Internet Enabled Mobile Phones: Usage Patterns
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Leapfrogging into the future
Research on usage pattern of internet enabled mobile phones in rural India and its implications as an agent of rural empowerment
The Indian telecom sector has witnessed exponential growth over the past decade. With huge reduction in tariffs and lowering of the prices of handsets mobile phones have become an integral part of the lives of people even in the rural areas. With high end mobile phones being available at almost economical rates anyone can enjoy the power of internet. The possibilities this scenario offers are immense. If utilized properly internet enabled mobile phones can revolutionize the lives of people all over India.
This research aims at studying the usage pattern of mobile phones with focus on internet enabled phones in rural India. The study was conducted in Tiruchirappalli and Pudukkottai districts of Tamil Nadu and made use of qualitative in depth interviews as the mode of study. The research aims to understand the attitude of people towards mobile phones and existing roadblocks. The research also aims to understand how internet enabled phones can be used for improving the lives of people in rural areas.
The study identified various aspects of people's behaviour towards mobile phones. The motivations behind purchase of mobile phones, usage patterns, need gaps etc were analyzed in detail and reasons behind low adoption of high end phones was determined. Based on this understanding this research document has recommended certain measures to counter the roadblocks and increase adoption of technology for improving the lives of people.
The telecom revolution
The total subscriber base (both wireless and wire line) of telecom sector in India during the financial year 2007-08 crossed 300 million mark with 300.49 million subscriber as on 31st March 2008. During the period, India became the second largest wireless network in the world after China by overtaking USA. Tele-density in the country touched 39.86 as on 30th June 2009 as compared to 2.30 for the same period in 1998 and rural tele-density at the end of March 2008 was 9.20 as compared to 0.40 for the same period in 1998. (TRAIAR 2007-08E)
The subscriber base for mobile phones is jumping by leaps and bounds in the country. The mobile penetration in rural India stood at 17% as of January 2009. Owing to the low cost of acquisition or subscribing, lower tariffs and somewhat lower cost of handsets, this number seems to be steadily rising. Trends have also shown that rural market is growing at a much faster pace than the urban market. Bulk of the consumer in rural who has mobile connection is from the R1 and the R2 category. The lower are still to acquire a connection.
Internet enabled phones
The number of internet enabled mobile phones in the country stands at about 21 million now. A number of studies have suggested that mobile Internet use is growing very fast in India with the country increasing showing up among top 10 globally in generating mobile web traffic. According to data released by mobile web analytics firm Bango, India was among the top three after the UK and the USA in mobile web browsing In February. India accounted for 11.1% of the worldwide mobile web browsing traffic in February.
There is however no data on penetration and usage pattern of internet enabled phones in rural India. It is also not clear whether these phones are being used to their full potential. A mobile phone with internet facility is a powerful tool. If properly used it can be an important agent of social change. We have already witnessed the power of internet in changing the lives of rural population. A mobile phone is a more personal and engaging. Provided with the capability to access internet it would perform the same functions as a PC with internet without the hassles of being bulky and immobile.
Internet as an agent of social change
Internet has proved its worth as an agent of social change. Numerous examples of this are available from all over India. Initiatives like e-choupal has not only helped farmers with getting best prices for their producers but have played an important part in social change. With internet rural population were able to sell their work at best prices both in India and abroad. They have also helped in improving skills of people, healthcare facilities, enhance use of public services, capacity building of local groups etc. All these benefits lead to rural empowerment and strengthening of the rural economy.
Mobile penetration in rural India
In the last five years, we have seen a phenomenal spurt in the growth in tele-density in the country riding on the evolution of wireless technologies and government policies. The total subscribers as on September 2008 is 353.66 million compared to nearly 8 million in Mar 94. However, there is a huge digital divide between Urban and Rural India. Nearly 70% of India's total population of about 1.15 billion lives in the rural areas. There are more than six lakh villages in the country. As of September 2008, the urban tele-density was 72.47 as against the rural tele-density of only around 12.72. During the last two decades, though several attempts have been made to extend the benefits of the telecom revolution to rural masses but the gap between urban and rural tele-density has widened. (TRAI, 16th December, 2008)
According to the National Council for Applied Economic Research (NCAER), India's urban growth and prosperity is beginning to percolate to the countryside. Mobile-phone companies and consumer durable companies have become aware of the opportunity that exists in the huge rural consumer segment and have extensive marketing programs in place. Cell-phone makers are eyeing the rural markets to push growth beyond the present 7 to 9 million new mobile connections every month. Rural development gets a boost by a reliable infrastructure of enhanced telecommunications. Access to the telecommunication network drives economic growth and provides economic opportunity. Special emphasis needs to be placed on the role of telecommunications in enabling rural citizens to integrate effectively in the Indian economy and then to the new Global Economy. Successful systems require not just appropriate technology but primarily that all other elements like people, policies, processes, incentives, institutions, and infrastructure are present and work well. Special transition policies are required to give a fair chance and to help rural India to adjust to the new marketplace of telecommunications. (TRAI, 16th December, 2008)
There is plenty of evidence to show that telephones have a high correlation with GDP per capita. Broadly we can say that if a country has a one per cent higher mobile phone subscription rate than another, its GDP per capita will be about $200 higher. Surveys and studies have repeatedly shown that access to information and communication technologies allows the benefits of information availability, business opportunities and social connections that translate into brighter education and economic opportunities. (TRAI, 16th December, 2008)
There are three factors that are mandatory to build a scalable and successful business in rural areas. These are:
* Technology- Which is cost effective, affordable, robust, scalable and capable of delivering the relevant applications
* A business model- Which enables each member to earn from the effort
* An organization- Which is focussed on the rural market. (Ashok Jhunjhunwala, 2008)
Choice of mobile phones among rural consumers
A study conducted on consumer behaviour towards mobile phones in rural India has shown that consumer education is an integral part of rural marketing strategy. In the study, most of the respondents had the education level below metric; this might be the reason that the rural respondents were not much influenced by media/advertising. It was also found that they were unable to make use of their own mind and have to depend upon others. So, apart from formal media like newspaper, television, radio, cinema and direct mail, rural-specific promotion methods like demonstrations, puppet shows, house-to-house campaigns, processions, rural melas etc. would be more useful in attracting the attention of rural consumer. While making the choice of mobile phone, rural consumer put more emphasis on the convenience and assistance, price, features and influential person. Though the rural consumers had low income and knowledge, they preferred to step into the shoes of modernity such as new technology, advance features etc. with proper guidance. It must be taken into account that they wanted to make the optimum utilisation of their hard-earned money. While making the choice regarding the service provider, the main factors taken into account were facilities provided effectiveness, dexterity, relative advantage and influential person. The rural consumer perceived that service providers more capable which provide more quality facilities at low price along with rural financing. (Jain, 2007, Vol. 17 Issue 1) (Donner, 2008)
