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• Introduction
• Definition
• History
• Growth
• Scope
• Electronic agriculture
• Indian rural market
• Linkage between telecom and rural areas
• Rural community telecommunication architecture
• Improving market access
• Four A’s model
• Successful experience in telecom
• Mobile revolution
• Case study
• Technical and Social challenges
• Strategies
• Conclusion
• References


Rural markets in India constitute a wide and untapped
market for many products and services which are being marketed for the urban
masses. There is a demand for telecommunication services to be provided to in
these areas. Till now it was government which was trying to reach the villages
through various initiates, but the rural tele-density is very poor and can be
improved only through the introduction of modern and suitable technology along
with participation from the private operators. Mobile phone ownership in India is
growing rapidly, six million new mobile subscriptions are added each month and one
in five Indian's will own a phone by the end of 2007. By the end of 2008, three
quarters of India's population will be covered by a mobile network. Many of these
new "mobile citizens" live in poorer and more rural areas with scarce
infrastructure and facilities, high illiteracy levels, low PC and internet
penetration. The study looks at how their new mobility could be used to bridge the
growing economic and social digital divide between rural and urban areas.

The first section would give a brief introduction to rural markets in India and
the current status of telecommunication services. Section two talks about the
linkage which exists between the telecommunication services and development,
followed by a detailed section on the Bottom of the pyramid and 4 As model to
address rural telecommunication issues. Next section looks at the successful
experiences of four countries in rural telecommunication in rural areas. In the
conclusion the implications are brought out for the Indian market.

M-learning, or "mobile learning", now commonly abbreviated to "mLearning", has
different meanings for different communities. Although related to e-learning and
distance education, it is distinct in its focus on learning across contexts and
learning with mobile devices.
Definition: Learning that happens across locations, or that takes advantage of
learning opportunities offered by portable technologies.
The term covers: learning with portable technologies, where the focus is on the
technology (which could be in a fixed location, such as a classroom); learning
across contexts, where the focus is on the mobility of the learner, interacting
with portable or fixed technology; and learning in a mobile society, with a focus
on how society and its institutions can accommodate and support the learning of an
increasingly mobile population that is not satisfied with existing learning
1970s and 1980s
Alan Kay and colleagues in the Learning Research Group at Xerox Palo Alto Research
Center [PARC] propose the Dynabook as a book-sized computer to run dynamic
simulations for learning. Their interim Dynabooks are the first networked

Universities in Europe and Asia develop and evaluate mobile learning for students.
Palm corporation offers grants to universities and companies who create and test
the use of mobile learning on the PalmOS platform. Palm Education Pioneers
The European Commission funds the major multi-national MOBIlearn and M-Learning
Companies were formed that specialise in three core areas of mobile learning.
1. Authoring and publishing
2. Delivery and Tracking
3. Content Development
Conferences and trade shows were created to specifically deal with mobile learning
and handheld education, including: mLearn, WMUTE, and IADIS Mobile Learning
international conference series, ICML in Jordan, Mobile Learning in Malaysia,
Handheld Learning in London, SALT Mobile in USA.
Over the past ten years mobile learning has grown from a minor research interest
to a set of significant projects in schools, workplaces, museums, cities and rural
areas around the world. The mLearning community is still fragmented, with
different national perspectives, differences between academia and industry, and
between the school, higher education and lifelong learning sectors.
Current areas of growth include:
Testing, surveys, job aids and just in time learning
location-based and contextual learning
Social-networked mobile learning
Mobile educational gaming
"Lowest common denominator" mLearning to cellular phones using two way SMS
messaging and voice-based CellCasting (podcasting to phones with interactive
The scope of mobile learning includes:
1. Children and students using handheld computers, PDAs or handheld voting
systems in a classroom or lecture
2. Students using mobile devices in the classroom to enhance group
collaboration among students and instructors using a Pocket
3. On the job training for someone who accesses training on a mobile device
"just in time" to solve a problem or gain an update.
4. Learning in museums or galleries with handheld or wearable technologies
Learning outdoors, for example on field trips.
5. The use of personal technology to support informal or lifelong learning,
such as using handheld dictionaries and other devices for language learning.
6. Improving levels of literacy, numeracy and participation in education
amongst young adults.
7. To provide audiovisual support in order to enhance training that has been
provided in a corporate business or other classroom environment.
Electronic agriculture
E-Agriculture is a new term and its scope is expected to evolve with time. It
involves conceptualization, design, development, evaluation and application of
innovative ways to use ICT on agriculture. Its role in agriculture — which
includes use of computers, Internet, geographical information systems, mobile
phones, radio and television — was endorsed at the World Summit on the Information
Society 2005. Stakeholders in agriculture industry need information and knowledge
about agricultural and food production.
Any system applied for getting information for making decisions in any industry
should deliver accurate, complete, concise information on time. The information
must be in user-friendly, easy to access, cost-effective and well protected from
unauthorised accesses. ICT can help achieve greater interactivity in
communicating, evaluating, producing and sharing useful information and knowledge.

Indian Rural Market

India lives in villages, close to 72 percent of Indian population lives in rural

areas. In the country we have 6.36lakh villages out of which only 13 percent have
population above 2000. The rural economy contributes nearly half of the country’s
GDP (ETIG 2002-03) which is mainly agriculture driven and monsoon dependant. More
than 50 percent of the sales FMCG and Durable companies come from the rural areas.
The McKinsey report (2007) on the rise on consumer market in India predicts that
in twenty years the rural Indian market will be larger than the total consumer
markets in countries such as South Korea or Canada today, and almost four times
the size of today’s urban Indian market and estimated the size of the rural market
at $577 Billion.

Census of India defines rural as any habitation with a population density less
than 400 per sq. km., where at least 75 percent of the male working population is
engaged in agriculture and where there exits no municipality or board, and the
same definition being accepted for the paper here. A marketer trying to market his
product or service in the rural areas is faced by many challenges; the first is
posed by the geographic spread and low population density in the villages in the
country. The table below gives us the population and village size details in the

Rural Population Statistics

Population Number of Villages Percentage of total villages
Less than 200 114267 17.9
200-499 155123 24.3
A 159400 25
1000-1999 125758 19.7
2000-4999 69135 10.8
5000-9999 11618 1.8
10000 & above 3064 0.5
Total 636365 100

According to NCAER 2002, the number of rural middle class house holds at
27.4 million is very close to their urban counterpart at 29.5 million. The
improvement in the support prices being offered to farmers also has an impact on
the disposable income with the farmers. And between, 1981-2001 there has been
tremendous improvement in the literacy levels, poverty and rural housing in the
villages of the country. Rural literacy levels have improved from 36 percent to 59
percent, the number of below poverty houses have declined from close to half to 46
percent and the number of pucca houses have doubled from 22 percent to 41 percent.
These figures provide us with a clear picture that rural India with the increase
in agricultural income and improving standards is on the verge of becoming a large
untapped market which marketers have been aspiring for a very long period of time.
Thus the current status of rural markets makes it an attractive market for
marketers. The next section specifically looks at the current status of rural
telecom and the technology perspective
Rural Telecom, current status in India
According to the NCAER Rural Infrastructure Report (2007), the
demand for telecommunication services are surging across rural India, as middle
class and upper classes are growing in most villages but the tele-density levels
are very low 1.67 per 100 residents compared with average of 8.59 overall and
25.90 in Indian cities. Table below gives us the details of the urban rural
Rural Urban Divide
Rural Urban
Mobile Phones 0.01 mn 75.685 mn
Fixed Lines 13.9 mn 36.988 mn
Private Operator share 0.01% 53.54%
PCO’s Approx 20 Lakh Approx 35 Lakh
VPTs 533,000 villages (as of Sep2005)
VPTs Target Another 53,800 villages (by 2008)
Total Number of Phones Approx 14 mn Approx 112 mn
Teledensity Approx 2% Approx 31%
Teledenisty Targets 15% (by 2007) 43%

The characteristics of the rural areas, low population density and

spread out population, difficult topographical and climatic conditions make it
difficult to provide telecommunication service of acceptable quality by
traditional means at affordable prices (CDOT, 2007). But with the development of
new appropriate technology like wireless technologies have been accepted that it
is possible to overcome these difficulties. Wireless technology has been proposed
to be the first viable infrastructure to rural and underdeveloped areas and have
therefore recommended that villages near a larger town can take advantage of the
fiber backbone; a remote village can be connected via VSAT link. From the fiber
backbone, a point-to-point or point-to multipoint WiMAX link can be used to
connect one or more villages near the town, thus enabling WiMAX to distribute
locally among all rural community groups in a given village using long distance
Wi-Fi technology The technology angle to providing telecom services has been not
been given much attention as it has been written on by many authors and the focus
of the current paper is marketing issues related to marketing if telecom services.

