BOP Archives — Page 3 of 5


How mobile handsets are doing

Posted on February 16, 2010  /  0 Comments

A story on the Barcelona GSM World conference had this interesting summary on the state of the handset market. With our focus on infrastructure we have not written much about handsets over the years, but it’s becoming difficult, especially in the context of the Mobile 2.0 narrative. As I said in a recent interview with the Expanding Horizons magazine: “Mobile networks will provide the key connectivity, especially as we see handsets becoming more advanced.” Global shipments of handsets had been falling every quarter since the third quarter of 2008, when the global financial crisis erupted, according to market research firm Strategy Analytics.
Findings from LIRNEasia’s Teleuse@BOP3 study have been cited in the latest issue of Nokia’s Expanding Horizons magazine. The article discusses the vast potential mobile phones have for providing those on the lower-incomes or the bottom of the pyramid, access to the internet for the first time. Read the full article here. Excerpt below: According to ICT policy think tank LIRNEasia, the evidence shows that mobiles, not computers, have the best potential to deliver services to rural areas in the Indo-Gangetic Plain, the world’s largest concentration of poor people. “This is the hardest case.
By Aileen Aguero, former Research Intern, LIRNEasia As an intern at LIRNEasia, I had the opportunity of working with Harsha de Silva in writing a paper called Bottom of the Pyramid  (BOP) Expenditure Patterns on Mobile Phone Services in Selected Emerging Asian Countries. I presented this paper at the Pacific Telecommunications Conference, held on 17 – 20 January in Honolulu, Hawaii. The 2010 edition of this conference tried to emphasize the benefits innovation provides as well as the challenges faced by developing economies in connecting the unconnected and the adequate provision of systems and services. Our paper was part of Breakout Session 7: Building for Sustainability – ICTs in the Developing World, held on 19 January (paper and slides available here). Elizabeth Fife, Bruce Baikie, Laina Reveendran and Laura Hosman were also part of this panel.
As part of LIRNEasia’s 5th year anniversary conference, “research -> policy -> knowledge based economies“, a photo exhibition was commissioned at the event to capture different aspects of the use of mobile phones by those at the Bottom of the Pyramid (BOP). The images which were sourced from Flickr from both budding as well as professional photographers (and used with their permission), showcased the varied nature of mobile connectivity and use facing the people of Asia from the BOP. An online gallery has been created to as a companion to the actual exhibition and can be viewed HERE.
What I like about the new economy is that no one is king of the hill for too long. IBM, the target of Apple’s famous 1984 ad, almost went under and reinvented itself as an open source champion for the comeback. Microsoft is no longer looking like a big bad bully. And Nokia who seemed to own the mobile space is scrambling. It is getting hammered not only in the network equipment space (where the alliance with Siemens did not do much good) but in the main game which is handsets.
Rohan Samarajiva, LIRNEasia’s CEO, delivered a keynote address at the recently concluded South Asia Mobile Summit, held in Dhaka, Bangladesh, 21 – 22 October 2009. The two-day event was organized by the South Asia Mobile Forum, a consortium of telecom industry players in the SAARC region, with the aim of creating a platform for market, institutional and technological issues to be discussed and progress made. Rohan made a presentation on South Asia’s  Budget Telecom Network Model, that has been adopted by many regional telcos in providing voice services to the bottom of the pyramid (BOP), and how the same can be applied to broadband services as well. The presentation drew on findings from LIRNEasia’s Teleuse@BOP, telecom regulatory environment (TRE) and mobile benchmark studies. The full presentation can be downloaded here.
Harsha de Silva, LIRNEasia’s lead economist, presented a paper co-authored with Dimuthu Ratnadiwakara and Ayesha Zainudeen entitled, “Social Influence in Mobile Phone Adoption: Evidence from the Bottom of Pyramid in Emerging Asia” at an International Conference on Mobile Communication and Social Policy. The conference was held at the  Centre for Mobile Communications Studies, Rutgers University, New Jersey, 9-11 October 2009.  The paper is based on findings from the Teleuse@BOP3 study. A working paper is available here.
Few days back we heard that flat rate was the way forward. Here is the riposte, in words from experts (including LIRNEasia) and in new offerings from Reliance. Let the debate continue. The experts see business sense around sachet pricing, especially for a low income group subscriber in the villages of India, who is mostly a prepaid user and does not have a big budget to spend. They say sachet pricing can yield results not only for Inetrnet penetration, but other services other than voice.
Reliance was at the presentations we made on teleuse@BOP3 results about awareness, trial and use of more-than-voice applications on mobiles. We can only speculate whether our results were used in the design of the services described by The Hindu: RCom is launching three initiatives — BharatNet plan, Grameen VAS and M2M (Machine to Machine) solutions — under its rural drive. BharatNet plan is a high-speed wireless Internet service in over 20,000 rural locations across India and will address four million PC users in rural India. A high-speed variant of the Reliance NetConnect service specifically designed for rural and sub-urban markets, it will offer speeds of about 153 Kbps, which is 4 to 8 times the current dial-up speed of wire-line services. BharatNet is being offer at Rs.
Reading the WEF and INSEAD Global Information Technology Report 2008-09, I was struck by the presence of several references from within the LIRNE.NET community. I would have of course preferred some mention of LIRNEasia (in the same way DIRSI had been mentioned) and or a URL, but still, nice to know our work is being read and used. It is noteworthy that the second author on the first reference below, A. Aguero, is currently with LIRNEasia completing a professional internship.
LIRNEasia’s T@BOP3 research findings on ownership levels of mobile phones versus radios at the BOP have been cited in both MobileActive.org and MediaShift Idea Lab. Seemingly surprising findings reveal that in Pakistan, Bangladesh and India, more people own mobile phones than radios. Read the two articles here and here. MediaShift Idea Lab, 19 Aug 2009: In the United States, high-end smartphones like the iPhone and BlackBerry don’t have built-in radios.
The sixth edition of the “Telecenter Debates” published by Telecenter Magazine presents a debate on whether or not the PC is the best vehical for providing IT-related services to rural areas. Rohan Samarajiva presents an article against this assertion, using evidence from the Teleuse@BOP3 study, to state that “mobiles, not PCs, have the potential to be best vehicles for delivering services to rural areas in the Indo-Gangetic Plain, the world’s largest concentration of poor people”. Read the full article here. The PC is the best vehicle for providing IT-delivered services to rural areas

