e-commerce in Bangladesh

Thursday, June 07, 2012

A Survey on the Use of Mobile Phones among Low Income People in Bangladesh

The day March 10, 1876, was an important day in human history. On that day, famous American scientist, Alexander Grahambell, talked to his assistant, Thomas Watson, over a device called telephone. The first message goes, “Watson, come here: I want you.” (Alamgir & Anand, 2008, p.1)
Fast forward 1973; Motorolla unveiled world’s first portable cellular telephone, Motorola DynaTAC 8000X (Cassavoy, 2007). Since then, the world steadily observed the rise of mobile phones and mobile phone technology. Now, in developed, countries mobile phone is not just a device for making calls. Powerful devices like the smartphones can perform a wide range of functions. 
Compared to developed countries, mobile phone users in developing countries do not have the latest infrastructure or handsets. However, mobile phones are very much popular in developing countries and its use is increasing steadily. Thanks to lower price and easy availability of mobile handsets, poor people in developing countries are increasingly using mobile phones. For this reason, in many developing countries, mobile phon is acting as a major catalyst for social and economical changes.   
Bangladesh is a developing country. Mobile phone came to Bangladesh in the 90s. Initially, there were only two mobile operators but in a matter of ten years great change took place in the country’s Mobile Telecom sector. Now, there are six mobile operators in Bangladesh.
Currently, almost half the population of Bangladesh has access to mobile phones and the number is increasing. A large portion of the population of Bangladesh is low income people. This research paper looks into the use mobile phone in the low income group of Bangladesh.
Mobile Phones in Bangladesh:
According to Yusuf & Alam (2007), mobile phone came to Bangladesh in 1989. That year, the government gave licenses to two telecom operators- Bangladesh Rural Telecom Authority (BRTA) and Sheba Telecom Pvt. Ltd. Pacific Telecom, a CDMA-based mobile operator, launched the first mobile phone service in the country under the brand, “Citycell.” Initially, mobile phone was very expensive and its usage was very limited. 
Three more licenses were given in 1996, 2004 and 2005. In 1997, two new mobile operators-Grameenphone, Aktel- started their operation in Bangladesh. Grameenphone started its operation in March 1997 (“About Us,” n.d., para. 3). It was a joint-venture between Norwegian telecom operator, Telenor, and Grameen Telecom Corporation, a sister concern of Grameen Bank (“Ownership Structure,” n.d., para. 2). That same year, Telekom Malaysia International and AK Khan & Co. jointly launched Aktel. Later, AK Khan & Co. sold its stake to NTT DOCOMO INC (“DoCoMo to buy,” 2008, para. 2). On the other hand, Telekom Malaysia International Sdn. Bhd., changed its name to Axiata Group Berhad (“About Us,” n.d.). Under the new ownership, it was rebranded as “Robi.” The new company Robi Axiata Limited is now in control of Robi (“About Robi” n.d.).
In 2004, Orascom Telecom Bangladesh Limited started its operation under “Banglalink” brand (“about banglalink,” n.d., para.1). That year, Teletalk, a state-owned company, also started its operation (“Company Overview,” n.d., para. 5).  In 2007, Warid Telecom, Bangladesh started its operation (“Abu Dhabi Group,” n.d). It was owned by Warid Telecom International Ltd., a subsidiary of Dhabi Group. Warid Bangladesh could not become successful. In early 2010, Warid Telecom International sold its 70% stake to Bharti Airtel Ltd. Since then, the company name had been changed to Airtel Bangladesh and “Airtel” became the new brand (Zarabi, 2010, para. 1).
According to US Census Bureau, as of 2011, Bangladesh is the eighth most populated country in the world with a population size of 159 million. According to the latest statistics of Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC), the number of active mobile phone subscribers is 79.677 million (at the end of August 2011).
In terms of subscribers, Grameenphone Ltd. is the largest with almost 35 million subscribers followed by Banglalink with 21.6 million subscribers, Robi with 14.9 million, Airtel with 5.1 million, Citycell 1.7 million and Teletalk 1.1 million.