Till recently it was the government which made an attempt at providing the
services in rural India. The Government of India, Bharat Nirman Initiative, 2005-
09, plans every village in the country to be connected by November 2007. The aim
is to provide every village in the country with a Village Panchayat Phone (VPTs)
by the year end. But the status and maintenance of the VPTs have been found to be
lacking, and a large number of them have been found to be out of order and
disconnected due to the non-payment of bills as villager perceive them as a free
service provided by the government (Bhatnagar, 2000). And provision of one phone
per village might not be abele to address the tele-density issues. The private
telecom operators have been occupied with the urban market, India being the
fastest growing mobile market in the world, but they have to take interest in the
rural markets owing to the size and the fact that the rural markets are the ones
that would provide them with the growth in future. Thus the government as provider
of telecom services can only be a part of the solution and the major thrust has to
come from the private operators. Lots of studies have found a positive linkage
between telecom and level of development; the next section is about the same.
Linkage between Telecom and Development
Core sectors of the economy which includes telecom are said to have a
direct bearing on transforming consumers into producer and promote economic
development. A number of studies have documented the positive impact of mobile
phone adoption on rural development (Bhatnagar 2000,Waverman, 2005). Telecom
services would fall in the mid-space of the matrix of development versus
profitability by serving low income consumers (Beshouri, 2006). Need for community
based solution has been advocated by many; by tapping into local networks
companies can serve low-income markets profitability (Beshouri, 2006). The
successful examples of telecom in rural areas also points to the same direction,
the Grameen Phone which has been successful has tapped the Microfinance network,
and various ICT initiatives have taken the help of either successful cooperatives
or have tied-up with a local NGO.
Experiences like the Grameen Phone have shown that provision of
phone connectivity to a village serves two purposes, first leads to the economic
development by helping individuals and business gain economic efficiency through
communications, and promoting social and economic development for individuals who
own and operate the telephone enterprises (World Resource Institute, 2001).

Improving market access

Awareness of up-to-date market information on prices for commodities, inputs and
consumer trends can improve farmers’ livelihoods substantially and have a dramatic
impact on their negotiating position. Such information is important in making
decisions about future crops and commodities and about the best time and place to
sell and buy goods.
In many countries, initiatives exist that seek to address this issue. Websites
that match offer and demand of agricultural produce are part of the agricultural
trade systems.
Price information is collected at the main regional markets and stored in a
central database. The information is published on a website, accessible to farmers
via information centers.
To reach a wider audience, information is broadcast via rural radio, TV and any
other new media channel including the phone, thereby creating a ‘level playing
field’ between producers and traders in a region.
The sustainability of these systems requires attention, with an important role for
the private sector and organized producer groups. Web-based trading platforms
offering one-stop shop facilities are emerging, especially for main commodities.
In recent years, short message and text services have taken up and effectively
deliver prices and trading information via mobile phone to farmers, in Senegal,
and Benin.
The set-up of price and market information systems has been piloted in many
developing countries. Farmers and agricultural players are being linked to
factories and mills, through the use of satellite, databases and mobile phones,
thereby ensuring a fair income for producers and a steady supply.
Marketing Issues in Rural Telecom
To address the issue of the urban and rural gap and reaching to the rural masses
can be addressed by falling back on the Bottom of the Pyramid (BOP) marketing
strategies and the 4 A’s Availability, Affordability, Acceptability and Awareness
The BOP marketing strategies basically talk about aggregating the demand of
consumers who have low individual purchasing power and are spread out. The basic
commercial infrastructure suggested for the bottom of the pyramid markets
constitutes of four things, creating buying power, improving access, tailoring
local solutions and shaping aspirations.
The 4 As model described is explained in the context of rural telecom. Each of the
As is detailed out below.
4 As model

Availability the first A is about making the product reach the consumers and in
the case of telecom services studies have shown this to be the biggest barrier to
be overcome . It has been acknowledged by many that distribution systems are the
most critical component and a barrier which needs to be overcome for success in
marketing in rural areas. The task of distribution in these areas is considered to
be more difficult than in urban areas low density of population and
inaccessibility makes the problem of servicing villages individually difficult and
often uneconomical. Direct delivery of goods even to the top one percent of
villages cost twice as much as servicing urban markets .To overcome the
difficulties posed in distribution a phased spread of the services is recommended,
wherein bigger villages can be targeted first, then the ones which are near a
small town and connected and last would be the remote villages. In the
distribution the importance of small town markets cannot be ignored and need to be
given importance as besides being a point of distribution they can also be used
for promoting products as villagers tend to come to the town frequently for either
purchase of agricultural inputs or sale of their produce.
The second component of recharge also needs to be tailored according to the needs
of rural masses. The availability of disposable income in rural areas is cyclical
relate to agricultural cycles and thus the recharge coupons provided in the urban
areas might not be suited to the needs to farmers and the promotions and schemes
to be used in these markets also need to be in accordance with the agricultural
cycles. And it has been shown through the success of single use small packs that
the cost per-use is more important than the cost of the overall product or
Acceptability issues would include issues needed to be addressed to improve the
willingness to consume distribute or sell a product. It would also include how the
product or service could be made more acceptable to the rural consumers by
incorporating features which would make it attractive to them. With a telecom
service there are two basic components of the service one being the handset and
second being the recharge coupons. Innovation is needed at both the ends to be
able to tackle both the issues.

Affordability issues in telecom would include two sets of issues, the first being
a fixed cost and an initial barrier for a villager to start with the service needs
to be brought down and many companies including the market leader Nokia are
working on low cost handsets which could be of use in rural areas. Within the
product there is a need for customization in terms of language and user
friendliness. The rural population where illiteracy is very high needs to be taken
into consideration before coming out with the product and the feature which would
be included in the product need to be rethought; the needs of rural consumer need
to be taken into consideration. In a rural area a radio combined with a mobile
might make more sense to the rural consumer than perhaps a camera. And while
designing the phone one needs to keep the problems related to the power shortages
in the villages.

Awareness is linked to the issues of promotion of telecom services in rural areas.
The promotion of the services also needs to be adapted to the village environment;
the language and means of communication used should be in the local language. The
best places to promote the services could be the local haats and melas which is
frequented by the villagers, the local festivals should also be included in the
promotional plan, so should be the agricultural cycles.
Studies have shown that the communication needs of rural
consumers are limited, in a study done by ICICI (1998) they found that nearly 70%
of the outgoing traffic from rural areas is meant for a destination within the
district. Of this 40% remained within the Taluk. Only 20% traffic goes to another
district and hardly 10% to another State. International calls represent less than
1% of the traffic. The needs would go beyond basic commutation needs and
initiatives like one by Reliance Telecom services which helps farmers ascertain
market prices (Beshouri, 2006) should provide us with a pointer.
Lastly, issue of proper segmenting and targeting of village consumers should also
be addressed. Rural India is not a homogenous mass, but there are pockets of
prosperous villages and areas in the country and within villages the purchasing
capacity of the villagers vary and the products to be offered need to be tailored
to their needs..

Successful Experiences in Rural Telecom

The table below summaries the four experiences of success rural telecom services
provided in rural areas. The first one if the Grameen Phone experience in
Bangladesh which is based on a share access model and has been successfully
extended to other countries also. Second is the experience of Smart Communication
Inc and how it adapted its services in rural areas if Philippines and improved the
penetration of mobile services in the country. Third is the experience of rural
communication in Chile and the constructive role that the government played in the
scripting the success story there and last is the experience in Africa, the
success story which has been documented by many researchers.
The Grameen Phone experiences show the importance of relying on a existing
institutional infrastructure of the Microfinance helped it in succeeding and the
use of a share access model. Similar initiatives on tying up the rural telecom
initiative in the country to some exiting Institutional Infrastructure like
cooperatives or Microfinance institutions and NGOs would ensure more sustainable
success of the launch of the services. And the Experience of Smart Communications
Inc in Philippines reemphasizes the importance of making the services affordable
by innovations in both service delivery as well as pricing of services. Learning
form the Chile experience shows us that government too needs to play a
constructive role, and the African experience highlights the importance of low
cost handsets in the expansion of services.
Rural Telecom Success Stories
Example Salient Features Reasons for success
Bangladesh – Grameen Phone ( Grameen Foundation 2005, World Resource Institute,
2001) - Captured 63% of the country’s Mobile market
- Average of 60 customers use each phone and average monthly bills amount upto
$144.02 in 2000.
- Model has been extended to Uganda - Share access business model
- A cadre of phone entrepreneurs
- Effective use of the Microfinance network for promoting Grameen Phone.
- Use of GSM Technology
- Significant subsidy being given to the service
Philippines – Smart Communications Inc (Anderson & Billou, 2007, Anderson,
2005). - Mobile penetration at 30% by 2004 and expected to reach 70 % by 2008.
- Use of Innovative over the air payment system to overcome the availability
-Developed smaller denominations of recharge
-Use of used handsets reduced barriers to ownership.
Rural Communications – Chile (Wellenius, 2002) -From 1995-2002 reduced the
population living without access to basic voice communication from 15 to 1 percent
- Reliance in market forces and minimum regulations
- Simple and relatively expeditious processing
- Effective Government leadership
African Experience in Mobile Telephony (Vodafone 2006, ITU 2006) - 15 million
mobile subscribers added to subscriber base in 2004, equivalent to total number of
telephone subscribers in 1996
- Mobile penetration three times the land line at 9.1 per 100 inhabitants
- 75 % of all African telephone subscribers are Mobile - Use of Mobile
technology to leap-frog the older technologies
-Ability of Mobile operators to provide mobile coverage rapidly
- High degree of liberalization and competition in the mobile sector
- Reduction in Tariff combined with “ultra-low-cost” Handsets and availability of
prepaid service

Community Wireless Networks—linking phones, not computers.