The World Bank's Comprehensive Development Framework defines ICTs as all hardware, software, networks, and media for collection, storage, processing, transmission, and presentation of information (including voice, data, text, and images) ICT investments—especially those that build technological infrastructure, enable interpersonal communication, and support products and structures for e-commerce and digital mercantile exchange—can significantly contribute to a country's digital economy as well as its overall development process. (Kumar, Fall 2008, Vol. 13, No. 1) India is also home to one of the largest set of civil society and govt. Initiatives to use ICT's to empower and enhance their transformative capabilities and to extend the range of services to the poor at reduced costs. (Ashok Jhunjhunwala, 2008)
ICT initiatives for poverty reduction
Although most of the rural poor in India are isolated from the information revolution, there are several examples in rural India where ICT is used to contribute to poverty reduction in the areas of opportunity, empowerment and security. The following examples highlight ICT applications that are attempting to realize the potential of ICT.
Supporting pro-poor market development: Computerized milk collection centres
Small farmers and artisans living in rural areas typically lack access to information about prices, data on crops, weather conditions, credit facilities, and market opportunities. ICT can remedy such information asymmetries and stimulate poor people's entrepreneurship by better connecting them to markets. In Gujarat, computerized milk collection centres with integrated electronic weights, electronic fat testing machines and plastic card readers are ensuring fair prices for farmers who sell milk to dairy cooperatives. Traditionally, the fat content in milk was calculated through a cumbersome measurement process hours after the milk was received. Although farmers delivered milk on a daily basis, they were only paid every ten days and had to trust the cooperative society staff's manual calculations of the quality and quantity of milk. Malfeasance and under-payment to farmers, although difficult to substantiate, were commonly alleged. Computerized milk collection centres have increased transparency, led to faster processing, shorter queues and immediate payment to farmers. Furthermore, the Dairy Information System Kiosk (DISK) software developed by the Centre for Electronic Governance at the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad (CEG-IIMA) provides relevant information to farmers through a database that contains complete histories of all milk cattle owned by members of the cooperative and a dairy portal connected to the Internet. The 50,000 dairy farmers who use the computerized system benefit from a more transparent and efficient cooperative system
Improving access to government services: Gyandoot
ICT can be used by government agencies to transform relations with citizens and businesses. In India, as in much of the developing world, it is not uncommon for rural villagers to travel long distances to government district headquarters in order to submit applications, meet officials, obtain copies of public records, or seek information regarding prevailing prices in commodity markets. This involves the loss of a day's income as well as the cost of transportation. Once at the government office, the relevant official, record, or information could be unavailable, forcing repeated visits and additional expenses. In effect, government officials working with paper records enjoy a monopoly over information and records. Villagers may also face discomfort, harassment, and corruption on the part of public officials and are often given incorrect information about government programs and market prices. In fact, compared to middle or upper classes the poor end up paying a disproportionate share of their income on bribes. With ICT, it is possible to locate service centres that provide documents, land records and other public services physically closer to citizens. Such centres may consist of an unattended kiosk in a government agency, or a service kiosk located close to the client. Potential benefits include increased transparency, less corruption, better delivery of government services and greater government responsiveness. Information disclosure and the possibility of interacting with public officials also build pressure for government accountability. The poor become empowered because they feel they are getting a service rather than a favour. Since January 2000, Gyandoot -a government-owned computer network- has been trying to make government more accessible to villagers in the poor and drought-prone Dhar district of Madhya Pradesh. Gyandoot attempts to reduce the time and money people spend trying to communicate with public officials and to provide immediate, transparent access to local government data and documentation. For minimal fees, Intranet kiosks or tele-kiosks to provide caste, income, and domicile certificates, avoiding villagers the common practice of paying bribes. The tele-kiosks also allow farmers to track crop prices in the region's wholesale markets enabling them to negotiate better terms. Other services include information on school results and on the names of people included in the below poverty line list, and a public complaint line for reporting broken irrigation pumps, unfair prices, absentee teachers, and other problems. Tele-kiosks are run by local operators along commercial lines and are placed in villages located on major roads or holding weekly markets, so that each of them can serve 25 to 30 villages (Scottb, (2003)) (Gorla, Vol. 15 (2009))
Conceptual framework showing possible ICT-rural poverty linkages
Communication technologies affect poverty reduction in mainly 3 ways: increasing the efficiency of the economy, enabling better delivery of public services, such as health and education, and creating new sources of Income, employment and training for the same, for the poor population. (Ghosh, 2006) In addition, by improving the skill base of rural labour through higher literacy and better healthcare (direct benefit A) ICTs can stimulate the economy to generate employment opportunities. By helping to increase participation and empowerment of excluded groups (direct benefit B) it has the potential to reduce income inequality. Furthermore, its unique feature is its ability to narrow the digital divide that is inherent in its interface with the rural population with low literacy and skills. The conceptual benefits of ICT to poverty reduction and inclusive development, though, are linked to a variety of other factors. These include the integration of ICT in the development policy to achieve the identified target, harnessing the role of ICT as enabler of development, as well as enhancer of capacity building at the individual, community and societal levels. (Tiwari, Vol. 20, No. 3, September 2008)
Need for content
Licensing and deploying services and driving mobile growth alone would not be sufficient to guarantee and successful mobile internet market in rural India. Internet content that is suited to the needs of rural India also needs to be developed. Services like MMS, video telephony, custom built financial applications; entertainment needs to be developed for rural India. In order to be valuable to the consumers, the content needs to be accessible and relevant and efforts need to be made to lift language barriers. (Madanmohan Rao, 2005)
All studies and reports thus indicate that growth is the fastest at the bottom of the pyramid. We have also seen that the number of internet enabled mobile phones is on the rise. There is however very little data to indicate the growth of this segment in the rural and urban markets. Data is also not available regarding the usage pattern and roadblocks encountered while using an internet enabled mobile phone. There are currently very few initiatives which make use of mobile phones as a means of rural empowerment. Thus a research covering these aspects become important so as to gain better understanding of this segment.
