mobile services

Mobile Banking in the Global South - Revolutionary Economic Change?

Posted by KatrinVerclas on Jan 21, 2007

mobile banking phoneMobile banking is taking off, with the potential to change entire economies where the majority of people currently are currently "unbanked," as the term goes. There have been been several very interesting reports and articles recently on the topic.  On the Foreign Policy blog, World bank consultant Christine Bowers writes about the enormous  economic implications that mobile banking has for the world's poorest:

The Mobile Minute: Mobile Subscriptions in India, Social Networking via Mobile, and Nokia's Sales Report

Posted by AnneryanHeatwole on Oct 27, 2011

Today's Mobile Minute brings you coverage on India's mobile growth, smartphones in Asia, the relationship between social media and mobile phones in America, Nokia's global sales report, and the rise of open data projects in the United Kingdom.

  • Reuters reports that mobile subscriptions in India are on the rise; in August alone mobile phone operators added 7.34 million new subscribers, bringing the country's total number of mobile subscriptions to 865.71 million. However, now that roughly 70% of the country's population has a mobile phone, the number of new subscribers is rising more slowly than last year as the market becomes more saturated.
  • The mobile and smartphone market in the Asia-Pacific region is growing rapidly, and Cellular News has the breakdown of current and projected sales: "The smartphone market is [...] expected to have healthy growth, with 24% share in total handset shipments in 2011, up from 17% in 2010. Smartphone shipments in Asia will see a significant growth of 56% in 2011, which indicates the growing demand for smartphones in emerging Asian markets. Smartphone shipments in Asian markets will see a boost for Android-based smartphones, with market share increasing to 52% in 2011, up from 16% in 2010. As a result, the combined market share of Samsung and HTC, the leading Android-based smartphone makers in Asia, will swell from 11% in 2010 to 24% in 2011."

Riding the Mobile Innovation Wave in Emerging Markets

Posted by MohiniBhavsar on Sep 13, 2011
Riding the Mobile Innovation Wave in Emerging Markets data sheet 1199 Views
Publication Date: 
Jan 2010
Publication Type: 
Report/White paper

If communications and high-tech companies are to achieve their growth targets over the next few years, they must look to the emerging economies. These markets, with large populations, hold great promise. Although many consumers in these areas live in rural areas and rely on more limited means, their disposable income has risen in recent years. Many such consumers have become more confident about the future, and are now willing to buy aspirational products such as mobile phones and services, even on credit.

To achieve high performance in this environment, companies must understand the key mobile trends as they evolve in developing economies. They must develop a deeper understanding of the mobile value proposition to emergingmarket consumers as well as their distinctive service needs. New distribution networks must be created. Content, products and services need to be tailored to local populations. These challenges will require new models of collaboration to succeed in a more complex ecosystem.

Evaluating Socio-Economic Impact of Mobile Services Intervention in Rural India

Posted by MarkWeingarten on Jan 13, 2011
Evaluating Socio-Economic Impact of Mobile Services Intervention in Rural India data sheet 1222 Views
Rao, Kasina V.
Publication Date: 
Dec 2010
Publication Type: 
Report/White paper

This paper examines how to evaluate mobile services’ intervention impact on socio-economic development of rural India. The existing literature shows multiple ways of studying mobile services impact through different frameworks. The results are non-comparable due to applied methods are different and the problem domain is quite complex. A uniform framework is felt need to undertake research on socio-economic impact studies. Various user-centric mobile services are launched across rural markets. India becomes a field testing ground for most of the multinational firms who want to test their innovative business models. The proposed mixed-method framework, based on the existing literature, may well suit to the present research work. A survey adopting socio economic criteria (SEC) used by Indian marketers for its randomized stratified sample collection is adopted. The sample well represents the entire rural population, as it looked upon head of the family’ education and type of house (s)he possessed.

Examining the Viability of Mixed Framework for Evaluating Mobile Services Impact in Rural India

Posted by MarkWeingarten on Jan 13, 2011
Examining the Viability of Mixed Framework for Evaluating Mobile Services Impact in Rural India data sheet 1016 Views
Rao, Kasina V., Krithi Ramamritham, and R. M. Sonar
Publication Date: 
Dec 2010
Publication Type: 
Report/White paper

This paper examines the proposed framework for evaluating the impact of the intervention of mobile-based services on socio-economic development of Indian rural areas. Framework suitability has been studied using case study method with pilot test data. Existing literature shows multiple ways of studying mobile impact through different frameworks. The need for uniform framework is the felt need as various user-centric mobile services launched across rural markets. India becomes a field testing ground for most of the multinational firms who want to test their innovative business models. This framework provides a testing method for socioeconomic development impact on rural areas. This study adopted socio economic criteria (SEC) used by Indian marketers as basis for sample selection. The pilot study clearly shown that field is ready to test the proposed framework.

