It’s been a long time coming. The paper that Sangamitra Ramachander presented at CPRsouth 2011 based on Teleuse@BOP research has finally been published. We are happy, both for a young researcher getting published in a prestigious journal and for the fact that it gets our research out to academic readers. The private sector in developing countries is increasingly interested in extending mobile telephony services to low income and rural markets that were previously considered unprofitable. Determining the right price is a central challenge in this context.
This report is the result of research conducted by GSMA’s Connected Women programme and LIRNEasia in Myanmar in 2015. LIRNEasia’s nationally representative baseline survey of ICT needs and usage in Myanmar showed a gender gap in mobile ownership of 29% by March 2015. Together with GSM Association’s Connected Women program, LIRNEasia explored the reasons behind this gender gap through a series of in-depth interviews and focus group discussions held in Yangon (urban) and Pantanaw (rural) among 91 men and women in July 2015. Further questions on mobile internet awareness and use, as well as barriers to use were explored, yielding a rich set of findings and a large set of policy recommendations. Read full report: Mobile phones, internet, and gender in Myanmar
I was listening to a presentation on Work-related Use and Positive Livelihood Outcomes among Mobile Phone Users in Asia by Komathi Ale*, Uni. of Southern California, at ICTD 2015 in Singapore. I was pleased to see some of our publications being cited, but that was just the beginning. After the literature review, the author announced that the entire paper was based on the LIRNEasia teleuse@BOP data set that was publicly available. We have made all datasets open since the beginning of the teleuse@BOP work.
Ayesha Zainudeen, Senior Research Manager at LIRNEasia, spoke at the recent expert meeting of the UNESCAP in Colombo. Below is a long quote. There is more at FT. Other than voice, it’s mostly SMS use, along with missed calling. Voice connectivity is almost ubiquitous.
On July 4th, we were pleased to be able to share some of our research and explore areas of common interest with colleagues at LUMS, thanks to the kind invitation of Vice Chancellor Adil Najam. The slides we used to initiate the discussion are here. But they do not fairly depict the content of the conversation. Here is how it was reported on the LUMS website. Two representatives of LIRNEasia, a think tank that researches information and communications technology (ICT) across Asia, spoke at the LUMS Faculty Lounge on July 4, 2012 for an event organised by the Internet and Society Initiative.
We were flattered to see the highest authority for telecom in India use an image from our Teleuse@BOP research, unacknowledged, on the front page of its website. The image appears to have been taken from a post from our partner on this project, Nalaka Gunawardene. We have more good images. We’d happy to share them with an entity as prestigious as the DoT. Just ask.
LIRNEasia organized a panel on Broadband Bottlenecks in Asia at the ITS India Conference. Here are the slides that were presented at the session, with apologies for the late posting. Helani Galpaya presentation on “Network bottlenecks in South Asian broadband?” Rohan Samarajiva and Abu Saeed Khan presentation on “Removing a broadband bottleneck: International connectivity” Payal Malik presentation on “How do we avoid the spectrum bottleneck?” Sriganesh Lokanathan presentation on “Teleuse@BOP4”
Yesterday, I gave a guest lecture at a Carleton University using the Rann Vijay Kumar video (constituting its official launch) and the attached slides. The focus was on agriculture. I was surprised the course was required. Guess this constitutes a significant achievement in terms of establishing ICT for development as a field of study.
I expected there’d be more techies in the room when we presented on mobile apps for “people not like us” at ICTD 2012 in Atlanta on March 15th. But still, we were gratified we had a full room for a parallel session on the last day. here is the slide I started the session with. To view the video, you need to click here.
The second of the videos features Rann Vijay Kumar, an agricultural first handler from Samasthipur in Bihar, India. He regularly buys vegetables and cereals directly from farmers, which he then stores and sells to wholesalers. He relies heavily on his mobile phone: to stay in touch with both his supplier farmers and buyers, and to know the latest market prices. Prior to using a mobiles, he used public phones, or passed messages around. Today, he travels less and talks more.
In keeping with the objectives of the Teleuse@BOP4 study, a series of videos have been completed. The focus is predominantly on the productive use of mobile phones. The first in this series features Poonam Devi, a beautician from Bihar, India. Poonam’s life has been transformed since she started using a mobile phone in 2007. It helped her to develop a small business as a beautician.
The topline findings from the initial stage of the GSMA mWomen Research in India, Egypt, Papua New Guinea and Uganda were presented recently. It explored the Wants and Needs of BOP Women through a qualitative study. Some of the insights of ‘mobile as a tool’ are below. Mobile use by BOP women seem to be driven by practical, utility-oriented needs such as family coordination and emergencies rather than the desire to socialize and ‘chat’. This is also seen when looking at perceived benefits in LIRNEasia’s teluse@BOP4 quantitative study.
It took a little time, but a comprehensive report on the Bangkok launch of teleuse@BOP4 results has been published in the Nation (Thailand). The survey found that Thai users spent more than any other nationality on mobile phones, $93 on average compared to $50 or less elsewhere. Most of the phones they bought had radio connections, while 14 per cent had a Web browser and 5 per cent had touch-screens. Ninety-one per cent of the Thais said they’d used a mobile phone in the previous three months, up from 77 per cent in 2008. More than 90 per cent of the urban users made regular calls, compared to 80 per cent in the rural areas.
According to LBO’s second write up on our teleuse results, the higher awareness of health information services in Sri Lanka can be explained by two factors: the mismatch between supply and demand in the government health-services sector and the existence since around 2000 of e Channeling, a multi-modal service that allows people to make appointments at private health facilities (and pay for them) over a mobile, over the Internet, through an intermediary at a local pharmacy and so on. I tend to give greater weight to the latter; government health services are rationed through congestion all over the world, not only in Sri Lanka. There is nothing like the service being available for awareness to rise. The study in 2011 by the LIRNEasia think tank said found that the use of mobile phones for services other than the basic voice function was still sparse among the poorest users compared with a previous survey in 2008. In Sri Lanka only six percent of users in the so-called bottom-of-the-pyramid (BOP) or poorest segment knew of banking services through mobile phones compared with 18 percent in India and 15 percent in Thailand.
LIRNEasia CEO, Rohan Samarajiva, presented the findings from the six-country study of teleuse at the Bottom of the Pyramid on 9th December 2011 in Bangkok, Thailand. The presentation took place on the first day of the CPRsouth conference to an audience of about 75 people that included senior-mid level academics and media personnel. Presentation slides can be found here. Some of the media coverage received from Thailand, India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Nepal. The Financial Express (Phones a bare essential for bottom of pyramid: Study) The Daily Star (Talk business on mobile) The Hindu Business Line (More poor people own mobile phones, but productive use still a far cry) Lanka Business Online (Mobile momentum) The Bottom Line (Productive use of mobiles needed – LIRNEasia survey) Republica (Low call charges within each network major reason for owning multiple-SIM)
The government itself has found the early warning actions of the designated national authorities deficient and is talking of setting up workaround mechanisms. Nothing really new, other than sadness that seven years and large commitments of resources have not taken us much farther than we were back in 2004. What is even more worrisome is the lack of knowledge among all the parties about the available modes of communicating early warnings. No mention of cell broadcasting that is capable of delivering location-specific tailored information to all mobile handsets within the range of a base transceiver station. The journalist has done a good job except for repeating misinformation about poor communication infrastructure and access in rural areas.