for accessing the Internet. Analyst firm Informa Telecoms & Media projects that smartphone traffic will increase 700% over the next five years.
Tahani Iqbal, LIRNEasia Research Fellow, has been invited to make a presentation on the “Wants and needs of women in developing markets” at a mWomen Working Group Meeting organized by the  GSM Association on 9 – 11 November 2010 in Chennai, India. She is the only non-industry speaker at the event, and will present findings from LIRNEasia‘s studies on telecom use at the bottom of the pyramid. Click here to view presentation slides.
LIRNEasia CEO, Rohan Samarajiva, delivered a guest lecture on the theme “Not one path to the Internet economy” at the University of Zurich, Switzerland, on 14 October 2010. Presenting findings from the LIRNEasia’s study of ICT use at the bottom of the pyramid, Teleuse@BOP3, he used a video of Chamara Pahalawattage, an 18-year-old Sri Lankan, who has utilized his phonefor obtaining more work, and hence, a higher income. Presentation slides from the talk will be posted shortly.
Telephone ownership and use As latest ITU data reveals, active mobile subscriptions continues to increase the world over. Just under two years ago, mobile subscriptions were reaching the six-billion mark. 2009 data from the ITU suggests we are well on our way to reaching seven billion connections. Developing countries, in particular, experienced a 19 percent increase in mobile subscriptions per 100 inhabitants between 2008 and 2009, compared with a modest 5 percent growth in developed countries according to the ITU. Mobile subscriptions in the Asia-Pacific alone have now passed the two-billion mark; according to the ITU, mobile subscriptions per 100 rose by 22 percent from 46 in 2008 in 56 in 2009.
We want your comments and suggestions in Teleuse@BOP4 questionnaire design In our most recent demand-side ICT study, Teleuse@BOP3, we asked bottom of the pyramid (BOP) phone owners if and how often they used their phone (mobile or fixed) for business purposes or any other financial or work-related purposes. The responses we got were quite encouraging: Teleuse@BOP4 is almost underway. This time, we have decided to seek out the wisdom of the crowds in designing and fine-tuning some of the questions that we ask in Teleuse@BOP4. Responses to the question of business use of phones are important in this research cycle, where we are trying to understand , inter alia, what services (including telecom) would better equip SMEs (many of which are owned by or employ people at the BOP) to participate in the knowledge based economy. Similarly as important are the reasons that prevent greater use of phones for these purposes (trust, alternatives, cost, culture, etc).
The chicken and egg question when one asks about BOP use of the Internet has always been whether there is relevant content in languages those at the BOP understand. Help is on the way. Both the Wikimedia Foundation and Google are promoting local language content and translations. Rather than look to experts to get its mojo working, the Wikimedia Foundation, the nonprofit organization that operates the Wikipedias in more than 250 languages, is aiming at the underserved populations of the globe to meet its ambitious goals for growth. In a speech on Friday at the start of Wikimania, in the restored home of the Polish Baltic Philharmonic, the foundation’s executive director, Sue Gardner, said the foundation planned to double in size in the next year by adding 44 employees and hoped to raise more than $20 million in donations.
We said all you can eat pricing for users at the BOP will not work. Looks like it will not work for others as well if the move described in the NYT story holds. On Wednesday, AT&T pulled away the trough. And other wireless carriers could do the same. AT&T said it would no longer offer an unlimited data plan to new users of iPhones and other smartphones.
A Sri Lanka newspaper article reporting on a talk I gave last week that was based on the Budget Telecom Network Model used the headline “Poor is the future.” Pity the newspaper did not pick up what I said about “more-than-voice” services offered by telcos making the poor less poor; not taking money from their pockets, but putting money in their pockets or at least allowing them to keep their money. The poor is the market for the telecoms industry, a former regulator said. Professor Rohan Samarajiva, former Director General of the Telecommunications Regulatory Commission (T.R.
One of the things I always have to pause and explain when talking about our Teleuse@BOP work is why 100% of Filipinos at the BOP use SMS and some never use the mobiles to make a call. Now we find the Americans are beginning to emulate the Pinoys. Liza Colburn uses her cellphone constantly. She taps out her grocery lists, records voice memos, listens to music at the gym, tracks her caloric intake and posts frequent updates to her Twitter and Facebook accounts. The one thing she doesn’t use her cellphone for?
We’ve been saying that most people will reach the Internet through mobile platforms for some time. And for some time, our colleagues have been looking at us as though we have sunstroke. But we like to break new ground and know that skeptical looks are part of the package. Now we have a powerful ally: the New York Times. With the majority of Internet traffic expected to shift to congestion-prone mobile networks, there is growing debate on both sides of the Atlantic about whether operators of the networks should be allowed to treat Web users differently, based on the users’ consumption.
We have been following the emotionally loaded net neutrality debate for some time with some detachment. Our research clearly shows that low prices are critical if the BOP is to join the Internet economy and that low prices are not sustainable without the adaptation of the budget telecom network model to broadband supply. One of the most controversial of the recommendations that came out of this work is that which said one should go gentle on regulating quality. The main reason we said that was because we believed that the poor needed access in the form of different price-quality bundles; that if high quality standards were imposed by fiat, the only victims would be the price-sensitive consumers who would get priced out. While we did not take an explicit position on net neutrality those days, we now have to, based on what we have learned.