Objectives of research
The objectives of the research are
· Understanding uses of internet enabled phones
Internet enabled phones are on the rise and it would be feasible to assume that there is some amount of value added services on the mobile phone. A study on the various value added services provided by various service providers will be studied as part of the study. This will provide an overall understanding of the services provided by various telecom service providers as well as the various uses of internet enabled mobile phones.
· Understanding the driving force behind purchase of internet enabled phone
While the driving force behind purchase of a mobile phone might be the need for a channel of communication, the same behind purchase of an internet enabled phone could be entirely different. Also this could vary with geography, culture and lifestyle.
· Understanding awareness
An internet enabled phone provides access to services like
§ Web browsing
§ Any other services that are being used - M commerce, Video telephony, Banking etc.
However the users might not be aware of all these features. Finding out the features that he is aware of and the level of importance he gives to each of these factors is an important part of the study.
· Impact of these services on the lives of the individual
The most important aspect of the study is finding out the changes brought about in the lives of the rural population by the services in such a phone. While it has the ability to transform the lifestyle of rural population, the extent to which it has been successful is an important area of study. The study aims to understand all such changes brought about by these phones.
· Profile of the internet enable phone consumer
By observing the lifestyle and activities of the consumers using internet enabled phones can provide rich insights. A consumer of a standard mobile phone could be entirely different from a consumer using an internet enabled phone. Drawing the profile of such a consumer this becomes essential.
· Usage and attitudes towards the internet enabled phone
An internet enabled phone is a very powerful device. It can be put to a variety of uses. It would be interesting to find how an internet enabled phone is being used by the rural population. The occasions of usage, the frequency and duration of usage all becomes very important in understanding the usage pattern. The attitude of consumers towards these phones also becomes an important area of study. Since this phone can play the role of an entertainer, a facilitator of trade, a teacher and myriad other roles understanding what it stands for, for a consumer would be interesting.
· Acquisition Roadblocks, Usage limitations and issues
While the consumer might be fully aware of the benefits of an internet enabled phone and the part it can play in his life, there might be various factors which prevent him from buying it. These could be availability, price or any other apprehensions. There could also be factors which prevent him from using such a phone to its full potential. Finding out all such factors and issue faced by consumers of internet enabled phones becomes another important objective of this research.
· Future possibilities for Growth
The study also aims to find the future opportunities for growth of internet enabled phones in rural India. Rural India might hold a lot of opportunities in store for cell phone companies, service providers and content providers. These phones could also play the role of an enabler and improve the lives of rural population. This research is aimed at exploring all such avenues of growth and the part various parties can play in it.
The information to be collected is highly qualitative in nature as it involves understanding the attitudes and beliefs pertaining to mobile phones. The aim of the research is to understand the rural Indian consumer, understanding his attitudes and beliefs pertaining to mobile phones. Because of the nature of the information to be derived from the consumer, a purposive sampling methodology is recommended and a purposive representation of the rural in terms of demography. Research should essentially be in qualitative mode. For users of internet enabled phones an observational study of how the phone is being used would also be conducted.
We have seen that data on penetration of internet enabled phones in rural areas of different states is not available. However, based on the SEC classification it would be wise to assume that the most of internet enabled phones would be in the higher population and prosperous villages. Therefore sample should be
* One State - with high density of rural mobile penetration
§ Tamil Nadu ( Rural Tele-density - 17.33 as of Jun 08)
* One Prosperous District & and One Suppressed District selected as per RK Swamy BBDO District Prosperity Index
§ Tiruchirappalli- Market Potential Value: 71.32
§ Pudukkottai- Market potential Value:29.06
* 2 Villages in each District - one in 2-5K pop bracket and 5k+ pop bracket.
§ Tiruchirappalli (Natarajapuram & Valavandankottai)
§ Pudukkottai (Kumaramangalam & Mathur)
Based on previous studies and secondary information the respondent segment should be
* Male & Female youth college going - one from each village
* Business or traders - one from each village
* Salaried person - 1 from each village (working as reporters, School teacher, bank employee or others)
This kind of research being highly qualitative in nature would entail a discussion guide based on the objectives in a semi structured probing manner.
