Grameen Foundation, Bakrie Telecom and Qualcomm, through its Wireless Reach initiative, announced the launch of the first Village Phone Program in Indonesia, branded as Uber ESIA, using 3G CDMA technology to provide affordable wireless telecommunications services for rural communities.
Uber ESIA, which means joint cooperation, aims to facilitate affordable telecommunications access in a sustainable, profitable and empowering way to rural Indonesia. Uber ESIA is one of many similar programs around the world already launched by Grameen Foundation as Village Phone Program. However, this is the first program using 3G CDMA, so users can access higher quality voice services and more advanced mobile applications, including high-speed data.
Grameen Foundation, Bakrie Telecom and Qualcomm will be working with local Indonesian microfinance institutions to enable microfinance clients to borrow the money needed to purchase a Village Phone “business in a box,” which consists of a wireless 3G CDMA-based phone and charger, marketing materials, tariff posters, business cards and training materials. The Village Phone Operators (VPOs) will operate their businesses in rural villages where telecommunications services did not previously exist, renting the use of the phone within their communities on a per-call basis.
“Microfinance helps to put technology within financial reach of the poor and we are pleased to work with Qualcomm and Bakrie Telecom to help Indonesia’s rural microentrepreneurs build self-sustaining businesses that also enhance the socio-economic development of their wider communities,” said Alex Counts, president and CEO of Grameen Foundation.
The Village Phone model enables everyone to benefit. Microfinance institutions provide financial services and earn income on the loan interest, as well as commissions from the sale of prepaid airtime to their clients. They also attract new clients who are drawn by the opportunity to start a technology-oriented business. Telecommunications companies benefit by tapping a new market. VPOs have strong, thriving businesses, and most importantly, individuals living in impoverished communities gain access to affordable telecommunication and information services linking them to their friends, family, business contacts and the world.
The VPOs provide affordable rates to their customers, while earning enough to repay their loan and earn a profit that will allow them to make investments in their family’s health, nutrition and education, and in other business ventures. The project aims to empower underserved communities in rural Indonesia with mobile communications using Bakrie Telecom’s Uber ESIA service based on 3G CDMA wireless technology.
“From the beginning, we believe that telecommunication is a birthright for every Indonesian citizen. Based on our competency, we try to implement reliable and affordable telecommunication services,” said Anindya N Bakrie, president director, PT Bakrie Telecom Tbk.
Another positive point of this program is empowering women who live in rural area, since the main target is household community. Women have a significant role in helping the family’s income, but they still have limited positions and access to economic resources. Central Statistics Agency data shows that out of a population of 97.5 million, only 35.4 million women (36.3 percent) are recorded as employed, of which 59.9 percent or 21.2 million graduated from elementary schools. Also, 26.3 million (74.28 percent) employed women work in an informal sector. Uber ESIA will facilitate them to gain additional income for their family.
“The Uber ESIA program strengthens our commitment towards good corporate governance. As a national company, we believe that we have to contribute to our community. Nevertheless, moving together with the community is also our priority, which can be achieved through Uber ESIA,” added Bakrie. “We always consider the poor communities as a productive because they also have the rights for telecommunications access. But in fact, most of them do not have the necessary purchasing power. Thus, Bakrie Telecom, through Uber ESIA, is providing the opportunity for the poor to improve their purchasing power. This is a challenge for Bakrie Telecom, not only to help raise the poor’s income but also to deliver the right product to them.”