10 January 2007

Telecommunications in developing countries

There is no doubt that telecommunications has transformed the lives of people in industrialized countries. When complementary infrastructures and the means to pay for service exists, the choice to adopt technology is an easy one. It is much more difficult in developing countries, where many people live on the margin of sustainability. There have been a couple of stories recently about this, particularly in light of Vodafone's interest in India.

The first article, from BusinessWeek focusses on India. Though the purpose of this article is to describe the challenges for handset makers, it provides a glimpse into the transformative nature of telecommunications:
o get a sense of how India's revolution in mobile telephony is changing people's lives, consider the case of Dashrath Pujari, a plumber who shares a modest shop with a cobbler in suburban Mumbai. People in his neighborhood seek him out to fix their faucets, washing machines, and water leaks, but when he's out on call it falls to his 14-year-old son to pass on any messages. And sometimes the boy, who attends night school, doesn't follow through.

In the past, that cost Pujari precious business, but no more, thanks to a $32 Motofone handset he purchased from Motorola a while back. Today, he fields about eight calls a day on his no-frills, black and white screen mobile phone anytime, anywhere. His monthly income has shot up 30% to $135 a month. He can't read, but knows how to take and make calls guided by the Hindi voice prompt on his phone. "It has changed my life completely," he marvels.

A similar story was recently published from Kenya:
How big a change have cellphones made to Africa?" I shout the question at Isis Nyong'o, over the throbbing bassline of of a Kenyan ragga track. She tells me calmly: "It's had about the same effect as a democratic change of leadership
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With one in three adults carrying a cellphone in Kenya, mobile telephony is having an economic and social impact whose is [sic] hard to grasp if you are used to living in a country with good roads, democracy and the internet.
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In five years the number of mobiles in Kenya has grown from one million to 6.5 million - while the number of landlines remains at about 300,000, mostly in government offices.


Raul Gallu said...

I think that telecomunications in the developing countries could be a good thing but it's is not a priority. I think that they should be more focused on education because as the article said there a people there that can't read or write but know use a mobile phone to make a call.

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Australian telecom company said...

It is good to see how developing countries are able exert effort to innovate their telecommunications industry despite not being a top priority.