Would the prepaid model used for mobile phones services, do well in electricity? Will it benefit the poor? How will it benefit? Would it benefit CEB and LECO? Rohan Samarajiva is giving insight and answers to all these questions in these articles here (in English) and here (Sinhala) Every month CEB and LECO produce and distribute close to five million paper bills.
Today’s LBO Choices column was the second to be based on LIRNEasia’s 2012-14 inclusive information society research. The basic idea was to see how ICTs could be used to improve the customer experience in important government or government-sanctioned service delivery activities. Other questions included what lessons could be learned from the mobile success story for other government services. When LIRNEasia conducted quantitative and qualitative research on poor micro entrepreneurs in Colombo and secondary cities in Wayamba, it was clear that there was significant interest in managing their energy bills. Sixty one percent had already changed to energy-efficient lighting; over 15 percent were switching off/disconnecting appliance and lights.
It was not the best time to disseminate research results in New Delhi, with the news media preoccupied with the accession of power by the new government. But, as Helani Galpaya said in her introductory comments at the media event, one has to get back to governance at some point. The first news report that resulted highlights the potential of using the ubiquitous mobile phones to improve communication between electricity discoms and their customers. The headline referred to the value of transferring lessons from mobile to electricity, for example by offering prepaid service to those who could not meet the current criteria for connections. The body is meeting state-level energy regulators from Bihar, Gujarat and Maharashtra to discuss the findings of the survey, which covered 1,279 people in India (Delhi and Patna).
Ministers making statements outside their areas of competence without consulting appropriate authorities is no way to govern. But that apparently is what the Pakistan Interior Minister has done by announcing the end of prepaid mobile in his country, according to Dawn: In a meeting on Friday the operators took strong exception to Rehman Malik’s statement and declared it uncalled for. “The statement has created panic in the industry and it appears that it might have been given purposely to target the telecom industry,” an official of a leading operator told this correspondent. He said in the meeting the operators had also decided to see the PTA chairman in this regard.
I have heard many absurd proposals related to the mobile industry, but this about takes the cake. Pakistan’s government is considering a radical plan which could dramatically alter the mobile phone industry in the country – as it mulls proposals to ban Prepaid SIM cards from sale. The Interior Minister Rehman Malik said that the government is considering a phased ban on all prepaid SIM cards in an effort to clamp down on terrorism in the country. However, with something in the region of 97% of the entire mobile subscriber base on PrePay tariffs, the impact on the industry would be huge. In addition to the costs of upgrading billing systems to cope with the surge in contract customers, and having facilities in retail stores to cope with the migration – the networks would also face a hole in their finances as payments switch from in advance, to monthly in arrears.
We thought the emerging economies would be first past the post on this one, but it appears that the difficulties of navigating the regulatory delays and uncertainties have eroded the lead. Google will offer mobile payments with MasterCard and Citibank, according to one of the people, as well as with cellphone carriers, hardware manufacturers and retailers. Initially, the mobile wallets will be available only on Google’s Nexus S phone and will use a Citibank-issued MasterCard credit card number and a virtual Google MasterCard prepaid card. Full story.
The Kim-family-owned North Korea has the world’s lowest mobile penetration despite having issued a 3G license to Orascom. Right next to them at the bottom of the league table is Myanmar, which used to charge a horrendous fee to get connected only to postpaid. Now it appears that they have started offering some kind of non-renewable prepaid. Even mothballed Myanmar is coming along, albeit slowly. Until recently, its military rulers did not permit pre-paid mobile services on its network.