The challenge in rural communities is to both build demand and to aggregate that
demand. Aggregating demand is the role a community wireless network, but building
that network around voice services is critical to building demand—in large part
because phones are easy to use, have low maintenance costs, and can support a wide
range of voice-based and data services. Person-to-person communications has
historically been the killer-app for telecommunication services and, in a rural
context where literacy rates are low and most information needs are basic, demand
for person-to-person communications is likely to remain primary.
The new model for community networks is based around Voice Over Internet Protocol
(VOIP) telephony that sends voice traffic as data using the Internet’s efficient
packet-switching system rather than the circuit-switching system of traditional
telephony. The phones themselves can either be traditional phones attached to a
small conversion box or Wi-Fi phones that have the voice-to-data conversion built
into the handset itself and connect wirelessly with a community Wi-Fi network, or
even multi-mode cellular phones that have Wi-Fi chips built into them and can work
on either cellular or Wi-Fi networks (see Addendum A). The key point is that
phones on a VOIP system are Internet devices and use network capacity much more
frugally than traditional phones—lowering bandwidth requirements and costs
dramatically. Conversion boxes already cost less than $50, and the chipset
required to connect to a Wi-Fi network costs about $15; Wi-Fi phones incorporating
both are entering volume production and are expected to cost $50 or less within a
New peer-to-peer networking software can set up or “switch” a VOIP phone call, and
these “soft” switches are efficient enough to handle hundreds of thousands of
calls on a single PC located anywhere on the Internet. The VOIP data traffic,
however, travels directly between the two “peered” phones. That is important,
because historically about 60% of voice traffic in local networks stays local—
within the community—and thus uses only the local network capacity, another source
of significant cost savings.
The community network that links the VOIP phones, in the new model, is a Wi-Fi
fixed wireless network—either a single hotspot or a series of interconnected Wi-Fi
nodes. Wi-Fi equipment is already a commodity, making the costs of such a network
far lower than any other wireless network. In the most sophisticated version of a
community network, the Wi-Fi nodes are a smart, “mesh” network that automatically
finds and links with other nodes, routes signals in the most efficient manner, and
can connect efficiently over a dozen hops in any direction—enabling coverage of an
extended community. Moreover, some mesh equipment is designed for very low power
and comes with solar panels and built-in battery storage. Such networks can be
deployed “out of the box”, on poles or rooftops, without need for local power—and
are thus ideally suited to rural conditions.
Although VOIP phones may be the main devices on such a network, the network can
also support any other Wi-Fi-ready device—handheld computers, laptops, or PCs—
enabling a wide variety of Internet services to be deployed if demand warrants.

The New Model for a Rural Community Telco

USAID’s Darrell Owen has done a good job laying out the components of a fully-
functional community-based telecommunications network built to serve the latent
demands for local-community voice communications as described above. These include
1) an Internet Protocol (IP) network in lieu of a circuit switched network, 2)
voice services that are provided through VoIP in lieu of custom hardware-based
switching, 3) wireless distribution, be it Wi-Fi or WiMAX or, for the more remote
locations, VSAT links for connecting the rural system to the Internet

In this model, the local network is easily deployed, provides multiple telephony
access points for both inter-community and long distance calling in addition to
supporting data. The use of off-the-shelf technologies allows this to be done at a
cost that is literally pennies-on-the-dollar compared to what has been possible in
the past.
There are several options for providing these services to the local community. One
obvious approach is to upgrade an existing telecenter to become a true “last mile”
solution provider by focusing on voice services, and delivering expanded access
into the community through selected businesses or even homes that serve as “phone
shops” for the immediate neighbors.
For existing or future telecenters that become local community telcos,
additional earnings will help maintain operations while demand for pure data
services steadily increases.
There are a number of mobile-enabled services that have already been deployed in
emerging markets.

Agricultural Services

Agriculture information portals are reaching new audiences with mobiles. The Kenya
Agricultural Commodity Exchange (KACE)10, in conjunction with mobile telephone
company Safaricom, has developed an SMS system to give farmers access to market
prices. FOODNET11 provides a similar service to farmers in East and Central
Africa. The SMS systems allow farmers to bypass exploitative middlemen, who often
charge below-market rates to farmers with few other options in terms of crop
sales. In addition, the system will help farmers manage their trips to market,
which can become expensive in terms of travel costs and lost time in the fields.
Other companies provide the SMS service to drive traffic to their other online
offerings. In the Philippines, B2Bpricenow.com12 runs an e-marketplace through
which farmers and cooperatives can market their wares, bypassing traditional
trader networks that often manipulate market prices. Agriwatch13 provides
commodity research reports, industry news, and runs an online auction for Indian
producers and suppliers. Subscription costs for the services are minimal and can
be split between a group of farmers that share the information.

Financial Services
Cell phones are increasingly being used to make financial transactions. In South
Africa, for example, the WIZZIT3 banking facility allows account holders to user
their mobile to remit money to a friend, buy airtime, or pay accounts. The service
was developed specifically to provide the unbanked and underbanked with an
affordable alternative to mainstream bank offerings, and has no monthly fees and
no minimum balance requirements.
Two companies from the Philippines have also rolled out similar plans. Globe
Telecom’s G-Cash4 service allows subscribers to transfer funds domestically and
internationally and make payments via texting. Authorized G-Cash outlets let users
load or withdraw cash from their phones and receive international remittances.
Another, SMART Communications5 has enabled electronic sales of small increments of
pre-paid airtime via SMS, creating a business opportunity for 450,000
entrepreneurs. In partnership with Mastercard, the company also launched Smart
Money, a service which enables users to transfer money from a bank account to a
Smart Money account. Subscribers can then use their Smart Money card like a debit
card, or transfer money via SMS to another user’s card.

Health Services

Mobile-enabled health applications can be used for both disease

management and prevention. In South Africa, On-Cue Compliance14 uses an SMS-based
service to help reduce reoccurring medical problems that arise when people forget
to take their medications. The company sends timely reminders to their cell phones
using a low-cost open source software operating system. The system is currently
being used in the treatment of tuberculosis patients in Cape Town with almost a
100% success rate. Also in South Africa, Cell-Life15 has implemented a similar
platform to improve the monitoring and treatment of HIV and other diseases. Health
workers in the field use their cell phones to record patient data, improving effi-
ciency and treatment, and lowering per-patient costs.
The for-profit Voxiva16 has developed and implemented a technology platform that
enables medical professionals to collect data in real-time and communicate with
one another in order to effect change based on the data. By leveraging the web,
phone, fax, email and SMS, the company provides a customizable solution that works
over any voice or data system. Voxiva has worked with diverse partners to develop
solutions to detect disease outbreaks, support HIV/AIDS care and treatment,
monitor patients, track critical supplies, and enhance program management in some
of the most challenging environments in the world including Rwanda, Iraq and post-
tsunami South India.
But for many people in poor countries, mobile phones are a tool that can help them
climb out of poverty.
The mobile phone technology is being used creatively in poor countries to help
spur development and reduce poverty, particularly in remote rural areas.
Getting the Right Price
Mobile phones help people connect with markets: letting buyers call around to
adjacent villages to check where the best deals are, while allowing producers to
price their wares more accurately.
After mobile phones were made available to fishermen in Kerala, India, they were
able to call several markets and agree on selling prices before landing their
fish. Within a few weeks the fluctuation in fish prices subsided, increasing the
fishermen's profit by 9% and reducing consumer prices by 4%.
Bringing Banking Services
Access to traditional banking services is costly and limited in rural areas in
poor countries. This means that many people are forced to rely solely on cash,
which is not only inconvenient, but limits their business opportunities. Mobile
phones are helping to change that by providing banking services to the "unbanked"
over the mobile networks. The use of this technology is still in its infancy, but
its potential is huge.
Some examples.
In the Philippines, microfinance customers of rural banks can use G-Cash, a ser-
vice of Globe Telecom, to repay their loans, without visiting the nearest bank
branch which can often be far away. Customers make their monthly loan payments by
simply sending a text message with their available G-cash.
Teba Bank of South Africa uses existing mobile phone technology to provide low-
cost, electronic banking services (savings and payments) for poor customers. The
program was originally developed to handle wage payments for migrant workers.
In the Democratic Republic of Congo and Zambia, clients use their mobile phones to
pay bills. The client establishes an account with Celpay and then can make
purchases by texting a request to Celpay, which will transfer money to the
merchant's account. Security is provided by the use of a personal identification
number, which is needed to complete the transaction.
Providing Income for Poor Women
People in rural areas have turned owning a mobile phone into a small-scale
business, by renting the phone to others and charging for its use.
For many poor, disenfranchised women this has become a reliable source of income.
In Bangladesh, the Village Phone not only gives the villagers access to phone, but
empowers women operators, spurs economic activity and promotes entrepreneurialism.
Started by Grameen Phone, Village Phones has 280,000 cellphones in some 55,000
Bangladeshi villages.
Finding cost-effective, reliable, and safe ways to transport goods
and services to market is a major problem for small businesses in rural
communities. Public transport is not available in 45% of villages in India, and
only 1% of Indian households own a vehicle. Mobile communication could be used to
create and co-ordinate car sharing schemes amongst villages, and provide real-time
information about public transport services and the ability to make request stops.