Running Out of Credit : The Limitations of Mobile Telephony in a Tanzanian Agricultural Marketing System

Posted by MohiniBhavsar on Aug 24, 2010
Running Out of Credit : The Limitations of Mobile Telephony in a Tanzanian Agricultural Marketing System data sheet 1781 Views
Thomas Molony
Publication Date: 
Jan 2008
Publication Type: 
Journal article

Poor farmers often lack credit to purchase agricultural inputs, and rely on their buyers to provide it. This paper considers the effects of mobile phones on traders of perishable foodstuffs operating between Tanzania’s Southern Highlands and Dar es Salaam’s wholesale market, with a particular focus on the importance of credit in the relationship between potato and tomato farmers and their wholesale buyers.

It argues that the ability to communicate using these new information and communication technologies (ICTs) does not significantly alter the trust relationship between the two groups. It also suggests that farmers, in effect, often have to accept the price they are told their crops are sold for – irrespective of the method of communication used to convey this message – because their buyers are also their creditors. In this situation, many farmers are unable to exploit new mobile phone-based services to seek information on market prices, and potential buyers in other markets. Doing so runs the risk of breaking a long-term relationship with a buyer who is willing to supply credit because of their established business interaction.

It is suggested that, under a more open system than currently exists in Tanzania, mobile-payment (‘m-payment’) applications should target these creditor-buyers as key agents in connecting farmers to the credit they so often require.

Press One for Freedom Fone, Press Two for Farm Radio: How Stations Use Integrated Voice Response

Posted by MelissaUlbricht on Aug 11, 2010
Press One for Freedom Fone, Press Two for Farm Radio: How Stations Use Integrated Voice Response data sheet 4560 Views

Two years ago, Bev Clark, the co-founder of, was awarded a large grant as part of the Knight News Challenge for Freedom Fone, an open-source software platform for distributing news and information through interactive voice response (IVR) technology.  Freedom Fone was officially launched in late February of this year and has since been downloaded about 200 times, said Amy Saunderson-Meyer of Freedom Fone.

Freedom Fone leverages audio as a mobile function using IVR, a technology that allows a system to detect voice and keyboard input. IVR allows a user to call, enter or say specific numbers, and listen to or contribute audio content.  (Many readers are already familiar with IVR - you’ve likely encountered it when you call a customer service number and are prompted with instructions to press numbers for different issues or service departments.)

Since the launch, Freedom Fone has provided support to specific organizations including Equal Access in Cambodia, Small World News TV, TechnoServe, One Economy Corporation, and Africa Youth Trust.

Basic Information
Organization involved in the project?: 
Project goals: 

Recently, Freedom Fone was adapted by two farm radio stations through the African Radio Research Initiative, a 42-month project supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and implemented by Farm Radio International in partnership with the World University Services of Canada. The aim of the AFRRI project was to asses the effectiveness and impact of farm radio in many parts of Africa.

Brief description of the project: 

Freedom Fone leverages audio as a mobile function using IVR (interactive voice response), a technology that allows a system to detect voice and keyboard input. IVR allows a user to call, enter or say specific numbers, and listen to or contribute audio content.

Bartholomew Sullivan, a regional ICT officer for AFRRI, was on site to set up Freedom Fone at Radio Maria in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. It was the first time Freedom Fone partnered with a group outside of its own projects.

AFRRI works with 25 radio stations in five countries in Africa. Stations include private, public, national, and community radio stations with established listeners in varied agricultural zones. Freedom Fone was introduced at two of these radio stations: Radio Maria (a faith-based station that also broadcasts health and agricultural information across the country) in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, and Volta Star radio (the national broadcaster) in the Volta region of Ghana. Before the project, neither station had an existing IVR system in place and the primary feedback loop with listeners was through written letters.

Target audience: 

Any individual or group interested in integrated voice response, especially in how it can be used at a radio station.

