On 11/25/2003, Global Knowledge Dev. Moderator wrote: > Many GKD members have argued that the for-profit private sector must > play a key role in expanding access to underserved communities. The > notion is appealing.
At the outset, let me state that I operate as an entrepreneur, mainly because the regulatory environment for public trusts in India is not very good. However, the work we do and the technology solutions we promote are almost completely focused on developmental issues, and I do not see any conflict of interest here. Of course, we don't make a lot of money either, and that is because we find ourselves shut out from several funding opportunities. I also have found some NGOs reluctant to deal with a for-profit, because it affects their own funding proposals. > 1. What specific elements does a policy environment need in order to > encourage the private sector to expand access to poor, isolated, > underserved areas? Where do such policies exist? The first part is a challenging question. To my mind, policies do not drive access, demand does. Private companies will step in to supply against demand if there is sufficient possibility of a profit in doing so. Having said that, policies can and do work to *prevent* such a supply situation from being created, or even the demand situation. In India, for instance, currently the use of VoIP with termination within the POTS system (and that includes cellular and WiLL telephony) is banned, thus depriving half a billion people from access to cheaper and possibly affordable telephony. Without the experience of telephony, users are deprived of the ability to demand, and providers to devise, more imaginative uses for it (than POTS, that is). > 2. What lessons have we learned about the risks and rewards of > creating public-private partnerships to expand access to the > underserved? Where have these lessons been applied, and where have > they worked? Businesses are driven primarily by the profit motive. Unless there is a significant change in market mechanisms (and this is one place - perhaps the only place - that policies can make a difference) this situation will continue. To look at lessons in expanding access, I can suggest the experience of 'community' radio in Nepal, where several stations have been established in difficult areas, where opposing political groups routinely employ violence to further their cause. In India, several rural development groups are attempting to deploy better microbanking systems, using a hybrid combination of physical access and electronic data capture. In the absence of higher availability of electricity and low cost computers and networks (connectivity) this must be the only practical solution. > 3. What are specific, unexploited opportunities for public-private > partnerships to expand access to the underserved? Please provide > examples where these opportunities can be exploited effectively. I have a little earlier suggested voice mail systems deployed over smartphones using cellular and WiLL networks. To develop such a system needs private-public partnering, even if the actual cost of software is met through development in publicly owned facilities such as universities. Actually, the cost of development is trivial, the deployment needs a large investment, and I am not aware of any such investment ever being made in the past by a public agency for promoting access. > 4. What concrete lessons have we learned about stimulating/supporting > local businesses to extend access to the underserved? Please be > specific. Where have these lessons been applied effectively? The example of hybrid microbanking systems is a very good one, I believe. The reports I have read indicate that users consistently exhibit better banking behaviour, with higher rates of savings and lower defaults on loans, thus stimulating local economies. Both men and women appear to benefit, often the latter more. > 5. Within underserved communities, women often face special > difficulties becoming ICT providers (e.g., lack of capital, > education, competing demands for time). Are there particular > approaches that can be used to support women entrepreneurs who want > to offer ICT access to underserved communities, beyond the 'Grameen > cell phone' model? I have been told, verbally, that the private Reliance Infocomm WiLL network in India has encouraged about 5,000 small entrepreneurs, of which perhaps 20% are rural based, to use the phones as PCOs. No reports have been published yet of this effort. However, where ordinary users pay as little as Rs 500 (just over 9 euro) upfront for a phone with connectivity, entrepreneurs under the scheme do not pay anything at all. They also do not pay Reliance any commission, for billing of under Rs 250 per month. A call costs Rs 0.40 per minute (this was the cost, till very recently, of a call within the Reliance network, anywhere in India, but has probably gone up as a result of a regulatory change. The organisation is now licensed to operate as a cellular provider, though their choice of technology has not changed). I was told that women are the principal beneficiaries of this scheme. Reliance figures that the investment they make (in terms of forgoing upfront revenues) will be repaid by higher utilisation of the network. -- Vickram ------------ This DOT-COM Discussion is funded by the dot-ORG USAID Cooperative Agreement, and hosted by GKD. http://www.dot-com-alliance.org provides more information. To post a message, send it to: <[EMAIL PROTECTED]> To subscribe or unsubscribe, send a message to: <[EMAIL PROTECTED]>. In the 1st line of the message type: subscribe gkd OR type: unsubscribe gkd For the GKD database, with past messages: http://www.GKDknowledge.org