Cerebral Shangrila

Monday, October 16, 2006

Indian Fisherman, Cell Phones and reduction of Poverty

The Washington Post has a very interesting article on how the proliferation of mobile phones are helping poor fisherman in increasing productivity and profitability. The story is very much reminiscent of the ITC e-choupal story. Information asymmetry is ceasing to be (albeit slowly) a weapon to exploit the poor.

Some excerpt ( Courtesy : The Washington Post) " PALLIPURAM, India Babu Rajan pointed off the starboard bow and shouted: "There! There!"

In choppy, gray seas four miles from shore near India's tropical southern tip, Rajan spotted the tinselly sparkle of a school of sardines. He ordered his three dozen crewmen to quickly drop their five-ton net overboard.Within five minutes, the cellphone hanging around his neck rang.

"Hallo!" he shouted, struggling to hear over the big diesel engines of his 74-foot boat, Andavan. "Medium sized! Medium sized!" he said, estimating the haul for a wholesale agent calling from port, who had heard by cellphone from other skippers that Rajan had just set his nets.Minutes later Rajan's phone rang again -- another agent at a different port.

The cellphone is bringing new economic clout, profit and productivity to Rajan and millions of other poor laborers in India, the world's fastest-growing cellphone market.That explosive growth has meant greater access to markets, more information about prices and new customers for tens of millions of Indian farmers and fishermen."This has changed the entire dynamics of communications and how they organize their lives," said C.K. Prahalad, an India-born business professor at the University of Michigan who has written extensively about how commerce -- and cellphones -- are used to combat poverty.

"One element of poverty is the lack of information," Prahalad said. "The cellphone gives poor people as much information as the middleman."For less than a penny a minute -- the world's cheapest cellphone call rates -- farmers in remote areas can check prices for their produce. They call around to local markets to find the best deal. They also track global trends using cellphone-based Internet services that show the price of pumpkins or bananas in London or Chicago.

Indian farmers use camera-phones to snap pictures of crop pests, then send the photos by cellphone to biologists who can identify the bug and suggest ways to combat it. In cities, painters, carpenters and plumbers who once begged for work door-to-door say they now have all the work they can handle because customers can reach them instantly by cellphone."


  • Yeah great news. Also have a look at my blog regarding e-choupal.Click here

    By Blogger ILA(a)இளா, at 9:52 PM  

  • hey..great post..interesting read

    By Blogger Abhishek Chatterjee, at 2:42 PM  

  • Great article.
    I do believe that a large section of society prospers by "Information Hiding", aptly pointed out by Senthil in "Boys" and also sometimes by Newman in a comical way. Now with Cellphones and information at finger tips, poor people are able to bridge the gap.

    By Blogger Matter Mahadevan, at 6:23 PM  

  • ila,abhi - thanks

    hari - We are getting there albeit slowly.But democratization of information is the best thing to have happened in the last 25 yrs (due to tech).

    By Blogger Cogito, at 1:08 PM  

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