Small businesses in rural areas often have to travel

significant distances to markets or other places they can distribute their goods,
and cannot make arrangements in advance with buyers or other sellers. Mobile
phones could significantly change the logistical issues faced by rural traders and
home entrepreneurs, by affording mobile-based ordering systems, delivery requests,
and the ability to make more reliable and advance arrangements with business
partners or clients.


Mobile phones are already being used in rural areas as a tool for
financial transactions by swapping airtime for goods and services. The study
encourages mobile networks and financial services institutions to work together to
test and develop new financial services in this area and address how people can
transfer these credits into cash.


Accessing information about public services remains a major challenge for many
rural communities. Mobile phones provide a new platform through which rural
communities will be able to access government information and services, using
text, data, and audio browsing techniques.

The study looks at a range of educational services that could be provided via
mobiles to children in remote villages and communities, particularly where PCs or
connections to the internet are not available. Mobile phones could serve as an
essential means for children to become connected to one another for educational
and peer-learning activities. These are particularly important for communities
that are either nomadic or transitional on account of displacements due to a
natural disaster or for other reasons.

While the mainstream entertainment industry is already well aware of the emerging
potential of mobile media, there are also many opportunities for local, peer-to-
peer content to be created and distributed, affording new cultural and economic
opportunities to rural communities.
The research is based on detailed ethnography and participant observation among
communities living in three rural areas of India - Badaun in the state of Uttar
Pradesh, Satara in the state of Maharashtra and Chittradurga in the state of
Karnataka - as well as one urban area, Bangalore. Researchers meet with small
business owners, farmers, home owners and others to understand how mobile commu-
nication has already transformed their daily lives and the further potential of
mobile communications to enhance livelihoods.

Multi-Sector Platforms

As a software development company, Voxiva can readily adapt its

tools for new applications. For example, the company helped NGOs and governments
coordinate relief efforts and allocate resources in Indonesia’s tsunami-ravaged
Aceh Province. The Voxiva system is also being used to increase citizen partici-
pation in order to monitor, respond to and reduce crime in Peru.
WorldTalk17 is another multi-sector platform. It delivers on-
demand audio-based information over existing telephone networks and in the local-
language. The system is designed to inexpensively provide reliable, up-to-date
information in areas where literacy levels are low, computer access is limited,
and local government services are overloaded. By providing information on issues
such as housing, health, market pricing, legal rights, and employment, WorldTalk
enables people in poor communities to improve their living conditions and develop
themselves. The non-profit is currently piloting projects in South Africa and
What’s interesting about WorldTalk and Voxiva is that essentially they are both
customized software applications running on increasingly inexpensive hardware.
With these basic platforms, there is no limit to the applications that could be
developed to meet specific community needs
Thousands of people from rural areas across 12 states are likely to get their
social security pension and wages paid under the National Rural Employment
Guarantee Act (NREGA) scheme with the help of mobiles over the coming few months.
In Andhra Pradesh alone, for instance, 250,000 people have registered for mobile
banking services. The state government is rolling out a programmed to enroll three
million people by the end of 2008.
Mobile banking pilots and full-scale operations are being conducted across 12
states, and the entire ecosystem is being managed by the government with the help
of the Reserve Bank of India, banks, leading telecom operators and technology
implementation partners.
The ecosystem is important since banking regulations in India currently do not
allow cash for exchange of another 'unit' such as 'airtime' in the case of
mobiles. Only banks and the Indian Post (through money orders) are currently
allowed such transfers.
Mobile banking, which is catching up fast in the cities and hinterland, is not
only helping the government to take a step forward towards fulfilling its aim of
having one bank account for every household, but also saving it crores of rupees
by way of reduced transaction costs.
While the government incurs a transaction cost of Rs 12-13 for every Rs 100 it
shells out, mobile banking helps it reduce the cost to a mere Rs 2. RBI estimates
that around 40 per cent of Indians lack access to formal financial services and
are largely 'unbanked'.
For instance, the AP government has tied up with banks like the State Bank of
India , Union Bank of India , Axis Bank, Andhra Bank , State Bank of
Hyderabad,Andhra Pradesh Grameen Vikas Bank, and Punjab National Bank
A Little World ALW, a technology implementation partner, has collaborated with NXP
Semiconductors to design a mobile for the AP government that encloses an RFID
card, and works with ALW's micro-banking platform ZERO.
The mobile acts as a branch of the bank by storing a database of customers. It al-
so has a smartcard, which biometrically stores the identity of the customer such
as name, address, photograph, fingerprint templates and relevant details of the
savings or loan accounts held by the issuing bank.
Customers get a secure electronic identity via phone or smartcard, while agents
take deposits and dispense cash. ALW works with the banks on a revenue-sharing
Anurag Gupta, founder director & CEO of ALW, says: "We have carried out pilot
projects with SBI in villages located in some of the most inaccessible and
difficult terrains of the country such as Pithoragarh in Uttarakhand, Mizoram,
Meghalaya, and remote villages in Andhra Pradesh."
Lokanath Panda, director, ALW, also pointed out that SBI had tied up with the
Indian Post to extend banking services especially in unbanked/under-banked areas.
"Select post offices will make available to the public SBI's deposit and loan
products, and ALW is the technology partner."
ALW is also conducting a pilot programme with SKS Microfinance and the Bank of
India to provide a mobile banking service that works on BSNL SIM cards.
New Delhi-based Ekgaon Technologies too has developed a system for tracking
transactions made by self-help groups. It has partnered with the likes of CARE,
WorldVision and the World Bank to conduct a pilot, which it plans to extend to 14
Indian states.
Bharti Airtel , too, is in the process of tying up with two leading banks to
extend its mobile remittance services to rural areas, according to its president
(Mobile Services), Sanjay Kapoor.
Airtel has already partnered with the Indian Farmers' Fertiliser Cooperative
Limited (IFFCO) to set up IFFCO Kisan Sanchar Limited in Rajasthan.
Under this initiative, the cooperative department will provide mobile handsets to
farmers at marginal price through its outlets in the rural areas. These handsets
would be loaded with green SIM cards, which will flash daily updates on
agricultural practices and weather forecast free of cost.
While he did not provide details, Kapoor hinted that the partnership deal would be
extended to mobile banking services too. Kapoor reasons that with 55 per cent of
the mobiles being internet-enabled, mobile banking would help bridge the digital
Reliance Communications on its part, allows ICICI Bank account holders with
Reliance handsets (even the low-end Rs 1,000 ones - with or without Internet
connectivity) to make intra-bank (to ICICI account holders) money transfers. It
has already tied up with HDFC to offer Reliance mPay - a virtual credit card