Detailed Information
Mobile Tools Used: 
Length of Project (in months) : 
What worked well? : 

One benefit to Freedom Fone integration at an established radio station is the ability to promote the IVR service. At Radio Maria, the broadcasters relied on the large number of existing listeners to promote and explain the service including the specific local numbers to call. The group created a special jingle and message to promote the competition.

Another thing that worked well was the ability to set up multiple call-in numbers for each of the main local mobile providers in the region: Vodacom, Zain, and Tigo. This allowed listeners to call from their respective networks, making it cheaper.  The group used similar sounding numbers for each of the networks.

The participatory radio campaign approach was to enhance existing systems, not add new content or processes to the farm radio stations. So, Sullivan and others were able to incorporate and adapt Freedom Fone to best match the needs and uses of the listeners.

A more general success for Freedom Fone is the ability to provide an alternative, mobile-based medium for news and information.

What did not work? What were the challenges?: 

The projects at Radio Maria and Volta Star (and specifically in regards to Freedom Fone) were not without challenges and issues, including reliable hardware, cost, human error, power, and training.

One challenge is obtaining high-quality or dedicated hardware. In Tanzania, Sullivan bought a second-hand computer locally to host the Freedom Fone software.  Cost can be an issue with some hardware as well.

Human error is a challenge inherent with Freedom Fone, which ironically stems from the high adaptability of the platform and the ability for control many parameters of the IVR process.

Power is an issue, especially in areas with unreliable power because, “when the computer is off, then Freedom Fone is down,” Sullivan said. Similarly, infrastructure is really important, including having backup power supplies for power outages.

Another issue to incorporating Freedom Fone at established organizations is training.

Finally, another challenge with Freedom Fone was the ability to deal with user error or confusion.

Death and Mobile Tariffs: The Two Things Certain in Life (or Why You Want to Live in Costa Rica)

Posted by MohiniBhavsar on Aug 04, 2010

As part of our “Mobile Research at Your Desk” series, this week we present a white paper written by Hernán Galperin in collaboration with the Diálogo Regional sobre la Sociedad de la Información (DIRSI) and International Development Research Centre (IDRC). He attempts to shed some light on the affordability of mobile phones between Latin American and Caribbean countries and compare tariffs with the rest of the world.

Recognizing that developing a single standardized metric for mobile affordability is a challenge, the author used a well-established OECD method - a basket of services - to estimate the cost of a set of mobile services specified for low-volume users.

The data exposes the reality of mobile affordability for the bottom of the pyramid.

Cost of Mobile Services and the Affordability Gap in Latin America and the Caribbean - Research Ignite #2 from on Vimeo.

Hernán Galperin offers a quantitative analysis using a sound approach to predict affordability of mobile tariffs. In the report, it is acknowledged that price of handsets or connection charges are not accounted for, and it is clarified that per-minute calculation can result in an over-estimation of cost.

In another report, Galperin and colleague Judith Mariscal share mobile opportunities informed by survey results of 7,000 individuals in low income households. Discussed there are perceptions of mobile service costs, and patterns of mobile usage, and both reasons for and barriers to mobile adoption. With colleague Roxana Barrantes, Galperin demonstrates the relationship between costs of mobile services and mobile penetration and discusses the savings incurred by low income users with micro-prepayment and per-second billing schemes.

All three papers can be accessed in our mDirectory for your reading.'s content license is here. Please note that some materials in this slidecast may be separately copyrighted by the respective authors of the papers we presented. Images and materials are used here with the author's permission.

Tariffs and the affordability gap in mobile telephone services in Latin America and the Caribbean

Posted by MohiniBhavsar on Jul 10, 2010
Tariffs and the affordability gap in mobile telephone services in Latin America and the Caribbean data sheet 1340 Views
Hernán Galperin
Publication Date: 
Mar 2010
Publication Type: 
Journal article

This study focuses on the affordability of the OECD’s low-usage basket of mobile telephony services, which includes 360 calls and 396 text messages (SMS) a year, segmented by duration, time of day and destination. In other words, the study compares the monthly cost of prepaid service for a user who makes approximately one call and sends one text message per day. Because our main interest lies in estimating the affordability of this basket of services for users at the bottom of the income pyramid, two indicators are used: (1) The proportion of income that the cost of this basket represents for users in the third income decile, which acts as a proxy for income at the bottom of the pyramid; (2) The affordability gap, which corresponds to the difference between the cost of the basket and 5 percent of the income of the potential users in each income decile.

