A survey has found that the use of mobile phones in rural areas has enabled households to build smooth business networks across the country, enhancing their income.
The mobile phone improves income by facilitating marketing of products, eliminating travel costs and saving time, according to a research paper for which the survey was conducted.
It was presented at a session of an annual event of the Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies (BIDS) at Lakeshore Hotel in the capital yesterday.
Monzur Hossain, senior research fellow at BIDS, presented the paper on “Mobile phones, households welfare and women's empowerment: evidence from rural off-grid regions of Bangladesh”, at a session of BIDS Research Almanac 2017.
MA Baqui Khalily, former executive director of the Institute of Microfinance, chaired the session. Mobile phones also enhanced women empowerment forming a channel for income generation, said Hossain.
As physical communication is cumbersome in rural areas, mobile communication fills the gap, says the research paper.
The ownership of mobile phone by households increased the probability of income generation from fisheries by 6.9 percent to 9.8 percent, the research shows.
The survey comprised over 3,540 households during the second half of 2016. The sample households are taken from off-grid areas like char, river, sea and coastal areas that have little or no rail or road networks.
The sample districts were Sirajganj, Narayanganj, Jamalpur, Kushtia, Manikganj, Noakhali, Patuakhali and Faridpur. The main sources of earning in those areas are farming, small business and salaried employment. This study aims to assess the impacts of mobile phones on household welfare in terms of income and women empowerment.
Mobile phone plays an important role in establishing business communication across these areas, the survey report said.
Having better amenities such as electricity or sanitary latrine increases the probability of mobile phone ownership.
The report suggested for further investment in mobile network expansion making mobile phone technologies affordable to the poor.
Expansion of mobile innovations could reduce communication bottlenecks in regions lagging behind and enhance the living standard of households, said the report.
There are currently about 12.8 crore mobile phone subscribers, which is almost 80 percent of the country's total population.