Active Subscribers
Grameen Phone Ltd. (GP)
Orascom Telecom Bangladesh Limited (Banglalink)
Robi Axiata Limited (Robi)
Airtel Bangladesh Limited (Airtel)
Pacific Bangladesh Telecom Limited (Citycell)
Teletalk Bangladesh Ltd. (Teletalk)
*Subscribers in Millions
Fig: 1.1
Only Citycell has CDMA network and the rest (Grameenphone, Robi, Banglalink, Airtel & Teletalk) are GSM based operators. All these operators offer a wide range of voice and data services. Grameenphone, Citycell and Banglalink offer handsets
pre-loaded with various services.
Since Bangladesh is a developing country, low priced feature phones are very much popular here. Handsets of established brands like Samsung, Nokia, Sony Ericsson, LG, Motorola can be found in Bangladesh via local branches, dealers and importers. In addition, there are grey market products. Many Bangladeshi people personally bring handsets when they travel abroad and sell it at a lower price in the local market. The biggest problem of these handsets is that if they are damaged then the users can not repair them for these products do not have any warranty.
In recent years, Chinese brand handsets gained lots of popularity. With attractive design, features and lower prices, Chinese brand handsets took Bangladeshi market by storm. Aside from well known brands like Tecno, Symphony, Maximus, Sprint and Digital, and I-Max, lesser known Chinese phones are widely available in numerous shops in Dhaka city (“Chinese cell phone,” 2010, para.2). Indian brands such as Micromax, Maxx and Zen are also available in Bangladesh (Aamir, 2010; Bafna, 2010; “Zen Mobiles,” 2011;)  
Smartphones are also available in Bangladesh but their user base is still very small. This is because their price is above the purchasing capability of the average Bangladeshi people. However, lower priced touchscreen handsets made by Chinese and Indian companies and some other established brands are becoming increasingly popular among Bangladeshi people.
In 2009, a Sri Lanka-based Information and Communication Technology (ICT) research firm, LIRNEasia, published a study which revealed that more poor people of Bangladesh have mobile phones than those in India and Pakistan (as cited in Dhaka Mirror, 2009, para.1) Currently, there are many poor people in Bangladesh, who does not have their own mobile phones and they are very much interested to have one. Hence, the Bangladesh mobile phone market will continue to grow for the foreseeable future.
Mobile Phone in Developing Countries: A Global Scenario
I think cellphones are what Africa has been waiting for… (South Africa) came to a standstill for 40 years. There was no development there, a lot of guns going off… now the cellphone has actually made them lift those 40 years and be smack right in the middle of everybody’s communication system, which I think is a fantastic thing. (Chapman, 2010, para. 2)
The above quotation, made by Peter Dzingwa, owner of a phone shop in Africa, best reflects the potential of mobile phones in developing countries.
The current age is the age of Information and Communication Technology. However, not all the people in the world have equal access to technology. Mobile phone played a major role in filling up this technology gap. According to Rashid & Elder (2009), the following features of mobile phone make it an ideal device for the people of developing countries.
a)      A mobile phone is portable and secure. Owner of a mobile phone can take the phone along with him which gives him a sense of security. 
b)      Mobile phone uses radio spectrum. It does not depend on roads and phone wires. Compared to the developed countries, developing countries do not have necessary infrastructures like roads, bridges, technology, manpower etc. It costs a lot of money to provide landline phones in remote regions that do not have electricity and other necessary resources but it costs much less to bring it under mobile phone coverage. All it needs is to build a cell-tower. Even if there is no electricity, the tower can be run by generator. 
c)      People do not need high level of “know-hows” to operate mobile phones.
d)     Aside from voice communication, mobile networks can be used to send data. Hence, government and various private and charitable organizations can offer a wide range of services to the poor people via mobile phones. 
e)      The mobile industry is highly competitive for there are many private operators. These operators come up with innovative services and payment methods. This has made possible for the poor people to buy mobile phones.
