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Micro-Credit & Mobile Phones Grameen Telecom

When the educated and experienced try to bridge the gaps between the developed and under developing we witness the creation of revolutionary projects, products and services. A similar example is of Mr. Iqbal Quadir, a bangladeshi born who rose from his home town to work and prosper in New York.

He had witnessed loss of communication once in the 1971 war and then later again during his work in a sophisticated New York environment. This woke him up to the reality that its essential to stay connected. "I realized that connectivity is productivity, whether it's in a modern office or an underdeveloped village," he says. Thus he took to his heart the aim of connecting the Bangladeshi villages. Using a micro credit bank to back him he Quadir established a mobile-phone company called GrameenPhone. The for-profit enterprise provided the infrastructure necessary to sustain an affiliated non-profit project called Village Phone. The model was very simple involving rural women, micro credit and the existing void for lack of communication. The women were given a small, no-collateral loans for cellphones, and a 50% discount on airtime. They would then charge their neighbors the market rate for making calls. Development experts see the program as a model for using technology to empower the poor.

Bingo and so it did. The program became a huge success. Creating opportunities for the women was one of the many achievements of GrameenPhone. Things didn't stop here later on Iqbal convinced Telenor to buy 51% stake in Grameen Phone. GrameenPhone is now by far the largest cellphone company in Bangladesh, with 260,000 subscribers, 5,000 of whom are part of the Village Phone program. Considering the average village has 1,700 people, around 8.5 million villagers now have access to the world. The company got its license in 1996 nearly a decade ago.
So again we have here not a breaking news item but it is surely food for thought. The Model has been replicated and is being replicated in countries like Rawanda, Uganda and so on. Here is a link to the Village Phone Replication Manual, take a look friends and see how well laid a document it is. A lot of such ideas are around us, where the moto doesn't have to be economic exploitation but social service and empowering. I am sure replication of this can be looked into for Pakistan, India, Middle East and African countries.

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