?More Poor People Own Mobile Phones, But Productive Use Still a Far Cry’

Monday, December 19, 2011


Hamid owns a grocery shack in a village. He travels about 80 km once in 15 days to get stuff to stock up his store. Every year his village gets flooded during the rains, leaving him with no earnings during that time.

But, one, small device has changed his life. After he got a mobile phone, Hamid does not need to travel 80 km and lug stuff for his store. He simply calls, places the order and gets stuff delivered. It costs him a bit for the cartage, but the amount of time and effort he saves has helped his business and family life. He says his earnings have gone up after he got the phone. The villagers, too, are happy as they can now place specific orders.

Hamid belongs to bottom of the pyramid (BoP) or the poor who earn less than $2 a day.

According to a 2011 study, “Teleuse@BOP4” by LIRNEasia, an ICT policy and regulation think tank active in the Asia Pacific region, while there has been a marked rise in mobile phone use by BoP persons in rural and urban India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Indonesia and Thailand, unfortunately, the device’s use is primarily restricted to making or receiving calls or SMSs. In some cases, it is also used as a substitute for radio or as a torch.


“It is more than a voice device, and mobile phone companies need to market those uses more vigorously. People should be made aware that they can use it productively as a business tool,” says former Sri Lankan telecom regulator, Mr Rohan Samarajiva, CEO, LITNEasia, at the release of the study in Bangkok recently.

For example, a Thai woman who runs a laundry at home had to go door to door to collect clothes and deliver. After getting a mobile phone, she keeps in touch with her clients, and as business grew, she has arranged for delivery boys.

Source: Business Line (link opens in a new window)