Developing countries, in 2000, contributed to one-fourth of 700 million mobile phone subscriptions around the world. It increased to three-fourth by the beginning of 2009, with over 4 million worldwide mobile phone subscriptions (“Mobile marvels,” 2009, para. 4). Mobile phone penetration in the African region was 49% per year in the period from 2002 to 2007 on an average compared to 17% per year in Europe (Jagun, Heeks, & Whalley, 2008, p.47)
Contribution to the Economy in Developing Countries:
The biggest change mobile phone brought in developing economies was that it ensured free flow of information thus increasing efficiency in business and creating new business opportunities at the consumer-end. Mobile phone ensured access to information and so at a minimal price for the poor people of the developing nations.  Because of mobile phones, people did not have to travel long distance or wait for a long time to retrieve important information. That is why, increase in the number of mobile phone subscribers had direct relation with economic improvement.
A research work revealed that growth in mobile phone penetration had a positive impact on the country’s GDP (Deloitte, 2008, p. 6).

Below is given a figure of how the mobile communications affected GDP growth of Bangladesh, Ukraine, Pakistan, Thailand Serbia and Malaysia in 2007.
Description: Economic impact of mobile phone
From common knowledge, it can be easily inferred that this percentage further increased in the last four years.
A recent study of 120 countries by World Bank showed that every 10% increase in mobile phone penetration means an economic growth of 0.8% in developing countries (Zhen-Wei Qiang, 2009, p.7).
With the help of mobile phones, farmers in Tamale, Ghana, can instantly get to know about the corn and tomato prices in the country capital, Accra, which is 400km away from Tamale (Aker & Mbiti, 2010, p.207). This way, in Niger, one of the poorest countries in the world, farmers could reduce price dispersion by 10 to 16 percent (Simoncolumbus, 2010, para.13).
In the Indian state of Kerala, fishermen changed their economic condition by the virtues of mobile phone. Through mobile phones, they get necessary information about the demand of their products. As a result, they get better price for their products. At the same time, it reduced wastage as fish is a “highly perishable” product. The fish merchants and fish transporters also take advantage of this free flow of information. In this way, the whole process became very much efficient thus reducing risk and uncertainty. (Abraham, 2007, p. 5)
Aside from voice and text, mobile phones can also provide visual information.      
This year, a group of researcher from Purdue University, led by crop scientist, Jess Lowenberg-DeBoer, conducted an experiment in Nigeria. The researchers created a video which showed how the farmers could make bags that would protect their crops from insects pests. Initially, the team loaded the video in seven phones and in one month it spread among 118 people located in 50 different villages. (Baragona, 2011)
M-Pesa in Kenya: A Successful Implementation of Mobile Money Service
Mobile Money is a mobile phone based money transfer or transaction service provided to the subscribers for various purposes. It can help the subscribers do banking without having to visit a bank and transfer money to other subscribers instantly. Subscribers can also pay bills through mobile money service and it could also be used in the microcredit banking system.
In Kenya, Mobile Money started a major revolution. It enabled poor people of the region, who do not have any bank account, to send money via mobile phones. The service is called “M-Pesa.” “M” stands for “Mobile” and “Pesa” in Swahili language, stands for money (Graham, 2010, para.3).
Vodafone started “M-Pesa” in 2007. Initially launched to be used in microfinance system, M-Pesa has now become a successful means for the Kenyans to pay their bills, send money to others and conduct other financial activities through mobile phones. The service was expected to gain 200,000 subscribers in a year, but did it in one month. Within one year, the number of people using this service increased to 1.6 million (Corbett, 2008, para. 24). In 2009, two new mobile money companies started- Zain's Zap and Yu's Yu-Cash. Orange Money came in 2010. (Kiringai et al., 2010).
Mobile Phone Empowering Women in Developing Countries:
It is common knowledge that women are more vulnerable than men in poverty and many developing countries would give evidence of it. However, adopting technologies like mobile phone can help them find ways of earning money and contribute to their families.
A number of countries in Africa and Asia have shown how mobile phone can play a central role in driving a revolutionary change in the lives of poor, uneducated women, by empowering them economically, and thus, allowing their voice be heard in the family and society.
