Grameen Telecom's Village Phone Programme in Rural Bangladesh: A Multi-Media Case Study
This study was undertaken to investigate the impact of the Grameen Phone and Grameen Telecom provision of micro-credit cellular phone service on poverty reduction and the socioeconomic situation of women village phone operators (VPO) and users at large.
The paper describes Grameen's village phone as:
- The best available technical solution and organizational solution to rural telecommunication access;
- A unique combination of revolving loan system with cellular phone loan scheme;
- A device providing a large consumer surplus and immeasurable quality of life benefits;
- A device addressing gender issues for the first time in telecom service provision.
The paper further points out:
- Telecom regulations hinder the use of rural telephone for rural development benefits;
- Grameen telephones are used mainly for discussing remittances and social calls;
- Users are willing to pay high rates for overseas calls for financial matters;
- Grameen Telecom Village Phones bring in three times revenue against urban phones;
- A family member working overseas is the most important factor determining phone use;
- Female phone users prefer to use a phone operated by a woman phone owner.
Finally the paper gives recommendations to upscale the project universally:
- WLL and other options can provide much better bandwidth and cost of service as compared to cellular technology for internet access;
- Attracting telecom operators and equipment vendors with a solid business case relieving them of researching rural markets;
- Micro-credit programs tied to the development of Public Calling Office (PCO)-type micro-enterprises to increase rural access to telecommunication systems.