The research aims to conduct an in depth analysis into the usage of internet enabled phones in rural India. Through this research the following contributions to the existing body of knowledge is expected.
1. An understanding of the attitudes of rural consumer towards internet enabled mobile phones.
2. An understanding of the driving force behind purchase of mobile phones
3. Usage patterns of internet enabled mobile phones
4. Roadblocks in acquisition of internet enabled mobile phones
5. Future possibilities of growth.
Tiruchirappalli and Pudukkottai
Tiruchirapalli district lies at the heart of Tamil Nadu. The district has an area of 4,404 square kilometers. It is bounded in the northwest by Namakkal District, in the northeast by Perambalur District, in the east by Thanjavur District, in the southeast by Pudukkottai District, in the south by Madurai district, in the southwest by Dindigul District and, in the west by Karur District. Kaveri river flows through the length of the district and is the principal source of irrigation and water supply.
As per the 2001 census, the district has a total population of 2418366. The population density is about 549 persons per Sq. Km. The district has a total cultivated land area of 185985 hectares. Paddy, millet, sugar cane and groundnut are the major crops.
Tamil is the principal language spoken and Tamils are the predominant linguistic group in the district. Considerable amount of Sri Lankan Tamils are found in the pockets of Tiruchirapalli. Hindus formed the majority of the population at 84.39% of the population followed by Christians at 9.02%, Muslims at 6.46% and others at 0.12%.
Tiruchirapalli District consists of 8 Taluks:
The district is fertile owing to the presence of the Cauvery delta formed by rivers Cauvery and coleeron and irrigating large tracts of land.
Area of village (in hectares) 545.93
Number of households 246
Total population - Persons 1,142
Total population - Males 568
Total population - Females 574
Area of village (in hectares) 1,349.24
Number of households 1,626
Total population - Persons 6,969
Total population - Males 3,519
Total population - Females 3,450
Pudukkottai District was carved out of Tiruchirappalli and Thanjavur districts in January 1974. The district has an area of 4663 Sq. Km. with a coast line of 39 Kms. The district lies between 78.25' and 79.15' of the Eastern Longitude and between 9.50' and 10.40' of the Northern Latitude. It is bounded by Tiruchirappalli district in the North and West, Sivaganga district in the South, Bay of Bengal in the East and Thanjavur district in the North East.
Pudukkottai district is divided into two revenue divisions and eleven taluks consisting of 757 revenue villages.
Pudukkottai district consists of 11 taluks.
Area of village (in hectares) 882.31
Number of households 500
Total population - Persons 2,104
Total population - Males 1,083
Total population - Females 1,021
Area of village (in hectares) 1,516.36
Number of households 877
Total population - Persons 4,887
Total population - Males 2,356
Total population - Females 2,531
Fieldwork- Some images
“My day starts with getting up early in the morning and feeding the cattle. After that I head off to the farm. As a paddy farmer my days are the busiest during the sowing and harvesting season. But I also have to take care of the irrigation, fertilizers etc. I head to the town market every once in a while to buy things for home use or farming needs.”
“My day starts early as I have to go to the early morning market to buy things for my shop. My son accompanies me in my two-wheeler. I have to get back early so that I can open my shop so that I don't lose any business”
“I have to get up a little early as the bank I work in is a little far away from my village. I have breakfast and my tiffin and leave in the early morning that leaves from the village. My wife takes care of the kids and other household needs. I normally get back as it is about to get dark”
“My day starts with helping my parents in their daily chores. After that I head to my college in the town. I have classes till evening. In the evening I buy things needed for home and then head back. “
The people interviewed were from three different cross sections of the society. There were college going students, farmers, business men and salaried individuals. Almost all of them used a mobile phone. Not only did they use a mobile phone, most of them agreed that the phone had become an integral part of their day-today lives.
Reasons for purchase of first mobile phone
“Now almost everyone has a mobile phone. People buy their first mobile phone when they start earning. No matter how young the person is, if he contributes to the income of the family he would have bought a mobile phone”
“I bought my first mobile phone about 5 years back. Our village had very few phone connections and when I talked to people who already had a mobile phone, I found the rates to be almost similar to a fixed phone. Though I had asked around as to which model should be purchased, at the end of the day it was the cheapest model available in the shop in the town that I purchased.”
“My parents gave me the phone that I am currently using. We don't have a fixed phone connection at home. This is the only phone in our household. My father is a farmer and he was using it until I started attending the ITI in the town. He bought it mainly for keeping in touch with people and in case of emergencies”
“I bought this phone about 4 years back when a mobile tower was built in our village. There was an STD booth near my shop from where I used to make most of the calls. However, given my line of business I felt a mobile phone would be of great help. I can call up the wholesalers in town when I need something and thy send the items in the bus that comes to the village.”
“I have had a fixed line telephone in my house for a long time. Ours was one of the few houses in the village to have a telephone. I bought a mobile phone about 5 years back because it offers great mobility. I had a budget in my mind and I bought the best model that was available in that range.”
The major motivation behind purchase of a mobile phone was the need for keeping in touch with people as wire line phones were difficult to obtain. This combined with the need for the mobility it offered and comparable tariffs led most people to purchase a mobile phone. The purchase of the mobile phones was entirely need based. Most youngsters purchased their first mobile phone when they started earning. The people who were earning prior to the telecom revolution bought their first mobile phones as it was easily available compared to fixed line phones. For these people keeping in touch with stakeholders in their line of work and being accessible at all points of time were the main motivational factors behind purchase of a mobile phone. In rural India people started treating a man with respect when he started earning. This actually corresponded to the purchase of a mobile phone. Hence the purchase of a mobile phone can be associated with becoming a man.
