The basic problem in impoverished countries is isolation. The villagers are so cut off from the rest of the world- internet is still unheard of in many locales- that the circulation of money only occurs in the village or when a few residents venture to a more urbanised area, usually by foot.
What can be done about this problem? The introduction of mobile phones to these regions.
Today, India has more than 800 million subscriptions – up from 300 million in 2002 – and the mobile pundits believe this number will exceed 1.2 billion by 2016. More people than ever before have access to mobile phones and many of them are those at the bottom of the economic pyramid (BoP) living in 250 backward districts of the country. The mobile density stands at 70 per 100 and the penetration rate is 51 %, which is below expectation. The low penetration rate indicates there is still room for growth.
Reaching the Bottom of Pyramid
For farmers and livestock raisers, travelling several days by foot to the nearest city in hopes of making a decent profit from your goods and livestock is no longer done in vain. With mobile phones, they can call ahead and essentially do a price comparison between several nearby cities to determine the best market rate for their goods and plan their travels based off of this information.
So, how are people in impoverished nations getting access to mobile phones, anyway? With the low cost of constructing mobile phone towers and creating the actual devices, providing these services is no problem at all for companies that have been formulating in India. Instead of complex contracts, most people in these developing countries are buying pre-paid mobile phone cards and using their affordable devices to transfer funds from buyer to seller.
While mobile phone penetration is progressing at rapid space, obstacles remain to universal mobile access, and beyond to Internet access on mobile. The lack of reliable access to electricity in some is an obstacle, making it difficult and costly for people to charge their phones, especially in rural areas. Support systems may also be lacking if a subscriber in a remote area runs in technological problems.
The question is whether mobiles can compensate the lack of basic ICT facilities like PCs and Internet in remote locations, in a government run school in a village where there is no power, connectivity and access. Any strategic mobile intervention is ought to consider such challenge and possibilities.
Mobile phones are still relatively expensive for the poor. In addition to the cost of the phone itself, maintenance factors (e.g. – cost of recharging the phone) are also important considerations (Ashraf et al. (2005)) in regions such as rural India. While mobile calls are cheaper than the cost of travel, the extent to which these savings offset the total costs of owning a mobile still remains to be determined.
Those without connections will be cut off from one of the planet’s fastest growing “economies.” The size of the Internet economy in the G20 countries reached $2.3 trillion in 2010 — equivalent to around 4.1% of their GDP — and could double by 2016, according to estimates from the Boston Consulting Group.
Linking up the two-thirds of the world’s population that remains offline requires a mix of initiatives. Right now 199 countries, including the United States, have a national broadband plan, and 12 more are in planning stages.
Mobile broadband is not a luxury
Mobile broadband is no longer a luxury. The world see this as a fundamental tool that is expected by everyone.It should be ensured that all the world’s inhabitants are connected to the goodies of the online world, which means better health care, better education, more sustainable economic and social development.