BOP Archives — Page 4 of 5


A story that extensively draws on LIRNEasia research by Voice and Data has coined a new and probably more appropriate term for MNP: not mobile number portability but multiple number possession. MNP seems to be another case of applying Western regulatory instruments without looking at the actual context and needs. In the interview, I said that I too had favored MNP in the old days, but that the results of the Teleuse @ BOP surveys, especially the qualitative studies shows we need to rethink. If we are implementing number portability (which could be useful for corporates and high-end customers) we need to ensure that the costs of portability are assigned to those who cause them and not the operator who is losing the customer. The simple fact that multiple SIM ownership has increased in Pakistan which was the first in the region to implement MNP should suggest something.

AM radio on mobile phones

Posted on July 20, 2009  /  0 Comments

The teleuse@BOP finding that mobiles have overtaken radios at the bottom of the pyramid in Pakistan, India and Bangladesh continues to resonate. In coverage of this story the leading Indian magazine in the IT space Voice and Data reveals that even AM reception is being offered in some Indian phones, in addition to the standard FM capability. Industry experts say it is an obvious phenomenon, with handsets turning in to a swiss-knife kind of solutions. Rural mobile penetration is now the focus of the service providers in these countries where the mobile markets are heading towards maturity. In India circles like Chennai are touching near 100% mobile penetration in that case the operator has to go to new markets.
An interesting article in the Times of India, documents the varied use of missed calls among mobile phone users in India, based on LIRNEasia’s T@BOP3 findings for 2008.  Although the title of the article is slightly misleading (missed call use was, in fact, prevalent in all the countries studied;  see here for more information), it nevertheless brings home the point that missed calls are being regularly used to communicate messages of various kinds in different contexts.
As the media dissemination phase of the teleuse@BOP 3 study draws to a close, we were pleased to see the qualitative results showcased in a long article in the Times of India, perhaps one of the most prestigious among the high-quality media of India. Rural and low-income consumer segments are attracting immense interest as they are expected to contribute to the next wave of growth in India, particularly for telecom products and services. Many industry experts believe that the next billion telecom subscribers will come from the BOP. Telecom adoption at the BOP highlights the role of telecom in enhancing household income and transforming personal identity by increasing accessibility and hence, credibility. Telecom adoption is also seen to impact their social and professional network coordination by strengthening family ties and increasing business coordination by overcoming challenges posed by location and context.
The last burst of dissemination for the teleuse@BOP3 results is yielding good results, this time with an agency story about more BOP homes in Bangladesh, India and Pakistan having phones than radios, a story we had blogged about some time back. Phones are catching up with TVs, and the number of phones being used by ‘bottom of the pyramid’ households have already outpaced the number of radios and computers in South Asia, researchers have said. LIRNEasia, a Sri Lanka-based Asia-Pacific information and communication technology (ICT) policy and regulation capacity-building organisation, said in India a hundred bottom of the pyramid (BOP) households now had 50 TVs, 38 phones, 28 radios and one computer. Radio has been displaced from its No.2 position after television in India.
Talk in the Bangladesh telecom sector has been focused on taxes these days because the government had proposed a 25% tax on handsets and the retention of the controversial TK 800 tax on SIMs. These are counterproductive taxes both in terms of improving government revenues and connecting people electronically; their combined effect is to make it a lot more expensive to get connected. It’s only people who are connected who generate usage-based taxes, they are counter-productive for the government and they absolutely go against plans for a Digital Bangladesh. At the end of all the efforts to change the government’s mind, all that happened is the reduction of the handset tax. Full report in the Daily Star.
In an informal interview with well-known journalist and blogger Frederick Noronha at the 3rd PAN ALL Partners’ Conference held in June, Rohan Samarajiva explains the importance of wireless technology, particularly for business-related purposes, based on T@BOP findings for 2008. He emphasizes that when comparing the effectiveness of different communication telephonies, one needs to go beyond measuring indicators of “volume” to that of “value”; furthermore, he emphasizes that within telephony itself, “one call is not the same as another call” (e.g. a call saying “I am here” cannot be compared to a call made to communicate an emergency).