A research report by GSMA and Cherie Blair Foundation for Women (2010) revealed that 93% of women in low and middle-income countries, feel safer with a mobile phone to their possession and 85% women consider themselves more independent while carrying a mobile phone. Another striking finding of the research is that 41% of the women surveyed under the project have admitted that mobile phone has helped them find more professional opportunities and ways of income.
However, the research also indicated that women in the low and middle-income countries are 21% less likely to own a mobile phone than their male counterparts. Now, if this gap, between men and women in embracing mobile phone technology, could be bridged up in the developing world, this could add US$13 billion to the telecom industries in those countries, revealed the research. (as cited in GSM World, 2010)
Financial empowerment of women can bring a lot of positive changes in the society. With some financial contributions, women in the developing countries can earn respect in the family and contribute to the key family decisions. Thus, they can send their children, especially daughters, to schools and arrange better healthcare for them. On this regard, Cherie Blair (2010), the founder of Cherie Blair Foundation for Women, says, “Helping women to talk more may seem like the start of an old Music Hall joke, but the personal, economic, and development impact of closing the technology gap is no laughing matter.” (Blair, 2010, para.15)
Background of the Survey:
From the above discussion, it is clear that mobile phone played a very important role in the economic development of the developing countries around the world including Bangladesh. Use of mobile phone among low income people of Bangladesh increased significantly. However, no major survey has been carried out on the use of mobile phone among the lower income people of Bangladesh. The main goal of our survey was to gain some understanding about the behavior of the lower income mobile users.
The Target Group in This Survey:
The target groups in this survey were mainly working class people such as rickshaw pullers, street side vendors, shopkeepers, small street-side shop owners, domestic aid (commonly known as maid-servants), and small job holders. Most of these people have limited income and they even do not fall into the definition of middle class people in Bangladeshi society. They live in Dhaka city and almost all of them came from rural areas. They have been working in Dhaka for few years and they use mobile phones to keep in contact with their relatives in rural areas or others in towns or cities.
Focus Areas:
Through this survey, we tried to find out –
a)      How long these people have been using mobile phones.
b)      Which handset brand is the most popular and price of the handsets they use.
c)      What do they do with their phones aside from making calls?
d)     Which mobile network operator is the most popular among them?
e)      With whom they talk most over phones?
f)       If they take advantage of the lower-tariffs during the off-peak hours.
g)      How much money they spend after mobile phones per month?
h)      How they communicated before buying mobile phones?
i)        What is major problem they face while using mobile phones.
j)        How long they charge their mobile phones.
The main limitation of this survey was unavailability of any fund. The members of Bangladesh Online Journalist Foundation (BOJF) bore all the expenses and they worked on voluntary basis. The budget was not that big and that is why, some activities could not be executed despite planning at the beginning of the survey.
Secondly, not too many research works on the use of mobile phone by poor people could be found in libraries or in internet. The availability of resources was limited.
The biggest limitation that can be pointed out is the overwhelming dependence on websites and online materials. This has been done with a predetermined attitude because in Bangladesh, finding old editions of newspapers is always a big challenge. For example, if someone wants to find out an edition of a newspaper published one year ago, then the person or the researcher would have to waste a lot of time, energy and money. So, all attempts have been made to focus on websites and online materials so that interested researchers can easily find the materials and references used in this research. Although it can be considered as a major limitation, but using too much of online materials for reference perhaps would bring advantage to the future researchers.
Due to shortage funds and manpower, we could not cover rural areas. There are many low income people in rural areas who use mobile phones. Had the village people been covered, the survey results would have been more fruitful.   
Benefit of the Survey:
The mobile industry of Bangladesh observed unprecedented growth in the last decade. It is highly competitive. Yet, there is room for growth in this industry and the low income people and poor people of Bangladesh will drive that growth.
Survey like this would help the mobile network operators to understand what kind of service they could offer to attract subscribers from the lower income segment. Based on the findings, the network operators would then be able to develop products for the subscribers.