Mobile Telephony
Innovative business models
It is a tribute to the industry that the operators have managed to remain
profitable despite a low tariff regime, writes ManoJ Kohll
In the pre-liberalisation days, India's telecom growth remained hindered by
an elitist bias. Telephone was considered a luxury and was treated as the
exclusive preserve of the rich. The customer base, which stood at 80,000 in 1948,
had grown to a mere five million by 1991, the year the country began its historic
journey towards market economy.
The telecom revolution typically represents the country's post 1991 economic
transformation — from a hesitant beginning to explosive growth. Today there are
over 2 70 million telecom subscribers. This mobile telephony led revolution is
spreading to every corner of the country and over eight million mobile subscribers
sign up for services every month. Over the last decade, not only has India emerged
as the fastest growing mobile market but also as one of the largest in terms of
Part of change process
This revolution should ideally be seen as a part of the wider change process
ushered in by India's liberalisation drive, which opened many areas to private
entrepreneurs. In telecom service, mobile telephony was the first to see private
entrepreneurs in 1995. Bharti Airtel was a pioneer in the sector when it launched
its services in Delhi. Then nobody had anticipated this new technology to be such
a powerful trigger for change — connecting people across urban and rural India and
in turn contributing to the economic development of the country.
Despite the initial enthusiasm among customers, mobile growth was extremely
sluggish in the early years. In fact it took three years to reach a total customer
base of a million. Obviously it was tough going for the operators. Out of the 25
early entrants only three survive today. Most of them sold out. A few of them even
collapsed. Some of them got merged to form bigger entities in the marketplace.
Airtel's success in those early days was clearly built around its aggressive
network expansion strategy and constant focus on customer service.
Falling tariffs
As tariffs dropped progressively from a peak of twenty cents to less than
two cents a minute, the lowest ever witnessed anywhere in the world, the sector
witnessed rapid customer additions. Some of the innovative strategies that opened
the floodgates came in the shape of tariff plans like Life Time Prepaid, which
managed to rope in hordes of lower middle class consumers into the network.
Complementing these tariff plans, prices of handsets too fell significantly
bringing down the entry cost for new customers. Today, one can see a rickshaw
puller or a daily wage labourer talking on his mobile phone and experiencing the
benefits of telephony.
Low tariffs had however created a challenge of survival for the operators.
They had to bring in all their innovative skills to stay afloat. It is a tribute
to the industry that the operators have managed to remain profitable despite this
low a tariff regime.
Here is an example of how Airtel innovated a business model to meet the low
tariff challenge. In 2004, for the first time in the global telecom history, the
company struck some remarkable outsourcing deals. It put out its entire IT piece
in the hands of IBM. Right from the desktop or laptop on the CEO's desk to the
most complex piece of IT, it was given out to the company in one swoop. It was a
$750 million contract for a period of eight years.
The company also outsourced its networks from Ericsson and Nokia. Under the
contract it was not to pay for the hardware they installed. Instead it was to pay
for the traffic coming out of these networks. It was a unique and unusual model.
It had obvious business risks embedded in it. But it also had the potential to
open up new frontiers in telecom network management and growth.
Diversified role
Alongside low tariffs and low handset prices what is fuelling today's mobile
growth however is the innovative use of the device. It has assumed a much-
diversified role in our lives. Selling at village pan shops like pouches of
chewing tobacco, mobile connections constitute modern India's most powerful
movement that touches the lives of the ordinary and the powerful in the same vein.
A service like SMS has clearly added a new dimension to communication. Value Added
Services like ring back tones and music downloads have transformed the phone into
a potent entertainment and lifestyle device. A mobile phone today obviously is a
much more versatile gadget than the fixed line voice only phone or even the mobile
phones of the early days.
All the mobile operators have of course had rapid Rapid expansion in
geographical coverage will hold the key for meeting the Government's target of
reaching the 500 million customer mark by 2010 growth through the years. But
Airtel has on tpaced. its competitors and raised its market share consistently. In
this journey of leadership innovation has remained its primary pillar of success.
The company has time and again proved this in the market through the introduction
of innovative services. It achieved global recognition through its unique business
model based on outsourcing. The model was admired as it not only helped control
cost but enabled it to scale up rapidly.
Rural coverage
In mobile telephony geographical coverage is a critical issue. .Telecom companies
in India are committed to connect the remote corners of the country, reaching out
to places where bridges, roads, trains and planes have not reached yet. Their
commitment is being reflected in the rapid growth in rural telephony in the
country over the last few years. Airtel's network already reaches more than three
lakh villages. In the next two years the company will substantially cover the
balance of rural India. Rapid expansion in geographical coverage will hold the key
for meeting the Government's target of reaching the 500-million customer mark by
The epicenter of mobile growth has started shifting from the metros. For
instance, in the GSM segment we already have witnessed a sharer rise in demand in
the A, B and C circles as compared to the metro circles in 2007. These have grown
at 67 per cent, 68 per cent and 74 per cent respectively as compared to 40 per
cent in the metro circles. The trend is likely to accelerate in the coming years,
impelling the operators to focus more on rural areas.

