No computers in poor Bangladeshi households

July 7, 2009

Poor people in Bangladesh own more mobile phones than the same group in India and Pakistan, more televisions than the Indian poor, but availability of computers in the poor Bangladeshi households is almost zero, according to a recent study.
The survey by LIRNEasia, a Sri Lanka-based Asia-Pacific information and communication technology policy and regulation capacity-building organisation, also reveals comparative reluctance among the poor Bangladeshis to buy radios.
Experts, however, say lack of individual access to computers among the poor can effectively be offset if the government arranges community access to computers after making the people aware that many solutions to their problems can be found in computers.
The LIRNEasia’s study found that, on an average, there is no computer in every 100 ‘bottom of the pyramid’ household in Bangladesh, while four of every hundred poor households in Sri Lanka, three in Pakistan and at least one in India own computers.
According to the study, the number of phones, especially mobile phones, being used by poor households in Bangladesh is 41, while it is 38 in India, 39 in Pakistan and 64 in Sri Lanka.
Some 52 households out of hundred in Bangladesh own television sets compared to 50 in India, 68 in Pakistan and 80 in Sri Lanka, according to the study.
The organization also studied the prevalence of radios in poor South Asian households and found that only 13 in every hundred poor household in Bangladesh own radios, while radios are used by
28 households in India, 24 in Pakistan and 77 in Sri Lanka.
The LIRNEasia researchers asked the poor South Asian mobile phone users whether they had used it at least once a day for business or livelihood purposes, and the highest response came from Bangladeshis.
M Faizullah Khan, president of the Bangladesh Computer Samity, disagrees with the notion that the Bangladeshi poor can in no way afford computers while the Indians and Pakistanis can.
Contradicting the country’s much trumpeted success in mass education, Khan said, ‘Effective literacy had not been ensured for the poor people.’
He said that lack of Bangla-based computer operation systems and software also make computers difficult and less useful to poor Bangladeshis whose knowledge of the English language is next to nothing.
‘In spite of the zero duty on computer in Bangladesh, its use is lowest in South Asia,’ said a leader of the local vendors of computer hardware.
Economist Ananya Raihan said that if the per capita income ratio is considered, the cost of computers is high, at least for the poor, in Bangladesh.
He, however, said that individual access to computers cannot contribute significantly to the social and economic uplifting of the poor people in a developing country like Bangladesh
For making ICT services effective to poor people, community access to computers is essential, said Raihan, who is an executive director of D.Net (Development Research Network) that works for development of the ICT network throughout Bangladesh.
‘Community computer centres in villages can serve poor people adequately,’ said Raihan.’ But people will go there only when useful solutions to their problems are there.’
‘Countrywide community ICT centres are essential for materialising the dream of Digital Bangladesh,’ said Raihan.

Courtesy of NewAgebd

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