Features used in the phone
“The only feature that I use in the phone is that of making and receiving calls. I am not comfortable with SMS. Since I have a watch which I wear most of the time, I don't look at my mobile for knowing time like most people do.”
“My mobile phone serves many purposes. It is a telephone, alarm clock and a pocket radio combined into one. I use the SMS feature though not often. The alarm feature is very useful as it helps me get up early in the morning to study. I also listen to the local fm channels using the radio feature while travelling to my college.”
“Apart from the basic uses my phone serves as a torch. Sometimes when I reach back home it is dark and now we have power cuts till 8 in the night. The phone helps me a lot in this regard”
“My phone also has a camera feature. I used to take pictures of my family for sometime after I bought the phone. I don't use it much anymore.”
Apart from the basic functions of making and receiving calls radio is the most used feature in the mobile phone. Apart from radio, clock, alarm, torch, camera are also used by people. Apart from youth people seldom used features like SMS, reminder etc. Games were hardly ever played. While making and receiving calls some people did make use of the speaker phone when they were working or the entire family had to listen to a conversation. Youth did make use of the SMS feature but it was mainly used between friends and that too only when calling was not an option. Everyone agreed that calling was more economical and offered more options than SMS. Another important factor to be noticed is that people are viewing mobile phones as an alternative to watches. Most of them had the screensaver as the clock. Villagers also viewed the torch feature in mobile phones to be rather effective as it reduced one less item to carry when they set out from their homes early in the morning.
The lack of usage of camera phones did not come as a surprise, given the kind of handsets that were used by people and how people treated mobile phones in general. Throughout the study it was proven beyond a doubt that, the success of a mobile phone entirely depended on the utility it provided to people.
Opinion about service provider and handset manufacturer
“My first handset was a Nokia 1100. It was a very sturdy phone and was the only phone which had a torch feature at that point of time. It also gave good battery backup. I had almost lost count of the number of time my phone had fallen from my hands. But nothing ever happened to it except for some scratches.”
“Service providers are all the same. Now even call rates are the same so there is not much difference between any of them. They all have good coverage in our village. I chose BSNL because when I bought my phone, they had the best network”
“I have never encountered any problems with my phone or my service provider.”
“Most of the people in this village use Nokia, as it is value for money and sturdy. But now Chinese phones are available at the same rates with a lot of features. But only youngsters buy them. They are not long lasting. If it develops some complaint which they often do, then your entire money has gone waste.”
It was evident that people perceived very little or zero difference between various service providers. The people interviewed had different connection and almost everyone was happy with it. However when it came to handsets, people trusted Nokia. Nokia enjoys tremendous trust in this part of the country owing to its value for money pricing and features.
Daily usage of mobile phone
“There are no fixed patterns in my use of the phone. I make calls only when necessary. The main attraction of a mobile phone is that you can make and receive calls whenever you want. So there is no fixed place from where I call someone. It is almost always need based.”
“I make at least 4-5 calls a day mostly to family. Before I catch the evening bus I call up my wife to ask if she needs anything from the city.”
“I make calls only when necessary. I sometimes call my friends to make sure that I haven't forgotten anything for college. My parents call me up if they need anything from the city”
“I think I have started using the phone more recently. Earlier the call rates were also higher. Now almost all my stakeholders have a mobile phone and I talk to them often”
“I receive most of my calls early in the morning or in the evening. I am a tractor driver and farmers call me up in the morning to see if I am free or else call me up in the evening to say that they need me for the next day”
It was observed that with the falling call rates villagers had started using the phones more and more. The frequency and the duration of calls had also increased. Earlier calling was entirely need based which is mostly true even now. However recently people had also started calling up people just to keep in touch and make sure everything was okay.
“Most of the names in my contacts list are my family members or relatives. Then there are other farmers and elders in the village. Some of the other numbers in my contacts list belong to the shops I go to for taking fertilizers, the agent to whom I sell paddy to etc.”
“Since this phone is the only phone in our family it has a lot of numbers. Most of them are numbers of my family and relatives. I have also stored numbers of friends from my ITI. You would also find numbers of people in the village kept in case of any emergency.”
“The numbers in my phone mostly belong to the farmers in this village and the neighbouring village. I also go as a driver sometimes and hence I have given my number to some people.”
“I have about four to five sets of numbers. My family, my wifes family, my office colleagues, numbers of other villagers in case of any emergency are some of them. Storing numbers like this is a big blessing.”
Most of the people had numbers of family members and people from the village in them. The numbers of various stakeholders in their respective occupations also featured prominently in the list. Most of them claimed they had stored the names in English. However a few people claimed they had stored the names in Tamil or had jus initials against numbers. The numbers belonging to family members were given maximum importance and calls from them were always taken.
“There is no fixed amount that I spent every month for topping up my SIM. I think last month I spent close to 300 Rs on recharge”
“I don't spend much on recharge. My calls are mostly incoming. I think I spent anywhere between 150 and 200 every month in topping up my SIM.”
“I buy recharge coupons from the village shop and they are mostly 50 or 100. When the talk time gets over I buy the next card. There is no fixed amount that I spent on recharge coupons every month. However, I always limit my top up coupons to 50 or 100 to make sure I don't overspend. Initially the shopkeeper used to key in the numbers but now I just buy the cards and do it by myself”
The average amount spent on recharge coupons varied from 100 to 500. However people always bought coupons in small amounts to make sure that they don't overspend. The most common recharge coupon was 50 Rs as it was easily available and people did not feel it was a big amount. Interaction with recharge coupon dealers in these villagers revealed that each one of them sold recharge coupons in the range of 2500-5000 of each service provider per week. This is a good indicator of the high tele-density in the regions. However they also revealed except for a few educated people and people belonging to affluent families no one really bought pocket internet cards.