On the other hand, mobile handset makers would gain better understanding how the users are using the handset and what types of functions they would like to have on their handsets.
In addition, this survey would provide useful information to the researchers and mobile application developers.
We collected both primary and secondary data. For primary data, we conducted a survey on one hundred low income people located in different areas of Dhaka city. Our data collectors went to different parts of Dhaka city and asked respondents questions and then wrote their responses. As the data collectors were not highly proficient in English, we made our survey-questionnaire in Bangla language. The questionnaire contained thirteen questions. The respondents of the survey are small business people, job holders, and self-employed professionals, students, housewife and farmers.  
We collected all our secondary data from Internet. We looked into newspaper articles, research papers, official websites of different organizations, and statistics published by telecom authority of Bangladesh.
We relied heavily on Internet because finding data from printed sources would take a lot of time. Secondly, research and studies conducted by different organizations-NGOs, mobile operators, research organizations- can not be found in one place. Third, when other people will read our survey report, they could easily go to the source from which we collected information. Finally, the reference was made following the guidelines of American Psychological Association (APA).  
Survey Result Analysis:
The survey was conducted on one hundred low income people living in different areas of Dhaka city. Of all the respondents, only two respondents had more than one handset. The rest had one handset. Since the people, who collected data, and the respondents, do not understand English, the survey questionnaire was made in Bangla language.  
Out of the one hundred respondents there were 70 males and 30 females. The number of female respondents was lower because women felt uncomfortable to talk with our data collectors.
Out of one hundred respondents, there were-28 shopkeepers, 21 small business people, 15 female garments workers, 10 domestic aid (commonly known as maid servants), 10 professionals (Electricians and potters), 6 rickshaw-pullers, 5 home makers from low income family and 5 small job holders.   
The businesspeople in this survey were either street side small vendors or had small shops in a bazaar or a market. The job holders had very small monthly salary. Often the respondents were at a loss over stating their profession. Many of them were illiterate or with very little education.
Handset Brands:
In response to the question, “What is the brand of your handset?” 55% respondents said they use Nokia, 18.26% use little known Chinese brands, 11.5% use Samsung, 6.7% use Symphony, 2.88% use Huawei, 2% use Sony Ericsson, 2% Tecno, Motorola .96% and Grameenphone handset .96%.
This result shows that Nokia is the most popular among low income people. However, Chinese brand mobile phones are gaining popularity. Symphony, Huawei and Tecno are well known Chinese brands. Hence, these three companies are shown separately. If shares of all the three companies and lesser known Chinese brands are brought together, then the overall share of Chinese mobile phones would become much bigger. Nokia is still the market leader in this segment of population but the survey results clearly reveal that Chinese brands are quickly capturing the market.
Mobile Network Operator:
We asked the respondents which mobile network operator they subscribed to. Of the one hundred respondents, 22 respondents subscribed to more than one mobile network operator while the rest subscribed to one mobile network operator.
People With More Than One SIM:
Of the 22 respondents, who used multiple SIM cards, Grameenphone was the most popular (77%) followed by Banglalink (72%), Airtel (36%), Robi (36%), Teletalk (4.5%), and Citycell (4.5%). 
People With Single SIM:
Of the 78 respondents, who used one SIM card, 47% subscribed to Grameenphone, 23% Banglalink, 12.80% Airtel, 11.5% Robi, 2.5% Teletalk and 2.5% Citycell.
According to the latest statistics of Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC), Grameen and Banglalink were the two top mobile operators in Bangladesh followed by Robi, Airtel, Teletalk and Citycell. The survey results also reflected the same outcome.
Duration of Using Mobile Phones:
The respondents were asked how long they have been using mobile phones. It was an open-ended question and the answers had been sorted into five categories- less than 1 year, 1-2 years, 2-5 years, 5-9 years, more than 9 years.
Of the 100 respondents, 6 respondents answered less than 1 year, 24 respondents answered 1-2 years, 33 respondents answered 2-5 years, 23 respondents answered 5-9 years and 14 respondents answered more than nine years.
