The teleuse@BOP finding that mobiles have overtaken radios at the bottom of the pyramid in Pakistan, India and Bangladesh continues to resonate. In coverage of this story the leading Indian magazine in the IT space Voice and Data reveals that even AM reception is being offered in some Indian phones, in addition to the standard FM capability. Industry experts say it is an obvious phenomenon, with handsets turning in to a swiss-knife kind of solutions. Rural mobile penetration is now the focus of the service providers in these countries where the mobile markets are heading towards maturity. In India circles like Chennai are touching near 100% mobile penetration in that case the operator has to go to new markets.
An interesting article in the Times of India, documents the varied use of missed calls among mobile phone users in India, based on LIRNEasia’s T@BOP3 findings for 2008.  Although the title of the article is slightly misleading (missed call use was, in fact, prevalent in all the countries studied;  see here for more information), it nevertheless brings home the point that missed calls are being regularly used to communicate messages of various kinds in different contexts.
As the media dissemination phase of the teleuse@BOP 3 study draws to a close, we were pleased to see the qualitative results showcased in a long article in the Times of India, perhaps one of the most prestigious among the high-quality media of India. Rural and low-income consumer segments are attracting immense interest as they are expected to contribute to the next wave of growth in India, particularly for telecom products and services. Many industry experts believe that the next billion telecom subscribers will come from the BOP. Telecom adoption at the BOP highlights the role of telecom in enhancing household income and transforming personal identity by increasing accessibility and hence, credibility. Telecom adoption is also seen to impact their social and professional network coordination by strengthening family ties and increasing business coordination by overcoming challenges posed by location and context.
The last burst of dissemination for the teleuse@BOP3 results is yielding good results, this time with an agency story about more BOP homes in Bangladesh, India and Pakistan having phones than radios, a story we had blogged about some time back. Phones are catching up with TVs, and the number of phones being used by ‘bottom of the pyramid’ households have already outpaced the number of radios and computers in South Asia, researchers have said. LIRNEasia, a Sri Lanka-based Asia-Pacific information and communication technology (ICT) policy and regulation capacity-building organisation, said in India a hundred bottom of the pyramid (BOP) households now had 50 TVs, 38 phones, 28 radios and one computer. Radio has been displaced from its No.2 position after television in India.
It appears that the India-Sri Lanka joint venture in business process outsourcing is having a hard time because Sri Lankans are difficult to train. The LBO article is worth a read, but here is a key quote. Revenues had fallen as the US recession took its toll on the auto and restaurant businesses which comprised the bulk of its customers but that the number of clients was growing, JKH said. Roy also said it was important for Sri Lanka to expand higher education and technology training institutions to ensure the supply of trained people if the country wants to attract more BPO business. He said Sri Lanka had the highest number of British-qualified accountants outside Britain and should capitalise on its own strengths instead of trying to compete with India.
AT Kearny has issued the 2009 Global Services Index. The good news for South Asia is that Sri Lanka has moved up from 29 to 16 and Pakistan from 30 to 20. India, of course, sits at the top, no change from 2007. The advances of Sri Lanka and Pakistan have been at the expense of the Northern European countries (e.g.
It’s not only in Finland and India that they are returning fixed line connections . . . . At the University of Washington, the communications department faculty did away with their landlines.
Payal Malik, Senior Research Fellow, will speak on universal service policies based on LIRNEasia research to the participants of the 3rd Annual Connecting Rural Communities Asia Forum to be held from 23-25 June 2009 in New Delhi, India. The event is expected to attract stakeholders, policy makers and executives from across the ICT sector with the shared goal of shaping future of rural connectivity. The organizers hope to be discuss: How can governments best support the creation of self-sustaining rural connectivity initiatives that benefit local people? Step-by-step practical guidance on overcoming the most pressing technical challenges Developing a world-class telecentre rural development programme Progress on delivering the promise of the United Services Obligation Fund Realising the benefits of greater rural connectivity though the delivery of E-services Mapping the future need for connectivity: Identifying choke points in the delivery network Training and empowering rural populations to make full use of the potential inherent in greater connectivity More information is available on the official website:

So what?