“A mobile phone is not a status symbol anymore. Sure it's useful, but I don't think anyone sees it as a status symbol anymore.”
“I use a mobile phone because I need it. I have never thought of it as a status symbol.”
“Everyone has a mobile phone these days. How can something everyone has, become a status symbol?”
“I think a phone was a status symbol some 6-7 years back, not anymore”
It was clear from the research that people did not view cell phones as a status symbol anymore. People did agree to the fact that a few years before this would not have been the case. With the telecom revolution in India almost everyone now has a mobile phone. This was true even in rural India. This is highly desirable. The more people feel that mobile phones are a part of daily life, the better are the chances that they would use it in a manner which will help them improve their lifestyle.
Financial Asset ownership
“I have an SB account in the state bank in Tiruverumbur and an ATM card as well. I have a housing loan in this bank.”
“I am a student. I don't have a bank account but father does have a bank account”
“I work with federal bank and I have my account in this bank.”
“I maintain a RD with a bank in the nearby town. I deposit my daily savings in this account. I haven't invested in any other financial instruments”
Almost everyone interviewed during the process of research had a bank account. However the frequency with which the account was operated varied. The businessmen operated daily for depositing their daily savings whereas the farmers operated monthly for repayment of loans they had taken.
Most time consuming activity
“When I think of a really cumbersome procedure, I am reminded of government transactions. Anything you need from the government like documentation takes a lot of time”
“I wish there were some good colleges near to my village. I wouldn't be studying in this college if there were better options available. I have to travel to more than 2 hours daily to come to this college. ”
“Any transaction that involves government is time consuming.”
“Getting a bank loan is a very lengthy process according to me”
Government related documentation was the most time consuming and cumbersome activities the villagers had come across. Government business almost always meant red tape and hence people were wary of them. Most of them wished for some mechanism which would help speed up these processes. Other activities which people felt consumed most of their time were banking and related activities. Some also felt education and healthcare could be made more easily available.
Attitude towards phones
“A mobile phone is truly a blessing. It has helped me a lot in many ways. But it is also expensive. You need to maintain a balance or you end up spending a lot on recharging”
“A mobile phone has both positives and negatives. It helps people like me in earning my daily bread but some teenager could also use it to talk to some girl”
“I talk only as much as necessary on the phone. If my parents see me talking on the phone for a long time, they will start doubting me”
“My friends start making fun of me if I talk on the phone for a long time. They think I am talking to some girl”
“With a mobile phone, I am accessible 24*7. This has almost multiplied my chances of getting a call from a farmer”
“I don't have to go to the market everyday to find out the prices of rice now. I can now verify if the agent who takes my rice is telling me the truth”
People were aware of the positives aspects of mobile phones. They also perceived that there are certain negative aspects to cell phones. Much of these were a result of word of mouth and articles in newspapers and magazines. TV serials also played an important part in forming this opinion. But everyone agreed that cell phone helped a person in whatever occupation he was and was hence indispensable. People treated their mobile phone like a helper or an assistant, a friend who helped them in times of need, someone who helped maintain familial ties etc.
Attitude towards internet
“Internet is a very powerful tool. With one touch of the button one can now access all sorts of information. You get weather forecasts, prices of seeds and grains in the market and god knows what.”
“Internet is good but not very useful for people like us. We are ordinary village folks. Also I have heard that internet is responsible for a lot of wrongs the teenage people commit today like MMS, pornography etc.”
“I am aware of the internet and its uses. But I don't know how much use it is going to be for me. Maybe if I study computers, I might get a good job. Other than that internet won't help me in any other way”
“Nowadays most of the banks are getting computerised and are being brought under core banking. Internet helps speed up a lot of things which require approval from head office”
“I have heard about the internet. But I am not very sure how it works. I am almost certain that internet won't be of any use to people like us”
The study clearly showed the need for creating awareness regarding internet and its various uses. People were aware of some of the uses of the internet but this was mostly information collected through word of mouth or information collected from newspapers or magazines. People had no visible proof in front of them that showed the use of internet and how it could be used for bettering their lives. The result was that people felt that internet was not meant for them and seldom bothered enquiring about it. Some people also felt that internet was harmful because the content it had might lead youngsters to view pornography or interact with bad people. People were not aware that internet enabled phones could do all the functions of a computer with internet connection.
Use of internet enabled phones
The study clearly indicated that though mobile phones were almost a part of life even in rural India its use was limited to making and receiving calls. Though the rates of handsets had come down and china made handsets which had all features of a high end phone at the same price of a basic model of well known brands were easily available people still stuck to well known brands and low end models.Driving force behind purchase of mobile phones
The purchase of a mobile phone was purely need based rather than a status symbol. Almost all the people interviewed claimed that they had bought their first mobile phone because their means of livelihood demanded it. In the case of college going youth, the mobile phones had been given to them by their parents. Since the youth from the villages had to go away to the nearby towns to attend college, a mobile phone became an accessory through which parents could keep track of them as well as get some chores done in the town.
In most cases the purchase of a mobile phone by a person for individual consumption meant that he had grown up and had some means of income. A mobile phone was without a doubt an important accessory for any occupation. The first mobile phone was almost always a Nokia. While purchasing the first phone, people seldom bothered about the appearance, colour or features. Only price was the factor that was considered. People came to know about the features of mobile phones other than calling mainly through usage. However, with the widespread availability of Chinese made handsets, people had the choice of purchasing a high end cell phone at the same price of a basic Nokia model. Most of the people interviewed had a Nokia 1202.
