80% Bangladeshi farmers have mobile, says World Bank

The Daily Star July 22, 2012

Staff Correspondent

Eighty percent of the farmers in Bangladesh now own mobile phones which they use to estimate market demand for their crops, the World Bank said.

In a study, “Information and Communication for Development 2012: Maximising Mobile”, the World Bank found that farmers arrange for sales through mobile phones.

The study referred to an unpublished report conducted in Bangladesh, China, India and Vietnam by International Food Policy Research Institute, Washington DC, highlighting the important role the device plays in linking markets and key stages of the value chain.

“Eighty percent of their mobile phone calls are to increase their income,” said Mehboob Chowdhury, City Cell’s chief executive and chairman of Association of Mobile Telecom Operators’ of Bangladesh.

Not just for marketing purposes, the farmers use the device to acquire information on seed varieties, crop rotation and ways to improve the quantity and quality of their yields, he added.

“Mobile communications offer major opportunities to advance human and economic development from providing basic access to health information to making cash payments, spurring job creation, and stimulating citizen involvement in democratic processes,” said Rachel Kyte, World Bank vice president for sustainable development.

The challenge now, she feels, is to leverage the full capabilities of mobile communications in developing countries, by way of mobile applications tailored to local needs.

In Bangladesh, 95 percent of the area and 99 percent of the population are covered by the mobile phone network, with a total subscription of around 9.37 crore.

The study calls for active support from developing countries’ governments in the development of mobile applications, which would go on to create livelihoods and enhance the lifestyle.

“Government support is needed to develop sound business models, foster ICT skills and ensure that infrastructure is in place and affordable,” said Tim Kelly, a lead ICT specialist at the World Bank.