In many remote areas of developing countries, due to the lack of information access, rural residents find themselves isolated from the ‘outside world’. Operators from different countries are correspondingly trying hard to provide telephone and information access to them
1) Phone Lady aims to solve the difficulty of UAS (Universal Access Service) phones to enable people in rural areas to communicate with relatives, friends and trade partners.
2) CIC plan: GP (the largest local mobile operator) coordinates local collective units and proprietors to construct a “Communication Information Center” with the aim to help people in remote areas to adjust to regular day to day activities, to find jobs, have access to farm produce information, to reduce the cost of agents, and lastly to increase income.
In Bangladesh, the largest local mobile operator, Grameenphone (GP) selected Huawei as its strategic partner (note: Huawei provides GP with a whole set of mobile networks and other equipment and service platforms). Huawei assisted GP to implement “Phone Lady” and “Communication Information Center (CIC)” projects, with the aim to help local people in remote areas to better adjust to regular day to day activities by providing them with phone and information access services.
The implementation process of the solutions is as follows:
1) Phone Lady and GP sign contracts with many local proprietors (most of them being women). They own and operate mobile phone devices (including handsets and fixed wireless terminals) with a small loan given to them from the local bank. The loan is given to them following undergoing training from the given operator;
2) CIC plan: GP coordinates local rural collective units and proprietors to construct a “Communication Information Center”. The proprietors own and operate the center independently. GP provides training and a small loan from the bank which serves as the operational expense. CIC will function as a customer service center, providing services like pay phone, e-recharge, etc. It will also support searches for farm produce prices, bulletins on government website, job information, printing, scanning and copying, etc.
Currently, the best and most cost-effective way to realize information access in rural areas is to use mobile networks. For this to be achieved, spectrum must be in place. In many countries, the development of mobile broadband is limited by spectrum. The government and regulators should establish a favorable spectrum policy to guarantee effective spectrum, so as to facilitate information access.
Huawei, as the strategic partner of GP, provides network support throughout the whole project implementation process. Besides network devices, Huawei also actively customizes business features. Furthermore, the entire network adopted green technology with a view to cover the rural areas where power supply is short and to obtain sustainable business growth.
The impact of the solution is manifold. On the one hand, the operator obtains good business returns. The ARPU value of Lady Phone in rural areas is three or four times of that of GP ordinary subscribers. GP has 5000 employees whereas Phone Lady has 280000. This project also helps GP reduce its working capital. Meanwhile, many rural women are employed through the process. The income of Phone Lady is three times the average income of a Bangladeshi person.
On the other hand, rural areas have access to communication and information services. Women and the elderly are given opportunities to find proper jobs, which as a result facilitates solving the rural (un)employment problem, to an extent.