The selection of a service provider also followed the same pattern. Most of the rural population stuck to their first service providers for the rest of their lives unless they had some sort of a serious complaint against the service provider. The villagers tended to go for a BSNL in the beginning because of the notion that they had the maximum coverage. However upon probing most of them came to a conclusion that there was hardly any difference between the service providers.
Awareness regarding cell phone features
The features most commonly used were radio, torch and alarm apart from the basic function of calling and messaging. Except for radio people used the features of mobile phone only if they felt that the feature was beneficial to their occupation or lifestyle.
The study revealed that barring a few, bulk of the users of mobile phones were not aware of the power of an internet enabled mobile phone. Most of the users had never even considered their mobile phone as a means of entertainment. Hence, they had never considered downloading content onto their phones. They felt that the features like pictures, movie clips etc were expensive and of no use to them. Apart from entertainment, some of them also knew other applications of internet. When asked, some of them even listed out the uses like using internet for finding out the prices of seeds, weather forecasts, prices in the market etc. Though they seemed to know the power of internet they were not very clear about how to make use of this. Most of the respondents felt that technologies like the internet were far too tough and expensive and hence would find no application in their day to day life. They had never come across people who had used internet to their advantage, though they had heard stories.
Impact of cell phones on the lives of the individual
The most important aspect of the study was finding out the changes brought about in the lives of the rural population by a mobile phone. While an internet enabled phone has the ability to transform the lifestyle of rural population, it was seldom used owing to lack of awareness and information. The study revealed the importance of cell phones in the lives of the individuals. No matter what the occupation of the respondent was, cell phones played an important role. People viewed cell phones as a helper or an integral part of their occupation. From a means of keeping in touch with their family members and stakeholders in their line of work a cell phone had become a tool which ensured they earned more from their current job.
Usage and attitudes towards the internet enabled phone
An internet enabled phone is a very powerful device. However people in rural areas felt that such high end phones were not meant for them and that technology like internet would not be useful to them. Since people followed a need based approach most of them had basic handsets with no provisions for internet connectivity. Even people who had gprs enabled phones were unaware of its power and had not used and was planning to use it.
Acquisition Roadblocks, Usage limitations and issues
The major roadblock as we have seen is the perception that internet is not meant for use by them. People felt that internet did not hold anything of interest for ordinary people like them and had not even bothered to enquire about the possibilities. The phones they used were also very basic and did not have capability to access internet. These factors led to internet usage over mobile phones being almost absent in rural areas.
Future possibilities for Growth
All throughout the fieldwork people did agree that anything which helps them perform their job better or reduce waiting times would find acceptance among them. Though people used mobile phones mainly for talking the future is not far off when people armed with knowledge of internet and the right applications take their first steps in internet and transform their lives forever.
1. Need for creating awareness
Though people were aware of some of the benefits of internet these were mostly information gained through word of mouth or through newspapers. The villagers were yet to see the true power of internet. This becomes all the more essential because since there is no inherent need, villagers purchase the basic models which cannot be used to connect to the internet. Even farmers with good disposable incomes do not spend on high end mobile phones. High end phones to them are an unnecessary luxury.
This attitude can be changed by organizing road shows and conducting classes for villagers to create awareness regarding internet. These road shows and classes should be conducted after studying the culture, lifestyle of the region. Different states in India have different literacy levels, different occupations etc. While conducting classes the villagers need to be assured that internet is nothing to be scared of and that it can be the key to a better future.
2. Perceived high cost the main roadblock
During the course of the study, the main roadblock to the usage of internet through cell phones has been the perceived high costs. Though in most cases, the lack of an internet enabled handset also can be taken as a roadblock the former is the most important. Since the market contains Chinese made cell phones which cost almost the same as a basic Nokia handset while providing internet connectivity, the lack of handsets can be easily encountered. However people feel that internet or even VAS are generally expensive and do not use them.
The youth interviewed during the study also were of the view that VAS is expensive and pointless. The youth interviewed had not even tried entering in contests which required sending of an SMS.
To a consumer in rural India, thus high cost is still a major roadblock in using VAS and internet.
3. Social stigmas associated with internet
Along with the uses the negative aspect of internet has also been widely publicized. This has been done mainly through media and word of mouth. Grownups feel that today's teenagers make use of internet to access pornography and other such activities. They feel that hence it is a bad influence on them and hence unless for use as an accessory to their source of livelihood the use of mobile phones should be discouraged. There are social stigmas associated even with talking for a long time over the phone. Because of this reason youngsters avoid talking in front of their parents and sometimes even their friends for fear of being ridiculed. It is rather disheartening to know that only the negative effects of internet are publicized to this extent. The younger generation who are adopters of technology are hence hesitant to use this technology. Any activity that is undertaken to remove the myths associated with internet will thus be beneficial to the entire population.
4. Need for showcasing success stories
All over India we can come across success stories of people from rural areas using the power of internet to help them improve their lives. Some of them have been mentioned in the literature review as part of this research as well.
These success stories should be showcased in villages all over India. Once villagers get to know how the power of internet has improved the lives of people elsewhere the mental roadblocks will get removed automatically. This will also result in villagers asking amongst themselves how this technology can be used for betterment of their society. The stories chosen should be meaningful and relevant to the villages where they are being told. The best possible method of giving out this information would be in the form of community radio and public exhibition of videos.
5. Need for content which is relevant to their lives
The major roadblock to the usage of internet has been the absence of content which people find relevant. As we have seen earlier people from rural India take a need based approach when it comes to their mobile phones. The phones, the calls and features used all highlight this aspect of their lifestyle. This implies for ICT technologies to be used by people meaningful and relevant content needs to be developed.
This should start with identifying the activities performed by people where they feel a change is necessary. If ICT initiatives can reduce the money or time involved in these activities, they are sure to find acceptance among the people.