Here, it can be seen that 33% have been using mobile phones for the last 2-5 years while another 24% have been using this device for 1-2 years. It shows that mobile phone is fairly a recent gadget for low income people of Bangladesh.
Handset Price:
We asked the respondents about the price of their handsets. It was an open ended question and we sorted the responses into five categories- gift, less than Tk.1000, Tk.1000-Tk.3000, Tk.3000-Tk.5000, Tk.5000-Tk.10,000 and more than Tk.10,000. We have already mentioned that two of the respondents owned more than one handset. So, there were more than one hundred responses.
8 respondents said that they received their handsets as gifts from their relatives.
4 respondents said that their handsets were priced below Tk.1000.
48 respondents said that their handsets were priced between Tk.1000- Tk.3000.
25 respondents said that their handsets were priced between Tk.3,000- Tk.5,000.
10 respondents said that their handsets were priced between Tk.5,000- Tk.10,000.
9 respondents said that there handsets cost more than 10,000 taka.  
Bangladesh is a price sensitive market. Since these respondents are from lower class background, they are even more sensitive about price. So, it is not surprising that majority of the respondents use lower priced handsets. If the handset makers want to attract more people from this segment (working class people) then they should introduce handsets that would cost between Tk.1000 and Tk.1500 .
Brand New or Second Hand:
We asked the respondents, “Is your phone brand new or second hand?” Of the 100 respondents, eight said that they received their phones as gifts. 67 respondents said that their phones were brand new while 25 respondents said that they use second hand handsets.
This result indicates that people are not that much fan of second hand phone sets. In addition, the mobile network operators like Grameenphone or Banglalink do not offer many handsets for this segment. They should try to offer more good quality handsets at a cheaper price. 
Time of Talking:
We asked the respondents when they talk most on their mobile phones. 12 respondents said that they talked most in the morning, 12 at noon, 10 at evening, 6 at night and 12 through out the day.  28 respondents said that they talked most whenever it was necessary and another 20 respondents said that they talked most anytime-day, evening or at night.
This outcome shows that people of this segment are more concerned about their needs than lower call tariffs.
With Whom They Talk Most?
We asked the respondents with whom they talked most of the time over their mobile phones. Majority (47) of the respondents said that they talked most with their family members followed by friends (12), relatives (25) and other people (16) which includes customers, boss, business people etc.
The result shows that low income people talk much with their family members. So, mobile network operators should give more publicity about their FnF services and raise awareness among these people because FnF service can save a lot of money. 
How They Communicated Before Buying Mobile Phones:
It was an open-ended question and we received a total of 113 responses which fell into five categories- no communication, sending letter, going to the village few times a year, calling from mobile phone shop, and sending news via people. Many of the respondents mentioned of using more than one of these above mentioned means to communicate with their friends and families prior to buying mobile phones.
“No communication” made up 30% of the responses. Prior to buying mobile phones, the respondents had no better way to communicate with their families and friends in the village. “Sending letter” made up 29% of the responses while “Going to the village” 10% and “Making calls from mobile phone shop 23%” and “Sending news via people” 7%.
This result shows that before mobile phone, it was very difficult or impossible for these people to communicate or send messages to their friends and families in rural areas. That is why, mobile phone has huge potential among low income people of Bangladesh. For this reason, companies can hand-out cheaper mobile phones as part of their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) to help the poor people. At the same time, different NGOs can collaborate with network operators and handset brands and take projects to give out low-priced handsets among these people so that in near future all the people of Bangladesh can have access to mobile phones.  
Money Spent After Talking Over Mobile Phone:
We asked the respondents how much money they spent for talking over their mobile phones per month. 32 respondents said that they spend less than Tk.300. 31 respondents said that their monthly expense ranged from Tk.300 to Tk.600. 21 respondents said that their monthly expense ranged from Tk.700 to Tk.1,000. 13 respondents said that their monthly expense ranged from Tk.1000 to Tk.3000. Only 3 respondents’ monthly expense exceeded Tk.3000.