Infrastructure sharing
Infrastructure sharing among operators is going to play a critical role in
the sector's drive towards affordability and financial viability of the operators,
in the next phase of telecom expansion. This already has acquired some momentum
with the various telcos de-merging their passive infrastructure into separate
companies. This will enable them to derive economies of scale. The standalone
telecom infrastructure companies will help the Indian telecom industry to reach
the next level by facilitating a faster roll out in rural areas with low customer
Airtel is particularly well placed having merged its tower business in 16 of
the telecom circles with that of other leaders like Vodafone and Idea. The new
company called Indus Towers, with 70,000 towers under its control, will play an
important role in the next phase of mobile roll out. Airtel's separate tower
company, In-fratel. will be managing its towers in the rest of the seven circles.
As mentioned earlier, affordability remains the primary driver for Indian
telecom as operators explore the bottom of the pyramid more vigorously. Despite
the fact that Indian telecom tariff is already the lowest in the world, operators
will continue to revisit tariffs whenever they have an opportunity and try to move
from two cents per minute to one cent in the next couple of years. But to do so,
they will of course be expecting a helping hand from the Government.
Highly taxed segment
Taxation and levies on the Indian telecom sector are among the highest
globally and account for close to 30 per cent of the operators' revenue. These
include licence fees, ADC and service tax. Some relief on this will provide the
required impetus to growth. The other issue on which the operators will be seeking
more clarity from the Government and the regulator is allocation of additional
spectrum to current and new players in the segment. Overhanging uncertainty on
this could affect the healthy growth of the industry. Since it also impacts
consumer interest, it will be appropriate if the Government comes to a judicious
decision after consulting the operators. Going forward, customer friendly
regulatory changes will be an absolute necessity to unlock the full potential of
the sector.
It is now more or less established that mobile penetration and GDP growth are
positively correlated. According to a recent study by Leonard Waverman of the
London Business School, every additional 10 percentage point penetration in mobile
phone in a typical developing country adds an extra 0.44 percentage points of GDP
growth. This macro economic impact may not appear huge but the cumulative impact
could be substantial in achieving the "inclusive growth" in the long run.
Value added services
There is going to be a significant shift in the level of customer focus and
new product offerings in the sector in the coming years. Money transfer over the
mobile and m-commerce are tipped to be the next best thing to happen after SMS and
Hello Tunes. Airtel in partnership with the global money transfer major Western
Union will soon launch this service. This will enable millions of Indians working
abroad to easily transfer money to their families back in India via their mobile
phones. They can actually transfer amounts as low as $100.
Alongside low tariff and low handset prices what is fuelling today's mobile growth
is the innovative use of the device.
M-Commerce is soon going to be a highly popular service offering,
particularly in the high-value markets. Last year, Airtel launched mobile
ticketing and today it has a customer base of one lakh unique customers,
benefiting from the service (with 75 per cent repeat usage). Similarly, both
airline ticketing and train ticketing will be increasingly made available to
mobile consumers. Managing travel bookings over the mobile will truly be a great
experience for the Indian consumer.
Year of Broadband
The Year 2007 was declared the Year of Broadband by the Government. The
intense focus has seen the sector grow by over 30 per cent from a customer base of
2.10 million in the previous year. In the coming years broadband experience of the
consumer will markedly, particularly, in terms of diversification of the service
portfolio. Airtel has recently launched 8 mbps for its broadband customers and is
gearing up to offer 16 mbps in the near future. The expansion of the sector will
be driven by new service introductions in the space of educational content,
gaming, music and movies. The urban* consumer's desire for music, entertainment,
sports and games will be fulfilled through new service introductions.
With the launch of DTK and IPTV, 'Triple play' will become a reality with
telecom companies offering voice, data and video services to their consumers.
The impact of telecom on the economy goes beyond mere connectivity. This will be
increasingly appreciated in the coming years as its impact becomes more visible on
the common man. Telecom will continue to generate both direct and indirect
employment opportunities for millions of youth in areas like manufacturing,
telecom, BPOs, ancillaries, channel distribution, branding and infrastructure
labour. But its biggest impact will be felt in the area of entrepreneurship
development. From farmers to fishermen, from the vehicle mechanic to the
neighbourhood plumber, everyone has found a way to leverage the device to improve
his life. The omnipresent device clearly has the potential to nurture millions of
entrepreneurial dreams across rural and urban India, who could prove to be a
critical pivot around which India's economic transformation will shape up.
After four years of sustained growth, the Indian economy is clearly looking
up to double digit growth. As the poster boy of Indian reforms, telecom too has
remained remarkably upbeat through these years. Given the strong fundamentals of
the economy, one can expect strong, continued growth for the sector.
The industry will not only be able to maintain this rapid pace of penetration but
will also make telephony a more wholesome experience its customers. The Indian
telecom market will also be teaching new ways of working to global operators. The
new business models and the innovative services will create new benchmarks for
Telecom Services
Meeting the rural needs
An under-developed infrastructure and non-viability are given as the main
reasons for poor tele-density in rural areas, writes
A new era of communications in the form of mobile communications dawned with
the analog version way back in the 1980s, and then moved to the digital version.
At present basic wideband (low data rate-2G) digital versions exist in the
market. In the near future India will witness higher data rates (3G) coupled with
various services such as multimedia, fast internet access and application specific
services. This will be followed by wideband data rates coupled with various
services such as location based service, personalized multimedia facilities, other
applications, radio, live video with quality, E2E security, mobile-pay and so on.
Furthermore, there are many encouraging trends in the mobile communication
environment though there are constraints. Some of these are:
There have been revolutionary changes in mobile terminals — from big gadgets
to smaller and sleek trendy handsets which now come with cameras, are blue tooth
enabled, have touch screens, are easy to browse, voice enabled, have soft keys and
are supported by additional facilities such as address book, voice/video recording
and games.
Major changes
There has been a marked improvement in services from limited mobility to
unlimited mobility, roaming, voice portals, and so on.
Falling equipment prices, newer technologies and provision of various new
services are some of the opportunities for the operators.
Also, roaming and the need to be in touch are acting as catalysts for a
rapid expansion of the subscriber base in the country.
Customers will benefit from falling calling rates, sophisticated new
handsets and falling prices of terminals.
The Government has taken the initiative to increase tele-density through
provision of the required spectrum to existing and new operators.
However, increasing spectrum costs, license fees, high cost of equipment
with new features, high acquisition costs and more competitors are constraints in
meeting the demands for lower tariff, deeper penetration and increased tele-
Rural telephony neglected
While there has been a phenomenal growth of tele-density surpassing all
projections in meters, cities and towns, the situation is not encouraging in
achieving the minimum expected tele-density in rural areas.
There are over 260 million telephone connections in India; but rural India
is lagging behind urban centers. Rural tele-density is only 3.5 per cent (against
the national average of 16.6 per cent); there are no telephone connections in over
30,000 villages.
The burgeoning telephone networks the world over in the last five years have
had their impact on the Indian telecom scene.
Growth of telephony in a country is measured by its tele-density which is
measured as the number of telephones per hundred populations. India took more than
100 long years to reach a tele-density of 1 after the first telephone connection
was laid in 1881 but it took only a few years to leap to the present figure of
16.6. There is however reason to despair as the rural tele-density is very low.
A striking attribute of the urban sector is the extraordinary rate of growth
of mobile subscribers in the last two years. There is also the new phenomenon of
people acquiring more than one cell phone. The reduction in tariff by 90 per cent
and in instrument costs has contributed to the dynamic growth of cell phones. A
mammoth task before the Government is to reach out to the rural masses,
constituting 75 per cent of the population.
The four metros account for 20.6 per cent of the total telephone connections
(mobile and fixed put together) in the country whereas their population has only a
4.7 per cent share. To bridge the gap, more focused and streamlined telecom
infrastructure efforts are required.
An under-developed infrastructure and non-viability are given as the main
reasons for poor tele-density in rural areas. While there are various focused
initiatives from the government, they are yet to yield the desired results. Other
reasons for the low rural telephone network are poor transmission media
availability to connect to the network, small customer base and low per capita
In rural areas, the expectations are affordable handsets and tariffs and
wide coverage. These factors do not make investments attractive for operators.
The problem has to be tackled from two angles. Operators can offer
applications that are of use to fanners, local language-based instruments that are
convenient to use along with subsidized handsets and lower tariff that will aid
rural market growth.
The other focus could be from the government which can subsidize the
transmission media cost to connect to networks, lower spectrum cost, taxes and
power tariffs which will enable operators to provide the connectivity.
While the operators are trying to reduce the digital divide and developing some
applications such as provision of commodity prices, weather information and
fishing information there is still a long way to go.
Positive trends
With serious efforts from the operators and the Government there is every
opportunity for more attractive returns on investment.
An active catalyst for this is the increasing mobility of the rural
population, the need to be in line with urban citizens and increasing per capita
income, more interested operators and associated competition and falling handset
prices which will lead to an increased tele-density in rural India.
A connected India
It is imperative /or handset manufacturers to be closer to the market to
create agility and flexibility in their supply chains, writes D. Slvakumar
The mobility market is 14 years old in India but has had a dramatic impact
in every area. India is one of the fastest growing mobility markets in the world
at eight million subscriber additions every month. It is expected to contribute
significantly to the next billion subscribers globally. India will contribute 25
per cent of the next billion subscribers.
Why has mobility succeeded so quickly in India? Our poor infrastructure in
the past. Fixed phone penetration was less than three per cent a decade ago and
less than five per cent today. Two-thirds of calls made from mobiles are made from
a building even today.
Innovative business models
Innovative business models from operators such as JJharti, Reliance,
Vodafone, Idea, BSNL and the TATA. Indian operators invented a business biotech
that has increased minutes of usage at a low call rate and also ensured high EBITA
(earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization) Durable
convergence- in a cell phone is a notable j feature. Today more Indians listen to
the radio. on a', cell phone, take pictures on a cell phone and set their j alarms
on" a cellphone. Cell phone brands have given tonsuniers more value rather than
just voice and SMS.'
Favourable policy
The Government has played a stellar role in ensuring; free and fair
participation here. There has been no protection of any sort. The Indian telecom
market is possibly the most competitive globally, has excellent self j regulation
and regulation that works.
Impact of mobility
The mobile phone has affected almost everyone in the Indian society. To
women and children it is a safety
The manufacturing story,
With 660 million people from rural India stirring to capture their rightful
place in the economy and to cater to burgeoning demand of the existing metro
markets, it is imperative for handset manufacturers to be closer to the market to
create greater agility and flexibility in their supply chains. It is for this
reason that telecom manufacturing has seen unprecedented investment in
manufacturing over the last few years.
The Government's decision to set up special economic zones (SEZs) was aimed
to support hyper growth markets like telecom. As per some reports, the Government
has set a target of achieving close to $23 billion in investments in special
economic zones by 2009.
It is therefore natural that India has displaced even the most powerful
countries as the" second most favoured destination for foreign direct investment
in the world.
One of the driving factors behind India's emergence as a-telecom
manufacturing hub is no doubt the growing market not just within the country but
also its proximity to emerging markets in the region. Another and more significant
reason has been the Indian policy makers' ability to sell India as a destination
for telecom manufacturing given the right policy frameworks.
Also, given that the next phase of .growth will come from tier B & C cities
and towns, the price pressure will come into play. At such a time, if the
manufacturing volumes are already in place, it will be easy for telecom companies
to customise models to suit the Indian demand.
device; to carpenters, plumbers and electricians it is a productivity
device; to young people, it is a personality statement. It has relevant meaning to
In developing economies, consumers on the fringes do not participate in the
formal economy because they need proof of some kind - bank account, licence and
the like. Mobility lets many people enter the formal economy through its sheer
G Selvaraj1, J. Venkataprabhu2 and C.Muralidharan3
The setting
In India with in a span of 10 years the usage of cellphone has increased to
hundred folds from 1.2 million during 1998 to 129.5 million in 2007. Again it is
increasing by adding 7 million phones every month and expected to reach by 300
million by the end of 2008 (
The spectacular increase in the usage of cell phones was noticed in recent
years which no communication medium could achieve in the shortest period.
Mobiles are easily accessed and the cost is cheaper, thereby, affordability is not
at all a bothering factor.
Mobile phones are empowered with enormous technological capabilities such a
pocket radio, pocket pc, internet connectivity, remote television, SMS and e-
The cost of both mobile phone and charges declining very fast though their
technical capabilities have increased.
The experiences of TNAU in using mobile phones for ICT
The TamilNadu Agricultural University (TNAU) being the centenary old
renowned institution committed ;or quality education, research and extension
education has experienced well in using the mobile phones through their clients
for ICT through various mechanism. The experiences of using mobile phones by TNAU
are as follows:

