Friday, December 31, 2010

Mobile Phone Brings Silent Revolution In Poor Countries

If corrupt politicians, lack of government programs, inadequacy of vocational trainings have been the bane of the financially disadvantaged people in the third word countries, they are now finding help in a relatively modern innovation—mobile phone, which is literally giving them the opportunity to pull themselves up by their shoe strings.

Mobile phone is a way of life in the western world and in majority cases it is merely a means of convenience in communication, however, in the third world it has become the life blood of decent size businesses, and a Bangladeshi village woman, Monowara Talukder, a native of Gaibandha district in the northern part of the country, one of the poorest area of Bangladesh, is a testimony to that.

In only six years, Talukder has built an international herbal tea business, Tulsi Tea, with a turnover of $625,000 in revenue. In a country where the per capita income is only $599 (2008 statistics) Talukder's endeavor can be termed as a business empire.

She employs 1,500 female workers, and supplies her products to major western health food chains, and far eastern countries. She does not have an office or showroom, her mobile phone is her office, show room, phone, fax—in a nutshell the hubbub of her international activity.

When the mobile phone first arrived in the rural Bangladesh in 1997, Talukder was among the first women to sign up for one. The cost was high in Bangladeshi standard and for a 48-year old mother of four, who had never ventured in such a project, the risk was very high, albeit, she never regretted her decision.

All women, nevertheless, are not as lucky as Talukder. According to the telecoms industry body GSMA, a woman living in South Asia has only 37 per cent chance of getting a mobile phone compared to a man, giving rise to telecoms gender gap. Talukder, who made difference to many lives, proudly stated that because of her growing business, 1,200 of her employees own mobile phones, a great feat for a poor country such as Bangladesh.

National Geographic Emerging Explorer Ken Banks posted some stories about how mobile phones are being used throughout the world to improve billions of lives at the grass roots level. There are over 500 million subscribers in Africa alone, and increasing number of people around the world are owning mobile phones with each day passing.

The advantages are multifaceted: Farmers can access market information and increase their income by 40 percent in some cases; day laborers can advertise their services and increase their chances of getting work; unemployed can receive job alerts, and even money can be transferred over the phone where there are no banks. Villagers in Kenya can get timely wildlife warnings, helping them to take precaution from the romping elephants.

In Bhutan, a remote trekking area has received mobile phone system which allows the Principal of Lingshi community primary school, Pema Dema, to audio Biblical service project was launched by E-verses, a private telecommunication company, on Dec. 6 at the Karachi Press Club. Christians, who are minority in Pakistan have been elated with the first-ever audio service of the Bible available through the mobile phones.

Taliban militants routinely attack telecommunication towers in Afghanistan alleging that the NATO forces track them through their phone signals and then attack their hide outs. However, many Afghans, including lawmakers speak out against such actions. Legislator Shurkiya Barekzai commented that by attacking the towers the Taliban seeks to destroy Afghan economy since the mobile networks are very important for ordinary Afghans as mobile phones have become principal means of communication given the rugged nature of Afghan territory and their poor mail service system.

A recent United Nations report said the the fast spreading information technology can improve the livelihoods of the poorest people in developing countries and it cautioned that governments must design responsive policies to ensure that the benefits reach maximum number of people in the most effective way. UNCTAD Secretary-General Supachai Panitchpakdi told a news conference that mobile phone subscriptions will reach five billion this year, nearly one per person on the planet.

Mobile phone has become so important in the lives of people of Ghana that thousands protested poor mobile phone services in Ghana by marching on streets. The local Consumer Protection Agency colluded with other consumer right groups and called on all mobile phone users in the country to switch off their mobile phones for six hours demanding quality services from mobile phone service providers.

The protesters submitted a petition to the deputy communications minister, Dr Nartey Siaw Sapore, who assured that the Ghanaian government would look into the matter and take necessary actions to improve the service.

Article first published as Mobile Phone Brings Silent Revolution In Poor Countries on Technorati.