The main findings are summarized. (1) There is significant dispersion of mobile telephony tariffs in the region, with costs of the low-usage basket ranging from US$45 in Brazil to US$2.20 in Jamaica (in current dollars). The average for the region is US$15. (2) For users who consume a minimum basket of mobile services, prepaid service is less expensive than post-paid service in 13 of the 20 markets in the sample. (3) Overall, mobile telephony tariffs in Latin America are significantly higher than those of OECD countries (2 times more) and other emerging markets (3 times more). (4) The only country in the region in which mobile telephone
services can be considered affordable for low-income users is Costa Rica. (5) Despite advances in the adoption of the service, the results of this report highlight a significant affordability gap that limits consumption of mobile telephony services for most people in the region, and point to a need for continued efforts and initiatives to reinforce competition in the market and review the heavy tax burden that affects mobile telephony service in the region.

Wanted: New Business Models for Profitable Rural Expansion

Posted by MohiniBhavsar on Jul 09, 2010
Wanted: New Business Models for Profitable Rural Expansion data sheet 1555 Views
Accenture, Ranjan, K., Falk, S., Narsalay, R., O'Brien, D., and Sennik, R.
Publication Date: 
Jan 2009
Publication Type: 
Report/White paper

In 2009, Accenture conducted a research study into the future of mobile industry expansion in rural India. We explored the views of rural consumers—both current customers and non-users—and also interviewed senior-level executives from companies that occupy strategic positions across the mobile telephony ecosystem. The key objective of this research was to understand the value proposition of mobile services to rural customers, and also to see how the
potential to serve rural markets is making mobile network operators re-think key elements of their existing business models.

This first phase of this research consisted of 15 in-depth, hour-long telephone or in-person interviews completed in June and July 2009 with executives in India representing mobile operators, handset manufacturers, passive and active telecom infrastructure providers, technology enablers/application providers, and content developers and aggregators. Additionally, in association with an independent research company, Accenture conducted an exploratory qualitative study using a focus group discussion methodology. The focus group invitees included primary wage earners, homemakers and students from rural areas.

For the second phase of the Accenture research, more than 2,400 rural citizens in India were surveyed—802 current mobile customers and 1,634 non-users— to gain a broader understanding of what customers value most in mobile devices and services. The insights drawn from this research can help mobile network operators evolve their business models, and can support more effective design of profitable packages for rural consumers

Scaling Mobile Services for Development: What Will It Take? A White Paper

Posted by KatrinVerclas on Jan 11, 2010

Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) for social and economic development in emerging economies have long been a focus of governments, the private sector, and most certainly donors and international development agencies.  Yes, despite all the attention garnered on this field, we are seeing a checkered history of ICTs as a tool for development, with both successes and significant failures littering the landscape.

With the phenomenal growth of mobile technology in the last ten years, the attention of donors, governments, and multi-lateral and international agencies has now turned to the telecommunications sector and mobile technologies as channels to deliver services and products to citizens at the bottom of the economic pyramid.

Mobile Services and ICT4D: To the Network Economy - Bridging the Digital Divide, The Ethiopian Case

Posted by naodjd on Aug 29, 2009
Mobile Services and ICT4D: To the Network Economy - Bridging the Digital Divide, The Ethiopian Case data sheet 4125 Views
Naod Duga
Publication Date: 
Aug 2009
Publication Type: 
Journal article

This paper presents a development paradigm for Ethiopia, based on appropriate services and innovative use of mobile communications technologies via applications tailored for sectors like business, finance, healthcare, governance, education and infotainment.

The experience of other developing countries like India and Kenya is cited so as to adapt those to the Ethiopian context. Notable application areas in the aforementioned sectors have been outlined. The ETC ‘next generation network’ is taken into consideration, with an emphasis on mobile service offering by the Telco itself and/or third party service providers. In addition, enabling technologies like mobile internet, location-based systems, open interfaces to large telecom networks, specifically service-oriented architecture (SOA), Parlay/JAIN and the like are discussed.

The paper points out possible endeavors by such stakeholders like: telecom agencies and network operators; businesses, government and NGOs; entrepreneurs and innovators; technology companies and professionals; as well as researchers and academic institutions. ICT4D through mobile services and their role in bridging the digital divide by building a virtual ‘network economy’ is discussed.