ODL keeps accelerated place

Celling is not yelling it is to inform distant learners at a far flung areas to
get access to information and clarifications.
As the directorate of open and distance learning encompasses 16
certificate courses along with 2 pg degree courses , enrollers are aplenty .their
queries and anxiety makes them to contact then and their regarding the venue ,
time for personal contact programme, special sessions , mark details , result
etc., by using cell phones.
The distant learners located elsewhere in the country could very
easily contact the coordinators of the course and aware of the details in a speedy
Thus the cell phones role is crucial in filling the gap in
information and lagging in details , safeguarding them to attend the classes on
time and circumventing communication and information gap.
As far as ODL class fixing and arrangements is concerned, the
absenteeism of the resource persons may be efficiently managed without any hustle-
bustle , since the timely information to caution and to make alternate
arrangements could be made possible through SMS as will as by calling in cell
Cell act as ready reckoner for the distant learners as well as the
ODL staff
Morphing into e-learning through mobile
As the university is one of the premier institutes to introduce e-learning , and
it is necessary for every student to possess lop-top, all transactions and timely
access for information are made through SMS , whilst students are at lab/
hostels/classrooms. Sms also further learning by locating proper and relevant
websites for browsing / cramming / skimming etc.
Considering the importance of using cell phones for ODL programmes ,
the directorate of open and distance learning has organized a quick feedback
survey among the open and distance learners and other final year B.Sc ( Ag.)
students to elucidate their views and strategies for the effective utility of cell
phones . the well structured questionnaire includes the items viz., access to
international educational systems ,exchange of information like exam results,
marks , general knowledge ,sharing ideas , access to photo clippings , contact
with professors , storage and retrial of data , calculations , learning of new
words everyday , to fix interviews with corporate , stop clock while doing
experiments , unit conversions , develop languages and to maintain time table and
to get remainders.
A total 350 students have been asked to assemble in seven lecture halls to assess
the accessibility of learning through cell phones by administering them with a
Snow ball sampling was adopted to obtain the responses for the above said usages
of the cell phone. The response obtained from the students are consolidated here
After pooling the responses based on the criteria , the data were analysed .
simple percentage was adopted to consolidate the opinions . major advantages were
revealed by almost all of them and the disadvantage were almost nil as they
perceived that cell is not a barrier for concentrated work and they opined it only
enhanced knowledge by breaking barriers like time, cost, labour, distance and
communication gaps while contacting the students to state their opinions , most of
them replied that the possession of cellphones is indispensable as it is used for
multifarious purposes.
Among the total population of 350 , 56% replied , they could share general
knowledge , whereas 48% of them said they could accommodate themselves according
to reschedule of classes , visit of library , practical ,outdoor classes ,
Forty percent(40%) opined that they could get exam results
immediately 4% of them were able to perform calculations by using mobile phones ,
where as 36% of them used internet by cellphones . a total of 24% believed that
their word power enriched only by means of mobile and SMS
Experience and domestic and export market intelligence cell – forecasting timely
This wing established under the center for agricultural rural development studies
of TNAU disseminates timely and precise information to make the farmers rational
decision when to grow and where to sale
The cell is poised to transact sharp and succinct messages instantly , so as to
caution the farmer for a wise decision making . forewarning is done at two stages
for rationality in decision making.
1. presowing decision making in which the acreage of sowing can be decided ,
envisaging the demand of that particular commodity when it comes to market . this
will enables the farmers to be shrewd enough to stabilize themselves to shrink
the area under cultivation.
2. similarly after decision making which would enable the farmers to decide on
whether to sell or to store and make them alert , by forecasting the remunerative
market price.

Access for utility by peasants

Gone were those days that farmers are not accessing information and it
has to go to door steps. As the younger generation farmers are more interested to
take up scientific farming only that they use mobile phones for getting
information on climatic forecast, forewarning of seasonal aberrations ,
meteorological data from the agricultural climatological center of TNAU . this
enable the farmers to plan for their agronomic practices and crop based field
operations . added to that mobile is used by the farmers for timely enquiries on
the availability of video CD lessons containing technological packages of new
research findings.
Placement cell capitalizes
The placement cell of the directorate of student’s welfare , while inviting the
students for registration for the first and foremost details they collect is the
cell numbers. This helped them to preplan and modify the plan , informing the
accurate date and time of placement interviews.
At times of emergencies of contingencies of placement interviews ,
within a short span of time , students could be mobilized
Moreover the results intimation to join the job before the deadlines was
effectively done for a sizable strength of candidates , who had attended
Utility of mobile service in educational programmes to gaining momentum in
recent years in developing countries like India . many experiments conducted in
India , Taiwan and Africa have proved that the mobile phones are acted as a flat
form to educate all sections of the people in their day to life. Moreover , this
electronic medium is gaining more popularity among the ODL learners as it
disseminates vast information about their study . the perceived benefit of this
electronic medium viz., productivity, convenience , handy, safety, security, easy
access and instant transactions between two or more clients enabled the
educational institutions to aspire for improved utility of this ICT for mass
communication among the learners who are scatted in length and breadth of the
Rural Connectivity: Grameen Village Pay Phones
In Bangladesh, 97 percent of homes and virtually all rural villages lack a
telephone, making the country one of the least wired in the world. This lack of
connectivity has contributed to the underdevelopment of the country and the
impoverishment of individual Bangladeshis. To address this problem, Grameen Bank,
a micro-finance institution, formed two entities: 1) Grameen Telecommunications, a
wholly-owned non-profit organization to provide phone services in rural areas as
an income-generating activity for members of Grameen Bank, and 2) Grameen Phone
Ltd., a for-profit entity that in 1996 bid on and won a national GSM cellular
license. Grameen Phone has since become the country's dominant mobile carrier,
providing services in urban areas and along the major railway routes via a network
of cellular towers linked by fiber-optic cable.
Business Model. Grameen Telecommunications has the explicit goal of helping
Grameen Bank's members shift from relatively low-yield traditional ventures, like
animal husbandry, into the technology sector by creating micro-enterprises that
can both generate individual income and provide whole villages with connectivity.
Grameen Telecommunications uses Grameen Phone's advanced GSM technology in
stationary village phones owned and operated by local entrepreneurs. These
entrepreneurs purchase the phones with money borrowed from Grameen Bank, and sell
phone services to customers by the call. Rates are generally twice the wholesale
rate charged by Grameen Phone plus taxes and airtime fees. An average of 70
customers a month uses each phone. This shared-access business model concentrates
demand and creates relatively high cash flow, even in poor villages, enabling
operators to make regular loan payments and still turn a profit. Repayment rates
to Grameen Bank are 90-95 percent.
Rural telephones are also very profitable for Grameen Phone, bringing in revenues
per phone of US$93 a month in March 2001, twice as much as Grameen Phone's urban
mobile phones. However, rural phones represent less than 2 percent of the phones
used on Grameen Phone's network and bring in only 8 percent of the company's total
revenue, the company's profitability still depending on its urban business.
Grameen Telecom's original goal was to have a phone in every one of Bangladesh's
65,000 villages by 2000, but only 4,543 village phones were in service as of March
2001. The primary constraint has been a distorted telecommunications market
controlled by a monopolistic government provider, BTTB. Because BTTB has been
unwilling to increase its interconnect capacity, despite Grameen Phone's offer to
pay for the upgrading, Grameen Phone and other mobile companies have been unable
to connect additional phones to the national switched network and instead have had
to offer primarily mobile-to-mobile phone services This infrastructure barrier has
also limited expansion of the rural phone network.
A second constraint is Grameen Phone's use of cellular technology for fixed phone
centers, a choice that is neither efficient nor probably competitive over the long
term. GSM, used throughout much of Europe and Asia, is far more expensive than
fixed wireless local loop (WLL) systems used by Grameen Telecom's competitors,
Sheba and BRTA. While GSM towers can provide service within 5 kilometers, WLL
towers provide coverage within 50 kilometers. Moreover, WLL provides better
bandwidth for data transmission at a lower cost.
Human Capacity.
The development of a cadre of entrepreneurs, nurtured by Grameen Bank, has been
key to the success of the village phone. After the Bank approves financing of a
phone, Grameen Telecommunications buys a cellular phone subscription on behalf of
the entrepreneur and provides the connection, necessary hardware, and training to
operate it. Grameen Telecommunications also tracks trends in phone use and
identifies operators who are having difficulty marketing or collecting payments
for the service.
The village phone network also yields important secondary benefits to the women
who live in the villages that they serve. Because 95 percent of operators are
female and the phones are in their homes, women who might otherwise have had very
limited access to a phone feel comfortable using one. There is also some evidence
that, because the phones are so important for whole villages, having female
operators has helped to enhance the status of women in the communities where they

