Following a July 2006 field study in Uganda, and previous presentations on shared phone practices and street charging services, they now explored the Village Phone initiative between the Grameen Foundation, Nokia and local micro-finance organisations in Uganda, that is available as a downloadable photo essay.
The Village Phone extends regular base station cellular coverage from around 15 kilometers to around 30 kilometers through the use of a village phone kit – an antenna and ten meter cable (shown above) and a coupler (shown below) connected to a regular Nokia 1100 mobile phone plus of course, a micro-finance loan. The net result? In a number of cases it provides the first convenient, reliable and affordable connectivity to the outside world for many rural communities as well as providing a stable income for the local entrepreneur that takes out the loan.
To what extent do villagers need access to mobile phone? Who is in more need of personal, convenient synchronous and asynchronous communication – someone in London who works 9 to 5, 5 days a week or someone in rural Uganda working 5 to 9, 7 days a week? IMHO the impact on quality of life is far greater in the rural context and the some of the innovations this enables are touched on in this longish essay on Shared Phone Use. One example of the benefits of connectivity? Sente – the transfer of money via mobile phone that essentially also extends regular banking services such as the remittance of cash to these communities.