Findings on public phone use from the Teleuse@BOP3 study have been published in the Indian media. An excerpt of one, published by Yahoo, India follows: A new study says public telephones are the most frequently used method of making calls by Indian women at the bottom of the social pyramid compared to other South Asian nations like Bangladesh, Pakistan, India, Sri Lanka, Philippines and Thailand. Indian men at the bottom of the pyramid, on the other hand, rely more on their mobiles, the study said. Women can walk into a phone booth at any time to connect to friends and families without the fear of being harassed, spied upon or discriminated against in terms of gender. Home phones, said the study, exposed the women to being censured.
LIRNEasia‘s recent research on ICT use and remittances among migrant workers was released in Dhaka on 28 June 2009. The study of over 1,500 domestic and overseas migrant workers in six Asian countries (Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, the Philippines, Thailand and Sri Lanka) has yielded some interesting insights in Bangladesh, with important policy implications. Demand for communication among Bangaldeshi migrants surveyed was particularly high compared to the other countries surveyed; a significant number of overseas migrants even used the Internet to call home. Bangladeshi migrants were sending home around half of their salaries on average, mostly through banks, and hand-carried in cash. Mobiles play a key role in coordinating remittances; a small number of overseas migrants were even sending money home through their mobiles.
Tharoor recalled the infamous words of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi’s communications minister in the 1970s, C.M. Stephen. In response to questions decrying the rampant telephone breakdowns in the country, the minister declared in Parliament that telephones were a luxury, not a right. He added that ‘any Indian who was not satisfied with his telephone service could return his phone’ — since there was an eight-year waiting list of people seeking this supposedly inadequate product.
Teleuse@BOP3, LIRNEasia’s six country study has shown that between 2006 and 2008 there has been significant uptake of mobiles by the BOP in emerging Asia. Access to computers on the other hand (see here for numbers)  in these countries at the BOP is minimal.  Together with the increasing capabilities of mobiles to deliver an array of services, which essentially boil down to what you can do on the Internet (information publication and retrieval, transactions, etc) this means that much of the BOP will have their first Internet experience through a mobile. The current issue of Nokia’s Expanding Horizons quarterly magazine highlights LIRNEasia’s Teleuse@BOP3 study findings from India, illustrating this point. Mobiles are now the most common form of communication, pushing public phones into second place… The rapid evolution of the mobile into a multi-purpose communications and knowledge tool combined with its fast adoption by the BOP, means they and the majority of people in the developing world are likely to have their first Internet experience via a mobile.
TVEAP (on behalf of LIRNEasia) videoed a series of interviews with teleusers to explore their usage patterns at the BOP. These videos are part of a larger study conducted by LIRNEasia on the use of ICTs at the BOP in six Asian countries. Below is one of seven interviews; more will be uploaded in the next few days.
In line with our current research focus on mobile-beyond-voice, we have been highlighting some novel information services that could be provided over the mobile.  Here is another.  In operation in India now. A number of civic groups, meanwhile, have devised cellphone-based ways of informing voters about candidates for Parliament. If you text your postal code to the Association for Democratic Reforms, it will reply with candidate profiles like this: CANDIDATE A Crim.
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%!
The demand-side data generated by the Teleuse @ BOP 3 study clearly shows the urban-rural gap among teleusing households (those who own some kind of mobile phone or have a fixed phone in the house) significantly narrowing. But respected colleagues are citing supply-side data to assert not only that the gap is not narrowing, but that it is significantly widening. This is contradictory not only with our demand-side results, but also with the claims made by the Indian Minister. We hope they will engage with us on clearing this fog. More perilous, however, is the inequality between rural and urban India.
Just five years ago, the Indian telecom industry’s massive momentum barely included the poor.  The country had slightly over seven access paths (fixed and mobile connections) per 100 people, but in rural India 100 people were served by only 1.5 access paths.  Even in urban India, the poor were unconnected. But now, the picture is different.