Pilot Project on Rural ICT Toolkit
key-subject: telecommunications, virtual operators, micro-finance
client-type: financial institution
This project was part of a larger study conducted by Intelecon for the African Connection Centre for Strategic Planning (ACCSP) entitled, Development of programs and funding mechanisms to accelerate rural ICT development in Africa. Of the several potential pilot projects identified by the study to test out new concepts of public service delivery, the Rural Virtual Network Operator (RVNO) project combined virtual network operation and micro-finance so as to extend the reach and impact of existing or rapidly expanding GSM mobile networks deeper into rural areas. This pilot project investigated the commercial feasibility of a telecommunication network created from a partnership between micro-finance and RVNOs in both 'near rural' and 'deep rural' localities. Intelecon oversaw the project design, and the selection, training and deployment of 25 rural women entrepreneurs with mobile phone kits. In addition, Intelecon:
- researched background and comparative material (e.g. Grameen Phone experience in Bangladesh, MTN Uganda VP experience and business model details);
- analysed the revenue and operational experience of the pilot;
- developed next step conclusions and recommendations in consultation with the pilot partners; and
- prepared a final report summarising all activities, results, potential commercial and regulatory implications.
The RVNO experience led to MTN Nigeria (MTNN) and Growing Businesses Foundation (GBF) jointly applying to the IFC for funding assistance for the establishment of a Community Phone Company (CPC); Intelecon conducted a comprehensive feasibility study of this proposed initiative as part of a separate contract with the IFC in 2004. In 2006, MTNN's re-branded Rural Phone Project was short listed for the 2006 GSM Association award in the category of Best Mobile Community Service.