As we have seen during the course of study, banking, education and government related documentation could be made easier using ICT initiatives. These are some of the areas where people feel internet could help them. These also form some of the basic needs for the people of rural India.
Government should set up teams in each district of a state to understand the needs of the people and come up with applications which would help them in those needs. These teams should work closely with people and understand their lifestyle and their occupation and various transactions involved. Any application which simplifies those transactions would be accepted by villagers wholeheartedly.
We have already seen that people follow a need based approach when it comes to acquiring things like a cell phone. People purchase and use phones only when they start earning and treat mobile phones as an enabler. In most cases the first phone is a basic model and is used only for making and receiving calls. Once they start using a particular handset they resist change and mostly stick on to similar models and service providers.
If people are given demos and they have proof of the power of internet they might reconsider their purchase decisions and start buying high end phones as well as start using internet. For existing users of mobile phones to switch to a better phone and start using internet also would require some visible proof in front of him and the existence of applications which he might find relevance and use in his daily life. Content companies should identify this opportunity and start developing applications specially designed for rural population.
Implications for further research
Though the need for relevant content has clearly been identified, the process of coming up with content holds tremendous scope for future. The application developed should be based solid ethnographic study into the lives of the people and their daily transactions. Coming up with plans for these application would for an entire research process altogether.
Limitations of the research
1. The major limitation to this study has been the lack of time that was available for fieldwork and subsequent analysis of data. The research could have been conducted on a much more detailed manner had more time been available.
2. Ethnographic study was not conducted as part of this research. Had a short ethnographic been conducted more rich data and subsequent understanding of the lives of people would have been possible.
3. Owing to lack of fluency in the local language some of the nuances of the problems that were discussed might have been left out.
In Depth Interview - Discussion Guide
* To identify the perceived benefits of mobile telephony, internet usage
* To map the decision making process of any telecom service provider as well as handset
* To understand the usage pattern of other ICT feature such as computer, internet
* To test the concept of mobile broadband
* To derive psychographic variables which can be responsible for usage of telephone
Introduction and Consent
· Greeting and Name
· I am a student of MICA and I am here conduct a small study as part of a college project
· I am doing a study to understand the use of mobile phones in your community, and how they have affected your life and work.
Participation in Research
· If you participate in the research, you will be asked a series of questions.
· The interview will take approximately 1 hour of your time.
· You are not required to participate in this study.
· No benefit or harm will come to you from participating and answering these questions.
· You do not have to answer any questions you are not comfortable answering.
· Your name will not be collected in this study, nor will any information that reveals your identity.
· Any data collected about you will remain anonymous
· If you choose to participate, please answer the questions as best as you can.
· There is no right or wrong answers.
Permission to Tape-record
· I would like to record this interview. Would it be ok?
Questions and Consent
· Do you have any questions regarding the research?
· Would you like to participate in this study?
The interviewer should start recording the following information:
RESPONDENT'S FIRST NAME
LEVEL OF EDUCATION (illiterate, literate but no formal schooling, schooling up to 5 yrs, schooling for 5-9 yrs, SSC/HSC, Graduation/ Post Graduation)
DESCRIPTION OF OTHER FAMILY MEMBERS PRESENT DURING INTERVIEW
FAMILY AND INTERACTIONS
To begin with tell me a little about your family…. Who are all the members... who lives here... what do they do…
Tell me one by one about each member of your family, their educational level, occupation etc
Have any of your family members left your village temporarily to work somewhere else in India or abroad? How often do they come back to home when they work outside? How often do they communicate with the family back home?
What about business colleagues… what is the interaction that you have with them…
PHYSICAL ASSET OWNERSHIP
Which of these do you own in your Household?
Fixed Line phone, Color TV, Cable & Satellite, Washing machine, Refrigerator, Two wheeler, Car, Air Conditioner, DVD/VCD player, Digital Camera, Music System
RESPONDENT'S OCCUPATION AND LIVELIHOOD
§ What is your source of work and livelihood?
§ How long have you been doing this kind of work? Have you ever changed professions? What was the reason for that?
§ Do you own land? If yes, size of land?
§ Type and number of animals? What do you grow on your land?
§ ASK ALL…what all does your work entails? Why?
§ Have you borrowed any money? For what purpose and from where?
§ Does your work need you to travel within village, outside village? Why do you need to travel - to meet customers, suppliers? How many hours in a day do you usually travel?
§ Imagine this is a clock before you … what are the activities that happen in the morning... in the course of this day who are all the people that you talk and interact with… why
§ Similarly in the afternoon… why
§ What about the evening… why
§ At what time of the day are your interactions the most…least… why… does this change across the year and seasons… why
§ Could you describe a work day to me? On a typical work day… who are all the people that you interact with… how do these interactions take place… why
§ What about socially… for other personal work? Ho are these interactions conducted… why
FIXED PHONE SECTION:
If do not have a fixed phone in HH
What are your main reasons for not having a conventional/fixed line phone at home?
If have a fixed phone in HH
When using the fixed line phone for phone calls, to whom do you usually make?
When using the fixed line phone for phone calls, what kind of calls do you usually make?
- Within the village
- Outside the village
- International calls
Approximately how much is your fixed home phone bill (excluding Internet access, Internet usage costs, TV an all other non telephony costs) in INR an average month?
In terms of cost, how do you perceive the bill for your fixed line home phone?
Do you plan to retain your Fixed Line phone going forward or plan to replace it with Mobile phone and if yes then why?
MOBILE PHONE USAGE AND ATTITUDE
OWNERSHIP AND ACCESS TO MOBILE PHONE
§ When I mention a mobile
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