When I was presenting some of the findings from our Myanmar survey, someone from the audience raised a question about how much poor people were spending on smartphones. The implication was that it was a luxury. Here are some insights and stories pulled together by the World Bank. If you look inside the bag of any refugee on a life-threatening boat trip to Europe, you see a few possessions that vary from one refugee to another. However, there is one thing they all carry with them: a smartphone.
Two members of CPRsouth, Ibrahim Kholiul Rohman and Hasib Ahsan Nadeem, have collaborated on an evidence-based op-ed published in Indonesia’s leading English daily. I am very pleased about this. This kind of decentralized initiative is what we sought to foster through CPRsouth. But decentralized initiative also means that the policy recommendations may not be in line with what LIRNEasia would say, based on its research. Here is one such divergence.
ABSTRACT This paper investigates the factors that influence formalization of poor micro-enterprises (MEs) in urban locations in Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. The paper draws from a multi-country survey of information and communication needs of poor MEs in Bangladesh, India and Sri Lanka in the second quarter of 2013. Through logistic regression, it models business registration among such MEs to understand what affects the decision to formalize within these environments. The paper also looks at the barriers to registration and the policy implications from these findings. Using descriptive statistics and models we find that the MEs lack of formalization is explained to a significant level by their level of education, gender, size of the enterprise and awareness levels.
The government itself has found the early warning actions of the designated national authorities deficient and is talking of setting up workaround mechanisms. Nothing really new, other than sadness that seven years and large commitments of resources have not taken us much farther than we were back in 2004. What is even more worrisome is the lack of knowledge among all the parties about the available modes of communicating early warnings. No mention of cell broadcasting that is capable of delivering location-specific tailored information to all mobile handsets within the range of a base transceiver station. The journalist has done a good job except for repeating misinformation about poor communication infrastructure and access in rural areas.
In the midst of writing a unifying introduction to a special issue of a journal on how the poor use the mobile phone, I came across this sentence on the web. “Ki raflé du ki amul yeeré wayé moy ki amul nit”, as a Senegalese proverb has it, “the poor person is not the one without clothes but the one without anyone.” Seems to capture the essence of the power of social networks (I do not mean FaceBook).
A Sri Lanka newspaper article reporting on a talk I gave last week that was based on the Budget Telecom Network Model used the headline “Poor is the future.” Pity the newspaper did not pick up what I said about “more-than-voice” services offered by telcos making the poor less poor; not taking money from their pockets, but putting money in their pockets or at least allowing them to keep their money. The poor is the market for the telecoms industry, a former regulator said. Professor Rohan Samarajiva, former Director General of the Telecommunications Regulatory Commission (T.R.
It is a measure of CK Prahalad’s fame that I read about his demise in a Sinhala weekly. I had missed the story because I was teaching in Cape Town and then on the road until the end of April. But today, as I glanced through this low-circulation, but high-impact, weekly, I learnt of his passing. Last year, I was discussing the possibilities of inviting him to give lectures and interact with business leaders in Colombo and southern India. Our business partner was of the opinion that Professor Prahalad was not known widely in Sri Lanka and that we would have to do extensive marketing.
In its 2005-06 budget (Khaleda Zia) the Bangladesh government imposed a regressive Taka 900 tax on each SIM that was issued.   We describe the tax as regressive because, if it was passed on to customers, it would hurt the low-user segment (generally the poorer segment) of the market more, because it’s a fixed tax that does not vary with use. The mobile operators did not quite understand what the government wanted to do and decided to absorb the tax.  They made various pleas and protests and got the tax reduced to Taka 800.  Finally, in 2008, they decided they had enough and decided to pass on most of the tax to customers.