More radios than TVs and phones?

Posted on May 8, 2009  /  5 Comments


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%!  In all six countries, TV is present in more BOP households than radios.  And radio is less a player in TOP households, who have probably relegated it to the car.

Finally, some have asked if the Internet should be the focus or if developers should look at where the poor have already “voted with their wallets” and see whether the simpler, cheaper technologies already in use can deliver sufficient ICT functionality to make a difference. Rather than wait for handset and bandwidth upgrades to allow mobile Internet access, we must determine what can be achieved for development through calls and SMS and, possibly, older technologies. Access figures are hard to come by, but we can estimate that something like 80 percent of the population in developing countries has access to a radio, 50 percent to a television.2,3 Early in ICT4D’s history, these statistics prompted the swift reinterpretation of ICT to incorporate radio and television, and foreshadowed the role convergence would play in ICT4D 2.0. Looking at the technologies that already penetrate—mobiles, radios, televisions—developers must now seek ways to add computing and Internet functionality.


  1. This is one of the most common arguments I hear in the developed world, militating against an urgent emphasis of mobile phones as a tool for peacebuilding and other processes, including development.

    Thanks a ton for this research.

  2. Do you have high(er) resolution image of the bar graph?