It is a common notion that poor people do not spend money but this result shows otherwise. Poor people spend money after mobile phone, no matter how small it is, because communication with their families is very much important, especially those, who are living in urban areas, because, many of them live alone leaving their family in village and life is very difficult for them. 
The mobile network TV commercials do not highlight poor people that much. Most of the commercials are targeted towards the youth. Mobile network operators should consider the poor people seriously and start making TV commercials targeting this segment.
What Do They Do With Their Mobile Phones Aside From Making Calls?
We asked the respondents what do they do with their mobile phones aside from making calls. The choices were a) listening to radio, b) listening to music, c)taking pictures, d) Sending SMS, and e)Others……………… For this question also, we received more than one hundred (121) responses because many gave more than one answers.
Only make calls” made up 45% of the responses, listening to radio 8%,
sending SMS 11%, Camera 11%, Song 21% and others (watching video, play games) 4%.
This shows that making call is the most important function for low income mobile phone users. Currently, the mobile network operators provide packages targeting mostly the youth. If the mobile network operators want to attract customers from this segment, should focus on how to offer voice call packages at a cheaper rate or offer special packages for these people.
Sending Money via Mobile Phone:
We asked our respondents if they send money to their relatives via mobile phones.
Of the 100 respondents only five respondents said that they send money with their mobile phones and 95 respondents said that they do not send money.
At present, people can send money from abroad with mobile phones. However,
there is no system of sending money with mobile phones inside the country. This kind of service has huge potential in Bangladesh. We have already talked about M-Pesa, the mobile money service in Kenya which has become very popular. Similar services can be introduced in Bangladesh
Problem With Mobile Phones:
We asked the respondents if they face any problem with their mobile phones. In this question we provided five choices- a) battery runs out quickly b) Problem with sound c) Problem with display d) Problem with button e) Problem with network.
For this question also, we received 123 responses for many respondents named more than one problem. However, a significant number of respondents said that they do not face any problem with their phones. Network problem made up 48% of the responses. It was the major problem given by the respondents. Battery running out was the second major problem making up 21% of the total responses. “No Problem” made up 15.44% of the responses. Sound problem made up 7.30% of the total responses while “Problem with display” and “Problem with buttons” each made up 4.06% of the responses.  
This outcome shows that the poor people want to have a hassle free communication. The mobile network operators should invest more on building better infrastructure because this is a common problem among all the network operators in Bangladesh.
Mobile Phone Charging:
In this question, we asked the respondents how long they charge their mobile phones. There were five choices- a) All night b) 2-3hours c) 1 hours and d) less than 1 hour.
Majority (37) of the respondents said that they charge their phones for 2-3hours. 22 respondents said that they charge their mobile phones all night. Another 22 respondents said that they charge their mobile phones for less than an hour. 12 respondents said that they charge their phones for one hour. 7 respondents came up with different answers such as 4 hours, 5 hours, 5-6 hours, 6 hours all day, and alternative days.
This result shows that majority of the low income people do not know how to charge their mobile phones properly. This not only damages the phone battery but also shortens the lifespan of the mobile phone. Once their phones are damaged from excessive charging, they can not buy new phones immediately. It may take several months for them to acquire a new one.
This causes serious waste of electricity. Electricity shortage is a major problem in our country and low income people are the ones who suffer most from electricity shortage. Already there are millions of mobile phone users in our country and when more poor people will have access to mobile phones then this problem would become serious.
The network operators also suffer from this problem for they lose many customers. That is why, the network operators should take some initiative to show the lower income people how they should charge their mobile phones properly.  
Reached Conclusions:
From the discussion and survey results, we can reach the following conclusions:
  • Adopting mobile technology is very much easy for the developing countries.
  • Mobile phone is the best means to fill up the technology gap between high-income people and low income people in the society.
  • Mobile phone can improve productivity, efficiency, thus creating new opportunities for people and improve the overall economic condition of the country.
  • Government can offer a wide range of services through mobile phone and it would ensure transparency and efficiency. 
  • Mobile phone is very much popular among low income people. They do not consider it as a luxury item anymore.
