The concept of Village Phone is an idea which caught people’s imagination. Grameen Bank members have entered the age of information technology by leasing and purchasing cellular phones. The mobile phones not only create a new business opportunity for the poor, but also bring access to information, market, health and other services to the remote rural areas of Bangladesh. This was a major innovation; placing modern cell phones in the hand of the woman from poorest households in remote villages, something that no telecom operator had dared to do in the past. With Grameen Bank financing a Grameen Bank borrower buys a mobile phone to become the Telephone Lady of the village. She provides the telecommunication services to the village while earning profits for herself. By the end of 2007, there were more than two hundred ninety-five thousand village phone ladies who have together taken loans amounting to Tk. 2,563.44 million.
The demand of the Village Phone services is increasing day by day. During the year 2007 nearly 17,000 new phones were distributed and connections were provided to as many cell phones in the villages. Grameen Bank, in collaboration with Grameen Telecom (The company which was incorporated as a not-for-profit venture under the companies act of 1994) will provide nearly 150,000 new connections to its members and their family members during the next year.The additional income by selling telephone service and internet based facility through electronic recharge system of village phone ladies is almost double that of the national per capita income. Zone-wise statistics of village phones financed through the Bank’s lending programme are given in the table :
Flexiload program started in April 2006 in Tangail and Comilla Zone as a ROSA pilot project. The agreement between Grameen Bank (GB) and Grameen Phone (GP) was to sell the airtime in rural areas through GB members. The program was going on successfully.
Finally the agreement was set up on November 06, 2006 to expand the program in other zones. In this program GP is the first party and GB acts as a distributor of Flexiload.
Selected GB members are the sales agents who get load from GP through GB and sell it to the lower end. GB’s commission is 1.135% and sales agent’s commission is 2.75%. Up to December 31, 2007 Grameen Bank creates 1,000 sales agents in 39 zones, who transected Tk. 366.00 million. Grameen Bank and agents received commissions amounting Tk. 4.30 and 10.00 million respectively. Now every week Grameen Bank agents are transacting Tk. 10.00 million. Grameen bank plan is to make 4,000 Grameen Bank agents very soon. We hope this program will develop and reinforce strategies, which will bring high economic benefits to Grameen Bank members.