Mobile Phone Technology for Development in Bangladesh

This story originally appeared in the August 2011 edition of the Searchlight South Asia newsletter created by Intellecap for the Rockefeller Foundation.

By Usha Ganesh

Tahmima Anam, a Bangladeshi writer in India to promote her latest book, said in a recent interview that Dhaka is a city bursting at the seams but with a surprisingly tangible energy of possibility. This energy—often driven by an overwhelming necessity to act quickly in a country of extreme poverty—has ignited innovation in many areas, development included. Bangladesh’s unique approaches to poverty reduction and inclusive growth have been exhibited most recently by the different ways in which mobile telecommunication is being harnessed by the development sector. While mobile phones have increasingly become ubiquitous in developing countries, Bangladesh has taken the technology’s capabilities a step further. Many new initiatives have leveraged the sheer number of people using mobile phones (76.4 million in Bangladesh), as well as the capabilities of mobile phones to promote inclusivity and access around education, health, banking, among others. Neighboring countries, it turns out, have lagged behind in the effort to leverage mobile phones for development purposes: India, for example, has a significantly higher number of mobile subscribers at over 700 million and tele-density of 67% and would seem to be a place where new technologies could be exploited in many different ways. This, however, is not the case. » Continue reading “Mobile Phone Technology for Development in Bangladesh”

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Igniting the Spark

This story originally appeared in our May 5, 2011 e-magazine. Click here to subscribe.

Entrepreneurs face common challenges to growing an idea into a profitable enterprise. Three successful social entrepreneurs offer their insights to Beyond Profit.

Social entrepreneurs are not very different from their counterparts in the business world when it comes to the challenges of starting, running and sustaining a business. However, when one’s business depends on offering solutions to a social problem in a profitable and sustainable manner, the question of identifying the problem is only half the battle. The other half is understanding the right product or service to take to the bottom of the pyramid (BoP). Before entering a market with a new offering, an entrepreneur should then have a clear understanding of which institutions are in place and which are missing, and how successful – determined by profitability – will the business model be. » Continue reading “Igniting the Spark”

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Using Mobile Manners

A recent article in The Economist profiled mPedigree, an incredible cell phone service available in Ghana and Nigeria that can verify if the drug you just bought is legitimate or counterfeit. A consumer buys the drugs, scratches off a panel and texts the code to a computer system that verifies it.

This is just one in the growing line of services being offered to poor consumers via their mobile phone. As the number of mobile subscribers in developing countries skyrockets, companies are clamoring to invent these types of services.

There’s no argument against the fact that services reaching the BoP through cell phones can be effective, cheap and useful, but in order to tailor services for this segment, thinking about how exactly people use their cell phones is key. A recent study carried out in Gambia gives an insight into just how people use—and want to use—their cell phones. » Continue reading “Using Mobile Manners”

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