Helani Galpaya, LIRNEasia’s COO, participated at the Asian Telecom Seminar, organized by the Symbiosis Institute of Telecom Management in Pune, India, from 25 – 26 September, 2009. She made a presentation on “The political economy of ICT in Asia” and also participated in a panel entitled, “ ICT at Bottom of Pyramid- Bridging the Digital Divide. Where lies the buck?”. More information on the seminar can be found here.
India’s MTNL and BSNL have been losing fixed subscriptions for years; Sri Lanka joined the club recently. Now we see the heirs to AT&T throwing in the towel. I guess it was like this when the railways replaced the canals. How long will it take for policy makers in emerging Asia to see where the wind is blowing? Roll over in your grave, Alexander Graham Bell.
LIRNEasia’s 2005 research on India’s Universal Service Obligation (USO) policy, conducted by Payal Malik and Harsha de Silva, has been cited in a presentation to the US House of Representatives, in March 2009. The paper presented, entitled, “Using Competitive Bidding to Reform the Universal Service High Cost Fund”, can be downloaded here. As a policy-oriented organization, we are indeed pleased that our research is being used to influence policy, not just in emerging Asia but in other regions as well. LIRNEasia’s paper, “Diversifying Network Participation: Study of India’s Universal Service Instruments” can be downloaded here. More on the study can be found 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.
In the context of the debates about banning mobiles for school children, the issue of phones that constrain use has become relevant. The NYT has done a full survey of the options available to parents in the US, an excerpt of which is given below. Why doesn’t someone do a similar survey for India, Sri Lanka, etc.? Now for some real cellphones.
According to the World Economic Forum’s Network Readiness Index (covering 134 countries in 2008-09), only Sri Lanka has gained any ground among the South Asian countries. India is the first within the region, ranked 54th (down from 50th in 2007-08). Sri Lanka has made considerable progress from 79th place in 2007-08 to 70th place in a straight comparison (72nd among the 2008-09 countries). Congratulations to the industry, ICTA and all who contributed to this gain. Pakistan has slipped to 95th in a straight comparison from its 89th position in 2007-08.
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.
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.
Anybody could have guessed this. It is unimaginable that entire world will go through a recession simultaneously. Not everyone can be losers for too long. There should be winners somewhere. For example, what would the US firms that find their human resources costs, logically do?
Both India and Pakistan had negative growth in fixed wireline 2003-2008: -3.5 for India and -0.4 for Pakistan. Sri Lanka has too, but this is masked by the rapid growth of CDMA, which in this country is called fixed.
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.
It appears that the India-Sri Lanka joint venture in business process outsourcing is having a hard time because Sri Lankans are difficult to train. The LBO article is worth a read, but here is a key quote. Revenues had fallen as the US recession took its toll on the auto and restaurant businesses which comprised the bulk of its customers but that the number of clients was growing, JKH said. Roy also said it was important for Sri Lanka to expand higher education and technology training institutions to ensure the supply of trained people if the country wants to attract more BPO business. He said Sri Lanka had the highest number of British-qualified accountants outside Britain and should capitalise on its own strengths instead of trying to compete with India.
AT Kearny has issued the 2009 Global Services Index. The good news for South Asia is that Sri Lanka has moved up from 29 to 16 and Pakistan from 30 to 20. India, of course, sits at the top, no change from 2007. The advances of Sri Lanka and Pakistan have been at the expense of the Northern European countries (e.g.