Corroboration for Teleuse@BOP results

Posted on July 31, 2009  /  2 Comments

This was not a representative sample survey like Teleuse @ BOP, but still it was conducted in a remote village in the Polonnaruwa district in Sri Lanka as part of a community communication effort. The numbers they came up with were much higher than ours.

We also spoke about the advantages of using mobile phones to complement the radio productions. 3G was not present in all areas, and in any case, few of the handsets supported audio streaming. That said, the production team said that upwards of 95% of all households owned at least one mobile.


  1. Thanks for the link.

    We too were surprised by the number, but had no reason to doubt those from these villages who gave us this figure. Every single person in the production team owned mobiles, ranging from basic Nokia’s to even one N-series Nokia, and a couple of Chinese brands. Most of the handsets save for the basic devices were 3G capable, and there was a mix of Dialog and Mobitel. Many said they had got Airtel SIMS, but were not using it.

    Everyone knew about SMS, MMS and mobile browsing, and many were very sophisticated in their use of mobiles – using it to download ring tones, screen savers OTA. We did not see usage of Facebook through their mobiles, though some had Facebook profiles.

    Many used their mobiles for private / personal communication and did not before our workshop see it as a device to empower the community with access information.

    We felt there is a real need for hyper-local content in Sinhala, echoing a need in the Eastern Province during a rapid assessment of media structures and needs conducted late last year by the Media Unit at the Centre for Policy Alternatives. I would imagine this would be the case anywhere at the BOP.

    In Nissankamallapura, the villagers said they wanted the same information one would normally associate with community radio broadcast – information on weather, new information on pesticide use and brand awareness and other community news and ways. They were delighted to discover that these information needs could be served via mobiles, and in an interactive fashion. Our proposal was to mash-up community radio, the web and mobiles as a platform for public service “broadcasting”.

    I am going back to this village later this year to work with the production team on mobile content development. Will keep you posted, for it promises to be an interesting as well as very long term engagement. The real impediment, as ever, is govt. The Gemidiriya Project is great, but is a bureaucratic hell and a reservoir of old developmental thinking. Zero emphasis on ICT, much less mobiles.

    And ICTA is no real help either. As noted in my post, it’s really bizarre that the connectivity to the Nenasala is through a private ISP with a pissant throughput and exorbitant monthly charges. And I don’t know how much of an issue this is in other Nenasalas, put electricity fluctuations were so bad that the UPSs kept beeping non-stop and we ran our laptops off battery power, recharging at night when the voltage was more stable. Can’t imagine electronics lasting long in these conditions, which amongst many other factors calls to question the long term viability of these Nenasalas without complementary infrastructure.

    One trusts in the resilience and inherent innovation at the village level to eventually win over national apathy.

  2. For those who are interested is telecenter connectivity, Chanuka Wattegama did a series that can be located by typing “telecenter” in the search box.