Teleuse@BOP profile: Sayar Singh

Posted on August 11, 2009  /  0 Comments

Continuing our series of T@BOP3 user videos, below is a video interview with Sayar Singh in Rajastan, India: Business and social life have definately improved for Sayar Singh since he bought his mobile phone in mid-2008. Earlier, he was frustrated with a fixed phone that didn’t work half the time. This wheat and flower farmer in India’s Rajasthan state now tracks market prices and moves his produce quickly for better profits. With workload reduced and income doubled, Sayar has reaped dual benefits from his mobile. Click here to view other videos.

What Women Want (at the BOP)

Posted on August 6, 2009  /  0 Comments

Voice and Data carries a detailed article on LIRNEasia’s teleuse research findings, including the use of telephony and remittance patterns among migrants in the study. The article highlight the gender difference in telecom ownership and use that still exists among the South Asian countries studied. The article goes on to argue that while “entertainment has a stronghold in telecom use”, a lack of interesting content and limited needs, reduces the chances of uptake and consumption among the BOP. Read the full article here. Unlike in Southeast Asian countries like Thailand and the Philippines, where female users have already taken a proactive lead, in South Asian countries like India, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, clear gender differences still exist and this in turn impacts several elements of telecom usage like phone sharing, spatial elements of phone use, mobile adoption, ownership and perceptions around benefits.
TVEAP (on behalf of LIRNEasia) videoed a series of interviews with teleusers to explore their usage patterns at the BOP. Below is an interview with eighteen-year-old Chamara Pahalawattage, a Sri Lankan school leaver, who does not have a steady job but that  hasn’t dampened his enthusiasm for mobile phones he now uses his sixth phone in two years. This resident of Gonapola, western Sri Lanka, finds odd jobs at construction sites thanks to his phone. And after a hard day’s work, he unwinds listening to the radio, or swapping phone songs with friends. Click here to view other videos.
The Sunday Times (English) and Ravaya (Sinhala) carried the results of the migrant component of the teleuse research, making direct reference to the need to set the rules in place, a topic that was addressed in a previous issue of the Times by M. Aslam Hayat. “The challenge for mobile operators is to make a remittance service as simple as handing over the money and a slip, with hand-written transfer details, to a bank clerk,” said the study. On average, a Sri Lankan migrant sends home US $ 137 per month. The most common method of remittance is through the banking system.