Mobile Phone: Liberator for Rural India

One can see the ultimate of technology competition rather war to win or survive in the business of cell phones, be it design or application. And why should not it be, if the market is so big with conversance of many technologies in just one gadget. Be it Apple, Microsoft, and Google, all have some sweet desire to lead the technologies.

Those with i-phone may be enjoying watching movies, or listening the choicest songs, and now using it also as pocket library good enough to serve the individual taste. And most of the functions are available on affordable phones with nominal prices for services. However, here I am trying to dream cell phone as the universal gadget for every Indian poor or rich in rural India that may one day bring the desired prosperity and may help in alleviating the poverty.

India reached the 500 million population of cell phones one year before the time targeted and is adding 10-15 million or more cell phones every month and most of it in rural areas. Telecom companies are busy raising towers to cover the remotest part of the country. According to Manoj Kohli, chief executive of India’s biggest mobile phone group Bharti Airtel, India could have more than one billion mobile phone users by 2015, with the bulk of that growth in rural areas.

As claimed, these small cheap gadgets will bring knowledge and through it the prosperity in many ways.

The necessity of these gadgets has forced the telecom companies and many innovators to make it possible and affordable for Indian conditions. For example, the villages without electricity that were hesitant to buy it have got over the problem of charging with innovation of a solar lamp that can now charge the cell phones.

According to a recent study, adding an extra ten mobile phones per 100 people in a typical developing country boosts growth in GDP per person by 0.8 percentage points. Should it not make Manmohan Singh and UPA-2 happier that too without any effort from their side?

Many service providers are showing up to participate in the business. For example, Reuters Market Lite, a text-based service has now 125,000 users, mostly farmers who pay 200 rupees ($4.20) for a three-month subscription, which provides them with local weather and price information four or five times a day. And the farmers pay as their profits have gone up as a result.

Tata Consultancy Services offers a service called mKrishi that allows farmers to send queries and receive personalized advice. ITC through e-Chopal and a tie-up with Nokia is also aiming for useful two way communication with farmers and experts. Nokia launched its own information service, Nokia Life Tools, this year. In addition to education and entertainment, it provides agricultural information, such as prices, weather data and farming tips that can be called up from special menus on some Nokia handsets. The basic service costs 30 rupees a month.

Another company Handygo has tied up with Airtel and may even rope in Tata indicom and Idea to provide an array of services to farmers covering weather, seed prices, fertilizer doses and best irrigation management practices and that too in 17 different local languages all on basic mobile sets.

And it will not only address the needs of farmers but provide services to around 200 million rural youths too. Mobile phones will be a learning device that will give them knowledge and information, teach them new things, even functional English and management.

As reported very truly, ‘in the grand scheme of telecoms history, mobile phones have made a bigger difference to the lives of more people, more quickly, than any previous technology. They have spread the fastest and proved the easiest and cheapest to adopt. It is now clear that the long process of connecting everyone on Earth to a global telecommunications network, which began with the invention of the telegraph in 1791, is on the verge of being completed. Mobile phones will have done more than anything else to advance the democratization of telecoms, and all the advantages that come with it.’

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