ECONOMIC EMPOWERMENT OF RURAL WOMEN TELENOR BRIDGING THE DIGITAL DIVIDE THROUGH ENTERPRENUERSHIP
Dec 10 - 16, 2007
The apna PCO project was launched in April 2007 by Telenor Pakistan in conjunction with the GSMA Development. apna PCO means literally "Our PCO" and is Telenor Pakistan's "business in a box" for rural communities.
The product is effectively a mobile PCO (Public Call Office), as it offers shared public access to telephony for community members.
Syed Hasnat Masood Director Corporate Communications, Telenor while elaborating the objectives of the pilot project told Pakistan and Gulf Economist that primarily the project aimed at providing rural men and women an opportunity to access mobile communications. The economic empowerment of women especially in the rural life serves a dual purpose. On one hand it helps improving the standard of living of the low income group while on the other hand it also helps Telenor to take technology to the grass root level. In fact the project has proved a success even in the remote parts of the country by enabling entrepreneurs to increase their level of income by becoming mobile PCO operators for their communities;
Besides monetary gains, the project proved a great success in the sense that it is instrumental in creating awareness among key stakeholders of Telenor Pakistan's brand and its social contribution; and receives feedback and better understands the appropriate product proposition and explores the potential approaches for a PCO scale up.
Hasnat giving the details of the project said that the apna PCO Starter Kit comprised of a robust emerging market handset; a Telenor SIM with competitive local and international rates and free balance ready to make calls; a scratch card; training for the use of the solution; training on estimating a business case scenario; personalized customer service and various promotional materials.
In the first phase, the project was launched in Southern Punjab with local NGO partner the National Rural Support Program (NRSP). The project, started in April 2007 and studied over a 3-month period, created 150 entrepreneurs and provided coverage to 37,000+ rural households in some of the most impoverished rural areas of southern Punjab.
Based upon close network monitoring and qualitative feedback from the entrepreneurs and customers, we conclude that the pilot's objectives were fulfilled. It took the entrepreneurs on average just seven weeks to break even.
The second phase of the project was launched in Interior Sindh with local NGO partner Indus Resource Center
The project, which started in July 2007 and to be studied over a 3-month period, has created 100 female entrepreneurs and provided coverage to 25,000+ rural households in some of the most impoverished rural areas of interior Sindh. Many of the women who are now running apna PCO business or using them in these communities had no experience of using a mobile phone prior to the project.
Based upon feedback from the entrepreneurs and customers, we conclude that the pilot's objectives are being fulfilled. The female entrepreneurs we have talked to are breaking even within a month on average.
For the entrepreneurs, the apna PCO brought telecommunications with no daily fixed charges, a simple, inexpensive solution (a subsidy of at least 50%) that is completely mobile (vs. fixed-line), personalized customer service, innovative features, free incoming calls with good connection quality. For the local community, the apna PCO brought telecommunications to the home, privacy (especially for women), convenience, reliability and competitive pricing.
The pilots are a testimony to the entrepreneurial expertise of rural men and women of Pakistan ñ traditionally considered to be na-ve in the matters of modern business. The results also clearly show that people in rural communities have the need and willingness to spend a significant amount of their income on telecom services.
Telenor Pakistan recently presented these results at Asia's biggest industry event, the GSM Association's Mobile Asia Congress 2007, held in Macau, China to international mobile industry experts. The presentations received rave reviews.
Syed Hasnat Masood, while outlining the contributions of Telenor on socio-economic front in Pakistan said that it is the connectivity which transformed into productivity and Telenor is doing its utmost to trickle down the benefits of telecom growth to the grass root level.
In this respect he referred some special efforts carried out by Telenor for economic empowerment of women folk in the country side and disabled citizens to bring them into the fold of economically independent by selling innovative products launched by Telenor enabling them generate through self-employment-a great contribution and a real display of social service as a responsible corporate citizen.
NAYA QADAM (NEW STEP)
On the World Disability Day, Telenor Pakistan in collaboration with Disabled Welfare Association (DWA) -- one of the country's foremost welfare organizations for disabled -- launched Naya Qadam. The project aims to empower persons with physical disabilities by making them partners in retail. This initiative for the noble cause has placed Telenor Pakistan as country's first mobile operator to do so.
As part of the Naya Qadam project, DWA will loan out specially designed motorcycle-cum-shops, sponsored by Telenor Pakistan, to select physically disabled individuals. These shops-on-wheels are designed so that people with disabilities can easily use them, and display and sell their sale items on the move. In an attempt yet unprecedented in the telecommunications sector, Telenor Pakistan has also arranged for the physically disabled entrepreneurs to become retailers for its most popular product, EasyLoad, in order for the entrepreneurs to earn a respectable living. To boost their income further, they will also be able to sell small snack items from the built-in tuck boxes on the motorcycles.
Adding further Baig said; "Telenor Pakistan has been playing its role as a responsible corporate organization with vigor and enthusiasm, running several community-support programs to empower the disadvantaged sections of society." He congratulated Telenor Pakistan and DWA on establishing a solid model of collaboration in the form of the Naya Qadam project. The Minister also handed out keys to DWA members to the motorcycle-cum-shops.
According to Telenor Pakistan Executive Vice President Irfan Wahab Khan the objectives of the project are to direct attention to the potential of our physically challenged community, and to provide them with a decent opportunity to be part of the booming telecom business. These are talented individuals, and if we can give them their much-needed mobility and an honest business opportunity, they can take care of their families with the integrity all of us deserve."