  • Low income people mainly make calls with their mobile phones. They are not much interested in other services or use.
  • They are very much motivated to buy low-priced handsets. 
  • Mobile phone enabled these people to communicate with their friends and families at lower costs. Before mobile phones, they had no effective way to communicate.
  • For the next couple of years, the mobile phone market of Bangladesh will continue to grow and low income people will be the main force behind this growth. So network operators and handset makers should focus on this segment.
  • Their biggest complaint is poor network coverage. The mobile network operators should improve their network coverage.
  • Mobile money services can become very successful among low income people in Bangladesh.
  • These people do not know how to charge mobile phones properly. 
Recommendations For Mobile Network Operators:
  • Mobile network operators should introduce voice packages targeting low income people.
  • Mobile network operators can collaborate with NGOS and charitable organizations and can take up different projects in cities and villages to give out mobile phones and SIM for free or at a very low price to the poor people.
  • Mobile network operators should also improve the condition of their network. In our survey, the respondents mentioned “Network Problem” as the biggest problem. They want to have smooth communication. If the network operators can offer better service to these people, then they will become very much interested to buy mobile phones because the appeal of hearing the voices of their families and friends is second to none. That’s why the mobile network carrier that would come up with better service will definitely have the largest number of subscribers among low income people.
  • Aside from developing voice packages, the network operators should come up with Value Added Services (VAS) that would benefit the lower income people. However, this should be a long term plan. When the lower income people would become used to making calls with mobile phones, they will be further motivated to enjoy other services.
  • Mobile money service has huge potential in Bangladesh. Network operators should work towards introducing such services in Bangladesh.
  • Already, mobile network operators like Grameen, Banglalink, and Citycell are offering handset models at affordable prices. The operators can collaborate with Chinese or Indian handset makers and come up with a low priced handset (Tk. 500-700) with a powerful battery that would only enable the user to make calls.
Recommendations For Handset Makers:
  • Handset makers should offer more handsets that costs between Tk.1,000 and Tk.1,500 for the lower income people. These handsets should have good quality batteries that would run longer on minimal charge.  This type of handset has huge potential because in our survey, it has been found out that the poor people mainly make calls with their phones. The handset must have a battery that should run for a long time with minimal charging because slum areas and rural areas have serious shortage of electricity.
  • The handset makers can join with network operators and develop materials to inform the people how to charge their phones properly because electricity is a serious problem in rural and urban slum areas. When large number of poor people would charge their cell phones, it would create serious problem. At the same time, this would cause a serious waste of electricity. If they are shown the proper way of charging their mobile phones then they would be able to use their phones for a longer period time and the network operators will be able to generate revenue consistently from this segment.
It is now evident that mobile phone is not just a device for communication but a major force which, if used properly, could greatly improve a country’s economy.
According to the 2010 Household Income and Expenditure Survey (HIES) conducted by Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS) the national poverty headcount rate decreased to 31.5 percent from 40 percent from 2005 to 2010 (as cited in The World Bank, 2011, para.1). Still, around 56 million people live below poverty line (The World Bank, 2010, para.4).   Mobile phone can change the lives of these people and open up new possibilities. However, in order to do so, the government, and industry players should work together. Our government can offer various services through mobile phones to the poor people such as paying bills, inquiries. This will not only decrease corruption but would also increase productivity and transparency thus contributing to the overall economic development of the country.
On the other hand, giving lower priced handsets and subscriber packages to the poor people may not help the network operators and handset makers but this would help their businesses to grow in long term.
In this way, people of all social strata will have access to mobile phone thus ensuring free flow of information, transparency and economic improvement.
(This Survey was conducted by OJF and the research report was Prepared by: S.M. Mehdi Hassan and Razib Ahmed)
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  1. when it comes to choosing a new handset or even changing the service provider on your Business Mobile Phone, Rydal Communications will help all the way through.

  2. I wanted to know how to Call Bangladesh at low cost so that i can cut on the cost of my phone bills immediately. Can anyone suggest me something?

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