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.
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.
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…
- Bangladesh passes law for closer Grameen oversight (fresnobee.com)
- Noble Prize-Winner Yunus Under Fire For “Un-Islamic” Gay Rights Stance (religiondispatches.org)
- Bangladesh: A way up, “with dignity” – comment on a Dhaka Tribune Editorial (kenthinksaloud.wordpress.com)