Grameen Bank-Village Phone was chosen among the 200 nominees for the Development Gateway Foundation’s first-ever Petersberg Prize. The 100,000 Euro Prize recognizes Grameen’s outstanding achievement in the use of information and communication technologies (ICT) to improve people’s lives. Grameen Bank, which provides micro-credit to poor people, established a program called Village Phone, through which women entrepreneurs can start a business providing wireless payphone service in rural areas of Bangladesh. In doing so, Grameen has created a new class of women entrepreneurs who have raised themselves from poverty. Moreover, it has improved the livelihoods of farmers and others who are provided access to critical market information and provide lifeline communications previously unattainable in some 28,000 villages of Bangladesh.
The Prize was awarded on the eve of the Development Gateway Forum in July 2004. Prize sponsors are Deutsche Telekom AG and Microsoft. The Forum is sponsored by Deutsche Telekom and the State of North Rhine-Westphalia.
Jorge Quiroga, former President of Bolivia, led the panel of independent jurors. Other members include Vinton Cerf (USA), MCI; Vallampadugai Arunachalam (India), Carnegie Mellon University; Hisham El-Sherif (Egypt), IT Ventures and Nile Online; Miriam Meckel (Germany), State Government of North Rhine-Westphalia; Wendy Millin (South Africa), Hewlett-Packard; and Mary O’Kane (Australia), Mary O’Kane & Associates Pty. Ltd. Acting as adviser was Carlos A. Primo Braga, World Bank.
In his acceptance speech, Muhammad Yunus said, “Winning the Petersberg Prize is an event of great rejoice for anybody. This prestigious prize has been created to give unparalleled honour and distinction to the recipient organisation. To Grameen Bank, it also brings a resounding endorsement of the Grameen Bank’s effort to bring information and communication technology (ICT) to the benefit of the poor.
What Grameen Bank has done is simply to take advantage of the synergy between micro-credit and ICT and help the poor women to exploit the market opportunity that exists around them. Though people were cynical, we remained thoroughly convinced that while people may be poor and illiterate, they are not stupid. Potentially they are as smart as anybody else in the world. A mobile phone became the fastest way to make money and earn social respectability. Telephone-ladies quickly learned and innovated all the ropes of the telephone business. Today there are 60,000 telephone ladies providing telephone service in 80 per cent of the villages of Bangladesh. In villages where grid electricity does not exist, solar energy powers the phones. The number of telephone-ladies will exceed 100,000 by the end of this year. Grameen Phone, the mobile phone company which provides the telephone service, has over 1.7 million subscribers. But telephone-ladies, who are only 3% of the subscribers, use 15% of the air-time of the company, generating substantial revenue for the company.
Today, the Petersberg Prize vindicates our belief in the creativity and energy of the poor people, particularly poor women. I hope the world will look at the poor differently than they did before this Prize went to the Village Phone Project of Grameen Bank.”
For further details of the prize: log on to www.developmentgateway.org/prize
Take a cyber view of Grameen Phone project at www.grameenphone.com/village.htm Congratulations to Prof. M. Yunus, who is on the advisory board of i4d magazine.