The GSMA Development Fund Top 20 Research on the Economic and Social Impact of Mobile Communications in Developing Countries

Posted by LeighJaschke on Jul 14, 2009
The GSMA Development Fund Top 20 Research on the Economic and Social Impact of Mobile Communications in Developing Countries data sheet 3553 Views
HMS Wireless
Publication Date: 
May 2008
Publication Type: 
Report/White paper

The positive implications of landline telecoms infrastructure and, more recently, of mobile communications on
economic growth in the developed world have long been acknowledged, with numerous studies analysing the
issue. Now that most of the developed world has reached high penetration levels of mobile phones, both current
growth patterns and future projections suggest that virtually all of the mobile industry’s new customers in the
coming years will come from developing countries. In fact, as of 2007, there were more mobile customers in
developing countries than in the entire developed world (ITU).
What impact are mobile phones having on developing countries and are user experiences and overall impacts
unique or similar to those of developed countries? While it might seem intuitive to just extrapolate from the results
of earlier studies in developed countries, the developing world is in fact leap-frogging the developed world when
it comes to mobile communication and its many uses. The implications of this technology on daily life in
developing countries appear to be more far-reaching than they were in the earlier developed country rollouts. For
example, studies have demonstrated that mobile technology is driving improvements in social links, the creation
of social capital, improved market information flows and productivity, as well as increases in GDP and Foreign
Direct Investment.
This report surveys recent research and highlights the top studies in this area based on content, relevance,
originality and credibility. While it is not an exhaustive and scientifically developed list, it illustrates the work that
we feel is most important at the moment and highlights key conclusions on the impact of mobile technology in
developing countries.
Further, while the existing research is valuable in understanding the impacts, the literature is still limited in its
coverage and scope. We therefore recommend additional research to expand evidence and knowledge, particularly
with respect to basic economic studies, prospective applications and the needs of users around financial services.
We also call on stakeholders such as mobile operators, governments, industry groups, foundations and
development organisations to play their part in improving information sharing, increasing research and driving
developments in these countries.
Finally, we provide information on additional research on impacts and policy issues, as well.

Dialing for Development: A New Report on Mobile Phone Use at the Base of the Pyramid

Posted by CorinneRamey on May 14, 2008

Mobile phones are transforming economic life for consumers in developing countries, says a new report by David Lehr. The report Going Wireless: Dialing for Development, focuses on "base of the pyramid" consumers and the ways that mobile phones have the potential to change economies in the developing world. Lehr writes,

The mobile phone has established itself as the communication and networking platform of choice for billions of the world’s consumers, most of whom are at the base of the global economic pyramid. Worldwide, mobile phone subscribers outnumber Internet users almost 3 to 1, with much of that gap coming from skyrocketing mobile phone use in Africa, India and China.

Free workshop "eGovernment Mobile Services" organised by the European Commission

Posted by elina on Feb 19, 2008 and The City Council of Barcelona are pleased to invite you to a unique workshop on eGovernment Mobile Services to be held in Barcelona on March 3, 2008.

The objective of this new workshop is to learn from successful experiences in designing, developing and deploying innovative eGovernment services for municipalities based on mobile phones. A number of relevant cases, all of them based on real experiences in the design and setting-up of services, will be presented to the participants and will be the basis for the discussion and exchange of experiences.

Workshop attendance is free of charge. Seats are limited and filled in a first-come, first-served basis, so we encourage you to register in advance at the dedicated webpage, where you will find updated information on the speakers, the cases and the agenda of the event.

Using SMS to Fight Crime

Posted by Bonnie Bogle on Jun 27, 2006

Earlier this month the Boston Police Department started sending out text messages and emails to tell residents about crimes happening in their neighborhoods. The goal isn’t to instill fear in residents; it’s to get them involved in solving crimes. Police think that this system will make it easier for people to send in leads on cases since they can do so quickly and electronically, and that it will put more people on the lookout for suspects when they’re most vulnerable – soon after they commit crimes. The alerts also keep people better informed on the specific crimes happening in their neighborhoods, enabling them to better protect themselves. Most people are more inclined to lock their car doors if they know that two cars have been stolen within a few minutes of where they park.

Crime alert systems that use SMS and email messages are becoming more common. Citizen Observer, the company that runs Boston’s system, works with police departments in more than 300 U.S. and Canadian towns and cities. Singapore police have been sending out SMS alerts on local crimes for more than a year, and subscribers receive SMS messages like the following that tell them about local crimes and what they can do to help: