The World Bank has committed USD 2.6 million (or USD 10 per intended beneficiary) in grant funds for rural public access telephones in Cambodia according to a recent news release. The amount is not too steep and the local official in charge is Deputy Minister Chin Bunsean, an alumnus of LIRNEasia’s regulatory training course in 2005 (Mr Chin is dead center of the picture on the course page), which among other things discussed the lessons that should be drawn from the Nepal output-based aid project, so I guess we can surmise that the lessons have indeed been learned.
But it still makes us wonder why the World Bank is funding rural payphones, when the evidence is abundant that cheap mobiles are what will connect poor people, not payphones?
Poor families in four of the poorer provinces of northern and northwestern Cambodia – Banteay Meanchey, Otdar Meanchey, Preah Vihear, and Pursat – will benefit from a US$2.6 million grant to increase access to telecommunications services signed by the World Bank, acting as administrator for the Global Partnership on Output-Based Aid (GPOBA), and the Royal Government of Cambodia.
Up to 52,000 poor households or 260,000 Cambodians are expected to benefit from the scheme, through improved telecommunications network coverage and the installation of public access points where people will be able to make and receive telephone calls on a regular and reliable basis.