Grameen Bank Village Phone Program – Combining Mobile Phones and Micro-Finance

Many NGOs and other organizations that offer low-cost micro-loans exist around the world today.  These agencies focus especially to underprivileged women in developing countries and often give the loans in order for the recipients to start small local businesses.  The Grameen Bank, which operates in Bangladesh, is one such model.  However, in my opinion, this organization goes above and beyond the basic practices required of micro-loan donors.

The Grameen Bank makes its mission a little more specific by providing low-cost loans, mostly to rural women, for them to set up cell phone exchanges where few landlines are available.  The Bank does this through its Village Phone Program, which encourages women to set up pay-phone-like services in their towns with wireless phones.  This project goes beyond simply economic and female empowerment, but extends its benefits throughout the community by offering wireless communication, a previously more expensive or even unavailable service.  Having a convenient form of communication can help relieve numerous aspects of underdevelopment, such as, “communication poverty” and “information poverty.”

I think that organizations that “multi-task” like this could be one of the keys to establishing successful development projects.  This project has benefits that extend far beyond a single aspect of underdevelopment, thus providing a greater impact and higher rewards at a lower cost because of its multiple rewards.

Sources:

http://www.parliament.uk/documents/post/postpn261.pdf

http://www.grameen-info.org/

http://www.grameenfoundation.org

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2 responses to “Grameen Bank Village Phone Program – Combining Mobile Phones and Micro-Finance

  • ssimon1

    I think the whole micro-lending trend is the perfect example of how we can use technology to improve the lives of poor and marginalized communities. Kiva.com is another example of such organizations. It’s amazing to me that we can help each other from across the globe just through the click of a mouse and a few dollars

  • etherspace

    i am very interested in this project. I recently did my profile on Iqbal Quadir, the founder of GrameenPhone. The sheer scale of this project is mind boggling and I was interested to learn tha Grameenphone is actually the largest phone company in Bangladesh. It does not rely on forign aid. The fact that it is a for profit company makes it sustainable and also puts development in the hand of the Bangladeshis who benifit from it. As Quadir would say, this is devlopment “for the people, by the pople and of the people”

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