Bangladesh and the Mobile Internet

There are roughly 160 million people living in Bangladesh. I was surprised then when the Dhaka Tribune recently reported that nearly 111 million have their own mobile phone. For a developing country that tells me a lot about the state of the world today and how fast that is changing.

mobile phone mast

A common sight in Bangladesh (Photo credit: osde8info)

When my family and first visited Bangladesh in 2006, huge black & white TV sets were set up for us to watch whenever we went to someone’s home for dinner. These sets weren’t watched normally – just brought out for important guests as an indication of prosperity. No one else, except the more affluent members of society, watched TV.

Nowadays, every dokan, street stall, has a small B & W to watch the cricket on and most people do own a TV of some sort which they watch regularly. Much has changed and not all of it is good. The West can now invade the homes of every town and village in Bangladesh.

Muhammad Yunus, founder of Grameen Bank

Muhammad Yunus, founder of Grameen Bank (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Similarly, with the phones. Nobel prize winner, Professor Yunus and his Grameen company have done a great job to make mobile phone technology available to even the poorest people. While it is the sum of six major mobile phone companies which make this figure of 111 million, Grameen takes the lion’s share with 46 million.

When we started living in Bangladesh in 2008 our ayah’s village had no mobile phone. Very soon afterwards the village bought a small, cheap and dying one. Gradually, both the quality of the mobile phones and the quantity of them in the village has increased. If these figures from DT are to be believed, then it means that Yunus has achieved his aim for although 50 million are not yet active subscribers, they are surely in close proximity to someone who does.

Bangladesh has, in my time here, gone mobile.

Not just that, but Bangladesh is going worldwide too – at least through the internet. Nearly 35 million Bangladeshis are accessing the internet through their mobile phones. That doesn’t just mean surfing the web through their phones but also, like I’m doing right at this moment, using their phones as modems or putting their SIMs into dongles to access the internet on PCs, laptops and even Macs.

So that means around 22% of all native Bangladeshis are online and ‘digital’.

And as far as I can tell, they’re all friends on my Facebook… :-/

About D K Powell

British freelance journalist, author, writer, editor, musician, educational consultant. I lived with Wifey, Thing I (daughter) & Thing II (son) in Bangladesh for 5-6 years working for an NGO called LAMB. Wifey led the Hospital Rehab department and I used to teach O levels at the school before going full-time as a freelance writer in 2013. Now we're back in the UK learning how to be British again. When not writing or editing, I'm busy trying to complete a Masters degree in Intercultural relations in Asian Contexts and reading way too many books at once. I also drink tea - lots of it.
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7 Responses to Bangladesh and the Mobile Internet

  1. Pingback: 30 Final Days of Bangladesh – Day 3 – Ayahs and Vangaris | kenthinksaloud

  2. We have many discussions in our house regarding the net and mobile phones and the truth is that its now become our culture and many can’t see themselves living without these things anymore.

    So it’s only natural the world is catching on even third world countries… In Pakistan while people can’t afford their basic necessities they have mobile phones… its crazy but true and many of them have the best ones around… including lap tops… how is it possible? Somewhere they are managing it and feel the need for it. The world is defo changing.


    • Yes. A friend once suggest to me that countries like Pakistan, India and Bangladesh are living in a post-modern world without having first lived through modernism as the West did. It makes for people living in poverty still having mobile phones and Facebook!


  3. Laura Jones says:

    I really enjoyed reading this, thank you! :).


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