Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Session Report: Mobile Telephony in Rural Areas by Stephen Rudgard

Session: Mobile Telephony in Rural Areas by Stephen Rudgard
Room: Flag Hall
Time: January 21, 2009 - 15:30 -16:45

The facilitator explained that the e-Agriculture global community of expertise focuses on enhancing the role of ICTs in rural development. The initiative started in 2007, and it has evolved rapidly to include 4284 individual members in 154 countries in January 2009. The web-based community platform offers information and opportunities to interact such as online discussion forums. Over 150 community members from more than 50 countries participated in the most recent forum on “Mobile Telephony in Rural Areas” in November 2008. The ShareFair session was partly aimed at discussing some of the issues arising in the forum.

Major features of Telephony in Rural Areas
The panel members noted that mobile telephony in rural areas has emerged as a principal and vital tool for connecting people in rural areas, allowing efficient exchange of knowledge. Given its widescale availability, it has bridged a gap in the sector given that the internet is much less accessible to rural people. ITU statistics show that there are 3.3 billion subscribers in Africa, which is equal to about 40% of the population. It has been shown that up to 15 different people with different SIM cards in some villages may be using a single mobile handset, and that low income households are willing to spend 4-8% of their income on mobile-related costs. The London School of Economics alleges that 10 additional mobiles per 10,000 people improves GDP by 0.5%.

Uses of Mobiles
Farmers and other rural people have rapidly learned how to use their mobiles in various ways apart from phone calls. Farmers use SMS in relation to market access, interacting with traders and middlemen to distribute and receive information about products, prices, and availability. Some examples of concrete evidence were offered in reference to the direct benefits to farmers from telephony in rural sectors found in some IFAD projects:
  • Zambia: Farmers’ productivity has greatly increased along with their income.
  • Tanzania: Fishermen on the Great Lakes are able to communicate with one another and share information about the demand of fish and the prices in the various markets in which they sell. In this way, their productivity and income have increased, while they have avoided over-fishing and are protecting the natural resources.
Limitations of mobiles
It was noted that handsets used by poorer people in developing countries normally offer very basic limited functionality, including small monochrome screens, which cannot support many of the uses available in high income countries. However, service providers have successfully used mobile telephone alongside other media such as radio and the internet, recognizing each medium’s limitations and exploiting its advantages.

Useful sources of information:

No comments:

Post a Comment