Bangladesh's telecommunications regulatory regime is both antiquated and anti-
competitive. One consequence has been BTTB's ability to maintain control over the
switched network without expanding its capacity, even in the face of high demand.
Scarcity forces Bangladeshis to pay large sums to BTTB officials in order to
obtain phone service. BTTB's control of the network is likely to become an even
more significant market disadvantage to Grameen Phone and other mobile operators
when BTTB launches its own GSM mobile network this year.
Grameen Telecom's village phone venture, as structured in Bangladesh, would not
be feasible without access to the credit and bill collection services provided by
Grameen Bank and the infrastructure and urban network provided by Grameen Phone.
Village phones would be far less successful if Grameen Phone were not able to
discount by 50 percent the rate charged to Grameen Telecommunications for a phone
call, an underlying subsidy made possible by a transfer of profits from the more
profitable urban part of the business to the rural sector. This is a significant
advantage unavailable to rural-only competitors BRTA and Sheba.
Content and Applications.
Demand for telephone services in rural Bangladesh remains high despite relatively
limited marketing and no overt content development by Grameen Telecommunications
or Grameen Phone. In large measure, this is because the village phones offer
tremendous economic value to the users, who would otherwise have to spend hours or
days traveling to other towns to make a phone call. According to one study, the
average consumer savings for a phone call from a village to Dhaka ranges from 2.6
percent to 9.8 percent of the user's mean monthly household income.
Bangladesh is also a labor-exporting country with many rural people working
overseas. As a result, one of the most important functions of the village phone is
to facilitate remittances from relatives. Local business people and farmers also
use the phone to reduce costs, get better prices for their products, and plan
shipments to reduce spoilage of perishable products.
Key Lessons.
Were it not for policy and infrastructure barriers, Grameen Telecom's village
phones might already serve all of Bangladesh's 65,000 rural villages. The high
revenues generated by the shared-access business model suggest the effectiveness
of market drivers for such approaches. And as a development-centered ICT strategy,
the village phone program promises broad benefits, including enhanced productivity
and social welfare, and new sources of rural income.
The Grameen Telecommunications business model relies on subsidies from urban
cellular users, on financing and other support from Grameen Bank, and on GSM
cellular technology that is less than optimal for sparsely-populated rural areas,
fixed phone centers, and data transmission. The wireless local loop technologies
used by Grameen Telecom's rural competitors or wireless multi-point distribution
technologies—already being deployed by the TeNeT group and their partners in rural
India—promise lower costs and higher data bandwidths. Under favorable policy
environments, such rural networks, combined with shared access strategies that
concentrate demand and generate efficient usage, may well enable profitable,
market-driven approaches to providing connectivity and infrastructure in rural
Using mobile phones for medical treatment in rural areas of Rwanda
Health workers in Rwanda are using mobile phones to communicate with rural care
workers managing pregnant women in medical emergencies. The phones donated by
Ericisson have special memories containing medical manuals, images and audio
directions which can be sent to care workers and families. The project is based
at the Mayange health centre which has a solar power charger for the 30 mobile
phones which have been donated. This project is similar to the one I mentioned a
while back called "Click Diagnostics"
ClickDiagnostics, is a mobile solution to diagnosing common illnesses in rural
areas where there are few or no doctors. The process uses images and basic
symptoms for diagnosis and at the moment is used for skin and eye illnesses. As
you can imagine ClickDiagnostics has the potential to make a huge impact on rural
communities across the global south.
Rwanda is fast becomes a technology hub for Africa with similar mobile phone
projects for health, education and telecenters operating across the country. One
such project is Tracnet
It is a simple technology which has changed the way we deal with HIV in Rwanda,"
says Dr. Tom Mushi, at Kigali's Polyclinic of Hope. Previously, small clinics
would often run out of medicines and other supplies. The time it then took to get
in new supplies disrupted the centres' ability to fill prescriptions. "Now if the
national drug supply can't send the drugs quickly enough to a centre, they can
talk to a health centre nearby that has a high stock and have the need filled,".
Mobile phones for agriculture
Can mobile phones help the rice problem that the country is facing?Take the case
of Imus Cavite, the target location of the De La Salle University’s study on ICT
for development. Rich in agricultural land, Imus’s farmers however lack knowledge
on the best practices about farming, making it difficult for them to improve their
farm lands.
The local government unit (LGU) of Imus, moreover, is inefficient in its
agricultural services delivery.
The case of Imus was discussed during the 2nd International Conference on
Information and Communication Technology (ICT), held at the Renaissance Hotel,
Makati on April 24-25, 2008..
Knowing that agriculture plays a huge role in our country, and that SMS technology
has reached even the dominantly rural population of the country, the Swedish
Program for Information and Communication Technology for Developing Countries
(SPIDER) saw this as an opportunity to apply ICT in developing countries.
Basically, SPIDER program begins by assessing the current information and
communication needs of the underserved and rural community. Through their mobile
phones, residents from these communities can now access vital information that
will help them solve the issues that hinder them from improving their livelihood.
In the Philippines, the De La Salle University adopted the SPIDER program in their
study on Imus’ Agriculture Network. Through the e-governance concepts of
participatory democracy, good governance and the social networking, and with the
help of Globe, as the project’s official industry partner, I-Agri, Imus’
agriculture network, was launched.
It aims to provide readily accessible information across the agriculture value
chain. Also, it will allow the local agriculture office of Imus to monitor
government projects and make service deliveries more efficient.
In addition, participants of this project can benefit by learning new innovative
and transformative methods in farming, replicate and verify best farming practices
from other countries.
Technical issues include:
• Connectivity and battery life
• Screen size and key size
• Ability for authors to visualize mobile phones for delivery
• Multiple standards, multiple screen sizes, multiple operating systems
• Repurposing existing e-Learning materials for mobile platforms
Social and educational issues include:
• Accessibility and cost barriers for end users: Digital divide.
• How to assess learning outside the classroom
• How to support learning across many contexts
• Developing an appropriate theory of learning for the mobile age
• Design of technology to support a lifetime of learning
• Tracking of results and proper use of this information
• No restriction on learning timetable
• Personal and private information and content
Local and state government need to integrate their telecom regulatory, tax and
rural development policies, and do more to incentivise and support the roll-out of
mobile services across the country;
Improved lower-cost technologies are finally making it possible to erase the
telecommunications divide that persists throughout rural developing areas.
The mobile industry needs to understand the social impact of mobile connectivity
in rural communities and to make it as accessible as possible to them. This does
not only mean lower prices and costs of ownership: to really make a contribution
to development they will also need to localise the mobile experience with relevant
applications and services. Many of these will be innovated at a grass roots level
and it is important for the mobile industry to work at this level to deliver real
improvements; and
Non-governmental organisations have an important role to play in working with
state agencies to define the needs of rural communities and to develop new ways
together to deliver a wide range of different social and welfare services. To do
this they also need to work much more closely with the mobile industry to
understand and test the technological possibilities

The current penetration level is 20 per cent. This is expected to double in
the next three years.
Mobility will move from voice and SMS to a host of value added service. All
services that were delivered "from a physical building in the West and in urban
India will now be delivered over the air.
The Indian economy took 62 years to hit the $1 trilliog GDP-in MOV. The next
trillion will take eight years. The next trillion will be about consumption and
will be about SMB growth in India. Business mobility with influence the SME way of
More and more entertainment will be delivered through mobility. Indians will
click through the Net more on mobiles and less on laptops.
We will see more m-governance. Governments, departments will increasingly
use the digitised route to superior governance.
Mobility will considerably reduce the role of the middleman in commerce and
the role of unscrupulous elements in disseminating wrong information. It will
bring in a democratisation and efficiency of markets and information. This will
create a huge pressure on elected representatives to be answerable.
Mobility will give marketers the ability to target one consumer at a time,
while also targeting milllons as a media vehicle.
What are the steps to shape the future of mobility in India? All
stakeholders including operators, content providers, media companies and OEMs
should work in tandem through collaborations and partnerships to take India to the
next leap in mobile telephony.
They should work for evolving a transparent and more equitable revenue
sharing industry-wide framework, while tightening the implementation of anti-
piracy laws.
They should push for faster rollout/adoption of supporting infrastructure
such as 3G and WiMax.
Mobility has created huge value in every sphere that it has permeated. Its
effects will only be exponential in the coming years.
1.Grameen Foundation. (2005). Village Phone a Tool for Empowerment. USA.

2. Bhatnagar, S.(2000). Enhancing telecom options in rural India: Some options,

India Telecom Conference. Stanford

3.Anderson James and N Biliou. (2007). Serving the world’s poor; innovation at the
base of the economic pyramid. Journal of Business Strategy, 28 (2).

4. Anderson, (2005). Smart Communications Inc Case A. ECCH Publication.

5.Bhalla, G S and Gurmail Singh.(2001). Indian Agriculture-Four Decades of

Development. New Delhi: Sage