A Development Impact Assessment on the Use of ICT (Mobile Phone) in Rural Areas of Bangladesh

A Development Impact Assessment on the Use of ICT (Mobile Phone) in Rural Areas of Bangladesh

Mahfuz Ashraf (Department of Management Information Systems, University of Dhaka, Dhaka, Bangladesh)
DOI: 10.4018/IJICTHD.2015010101

Abstract

In the context of the rapid growth of mobile phone penetration in developing countries, mobile telephony is currently considered to be particularly important for development as it may provide an opportunity to address the informational challenges. The research objective is to develop and examine a framework for assessing the impact of mobile phone towards the development of fsocio-economic stipulation in a remote area of Bangladesh as an innovative and effective way. To conduct this research, the authors have promoted an interpretive qualitative research style within a case study context. This research grounded on Communications for Development (C4D) approach for enquiry, analysis and testing. In this research, one of the mobile phone services named Krishi Jigyasha 7676 (agri-solutions service) has been used as ICT intervention in rural areas of Bangladesh. Furthermore, data was collected through personal interview, participant observation, group discussion and questionnaires from the rural community involving in agricultural activities and received information from Krishi Jigyasha 7676 services about their farming. The field results have been analyzed according to Communications for Development (C4D) approaches. Therefore, the field data reflected that how information diffusion improve and resolve the rural communities' agricultural queries and problems to enhance their livelihood.
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1. Introduction

The global diffusion of mobile information and communication technology (mobile ICT) has been unprecedented, expanding from 50 million in 1999 to over one billion by the end of 2002 (ITU, 2002; UNCTAD, 2002). Mobile ICT growth is especially pronounced in emerging and least developed countries (LDCs), where for decades a vast majority of consumers have been unable to access ICT (De Vreede et al., 1998; Meso and Duncan, 2000; ITU, 2002 as cited in Meso et. al., 2005). In recent years, many developing country’s governments and developing agencies are focusing on extending telecommunications services into rural areas, as they seek to alleviate poverty, encourage economic and social growth, and overcome a perceived ‘digital divide’. (Bhavnani et al., 2008). Currently mobile telephony is the predominant mode of communication in the developing world. At the beginning of the twenty-first century, the average number of mobile phones per 100 inhabitants in Asia, Africa and Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) has risen by 100-400% in a span of just five years (Orbicom, 2007). There are several reasons why mobile phones are considered as particularly important for development. First, beyond basic connectivity, mobile phones offer benefits such as mobility and security to owners (Donner, 2006). Second, due to their unique characteristics, the mobile phone is an especially good leapfrogger: it works using the radio spectrum, as such there is no need to rely on physical infrastructure such as roads and phone wires, and base-stations can be powered using their own generators in places where there is no electrical grid (Economist, 2008). Third, mobile phones only require basic literacy, and therefore are accessible to a large segment of the population. Fourth, mobiles enjoy some technical advantages that make them particularly attractive for development. In addition to voice communication, mobile phones allow for the transfer of data, which can be used in the context of applications for the purposes of health, education, commerce or governance. Finally, due to factors like increased private sector competition and innovative payment methods (e.g. - pre-paid method), mobile phones are increasingly affordable to the lower strata of the population and thereby can be used as a mechanism to ensure greater participation of these groups in the development process (Rashid and Elder, 2009).

The link between ICTs such as mobile phones, livelihoods and poverty stems from the recognition that information is a critical factor for development purposes. Mobile phones have the potential to amplify the speed and ease, and to introduce new modes with which information is communicated. The phones can enable interactive communication flow unhindered by space, volume, medium or time, thereby influencing the existing communicative ecologies (Tacchi et al., 2003). Accelerated communication of information, in the interplay with other factors, can increase productivity; enhance access to services; widen markets; simplify transactions; substitute for physical transport; prevent crime; improve governance, and create new socio-economic opportunities, among many other benefits. The linkage between mobile phones, livelihoods and poverty is also an echo of older discourses on development communication that expounded on the positive links between communications, access to information and development (Butner, 2003 as cited in Sife, Kiondo and Macha, 2010).A recent study by London Business School found that, in a typical developing country, a raise of ten mobile phones per 100 people boosts GDP growth by 0.6 percentage points (Waveman et al., 2005). ICTs contribute to equity by enabling the disadvantaged, including the poor, isolated rural people and the disabled to obtain information that would otherwise be very difficult or impossible to access.

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