Posted by on June 12, 2009  /  0 Comments

Our primary funder IDRC is having a big gathering of all its Asian fundees in Penang. As one of the main plenary events, they conducted a “talk show” with representatives of three of their leading projects in the region. Helani Galpaya participated in this talk show from LIRNEasia. At the conclusion, she was asked the following question: “we do not just fund good research, we ask what it will yield for development; we ask so what?” She answered, saying that the good use made of resources entrusted to LIRNEasia could be illustrated through three examples: 1.
One of the bad things about projections, especially long-term projections, is the lack of accountability. Or that like astrological forecasts, we only talk about the ones that were right. But anyway there is an interesting discussion of the Indian outsourcing industry, including a discussion on projections. A decade ago, McKinsey and India’s powerful information technology and outsourcing trade group, Nasscom, predicted that revenue from outsourcing by foreign companies would reach $50 billion in India in 2010. The global economic slowdown has delayed that by three or four quarters — revenue is predicted to reach $47 billion this year.
Rohan Samarajiva, Chair and CEO of LIRNEasia was awarded the prestigious 2009 “Communication Research as an Agent of Change Award” by the International Communication Association (ICA) at the 59th Annual conference of the ICA on 23 May 2009, in Chicago, USA. The award honors one person each year whose work has had a demonstrable impact on practice outside the academy, with clear benefits to the community. The award was presented to him by Patrice M. Buzzanell, President of the International Communication Association. At the ceremony a brief statement about his accomplishments and the ways his work has had sustainable social benefits was presented by the ICA: “Dr.
Village Health Nurses (VHN) are the last-mile health workers attending to the primary health care needs of the rural villagers in the state of Tamil Nadu; where the real-time biosruveillance program (RTBP) is being pilot tested in India. They work under harsh conditions. For instance transportation schedule is limited to a bus that leaves in the morning and returns in the afternoon. Baking and sweating in the hot sun in Sivaganga District of Tamil Nadu, they walk for several kilometers, carrying a heavy load of Registers, making house calls to give the much needed health care to the rural poor. During a recent workshop, in Tamil Nadu, a discussion around the accountability of submitting data revealed that the VHN sometimes cheat on the statistics they tediously record on large volumes of paper forms.
Tharoor recalled the infamous words of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi’s communications minister in the 1970s, C.M. Stephen. In response to questions decrying the rampant telephone breakdowns in the country, the minister declared in Parliament that telephones were a luxury, not a right. He added that ‘any Indian who was not satisfied with his telephone service could return his phone’ — since there was an eight-year waiting list of people seeking this supposedly inadequate product.
Teleuse@BOP3, LIRNEasia’s six country study has shown that between 2006 and 2008 there has been significant uptake of mobiles by the BOP in emerging Asia. Access to computers on the other hand (see here for numbers)  in these countries at the BOP is minimal.  Together with the increasing capabilities of mobiles to deliver an array of services, which essentially boil down to what you can do on the Internet (information publication and retrieval, transactions, etc) this means that much of the BOP will have their first Internet experience through a mobile. The current issue of Nokia’s Expanding Horizons quarterly magazine highlights LIRNEasia’s Teleuse@BOP3 study findings from India, illustrating this point. Mobiles are now the most common form of communication, pushing public phones into second place… The rapid evolution of the mobile into a multi-purpose communications and knowledge tool combined with its fast adoption by the BOP, means they and the majority of people in the developing world are likely to have their first Internet experience via a mobile.
In line with our current research focus on mobile-beyond-voice, we have been highlighting some novel information services that could be provided over the mobile.  Here is another.  In operation in India now. A number of civic groups, meanwhile, have devised cellphone-based ways of informing voters about candidates for Parliament. If you text your postal code to the Association for Democratic Reforms, it will reply with candidate profiles like this: CANDIDATE A Crim.
Until recently, I believed, with Richard Heeks quoted below, that radio is found in more homes (at the BOP or all) than phones and TVs. Survey data from the BOP at three countries that account for the world’s greatest concentration of poor people (Pakistan, India and Bangladesh) tell a story that contradicts the common wisdom. In India, 58% of BOP households have TVs, while only 32% have radios. And some kind of phone in the household? 45%!