Sunday, 30 September 2007

Mobile penetration at BoP – An opportunity for telecentres

According to a recent study, 41% of the bottom of the pyramid (BoP) in Sri Lanka owns a phone, and among these 22% owns a mobile phone. The growth of the mobile phone sector since 2001 is phenomenal: 22% in Sri Lanka, 76% in Thailand, 60% in Philippines, and 23% in Pakistan.

In Sri Lanka, BoP consumers alone represent four million people who live below 2$USD a day. Despite the cost burden, they choose to purchase mobile phones because of convenience and the lack of other communication options. Another 31% (1.3 million people) are planning to buy a mobile phone before June 2008, according to the study.

But 28% are not planning to buy. According to LirneAsia, the group who conducted the research, this is the community who offers the opportunities for telecenters. Why..? majority ( 86%) of this 1.2 million population live in rural villages (where telecentres are setup). Though they are not willing to buy phones, a communication is a need for them.

How the telecentres can take the advantage?
> Offer attractive and affordable phone services (especially international calls)
> Promote alternate modes of communications (eg. Internet affiliated communication services – VOIP) – (26% in Sri Lanka and 71% in India, of the BoP unheard about Internet).

Factors to be aware of;
> Majority of this group is females (61% in Sri Lanka, 64% in Pakistan, 53% in Philippines)
> 86% of this non-phone buying community of Sri Lanka will be rural. (92% in Thailand).
> Average monthly income of majority would be less than 75US$
> Mean age of this group would be 40yrs.
> Majority of them in Sri Lanka was sensitive to privacy of their phone communication.

Based on the presentation "Mobile Penetration in Sri Lanka, Implications for Telecenteres" by Prof Rohan Samarajiva of LirneAsia, at Sarvodaya's National Telecentre Alliance Conference, August 31, 2007.

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