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Filipino Poor Spend At Least PhP100 Monthly on Mobile Phones

Inquirer.net reports:

Poor Filipinos living off a shoestring budget nonetheless spend about $2 a month on mobile telecommunications, according to a recent study done in five developing countries in Asia.

Hoping to understand the telecommunications use of people from the “bottom of the pyramid” of socioeconomic classification, “Teleuse on a Shoestring 2: A study of telecom use at the bottom of the pyramid in Asia” revealed that telecommunications access was prevalent even among poor Filipinos.

Society dictates how mobile phones are used, however. While mobile use in the more developed nations tend to be more of voice calls and data, you can expect users from developing countries to prefer cheaper means of communication.

With the Philippines’ poorest expecting a high cost from making calls or sending text messages, a “culture of cost-cutting” has become evident in the Philippines, the study showed.

Such a culture has driven the demand for second-hand mobile handsets, pre-paid services (the highest in tandem with Pakistan), and text messaging, which is a perceived as a cheaper way to communicate. The poorest Filipinos use text messaging at least once a day.

Perhaps the study should have taken into account the tingi or piece-meal system that’s preferred by users here. Cash-strapped users prefer to pay for micro amounts of prepaid load, even if this might translate to being more expensive in the long run. In comparison, higher-value call cards have longer lifetimes and usually come with free SMS.

Also, consider PhP 100 of prepaid credit usually expires in 15 days (depending on the network, but it’s mostly this case). Smaller amounts have even shorter lifetimes. So this means the lower-end users profiled in the survey are likely to have zero balance half the time, thereby rendering their phones for-receiving only. Not quite an effective tool for communication, if you ask me.

Still, it’s an interesting idea how the cellular phone has proliferated our culture so much that it’s now part of peoples’ priorities, perhaps sometimes at par with other necessities like food, shelter and life’s other niceties.

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  • I heard (sorry no source) that luxuries like softdrinks are losing to prepaid load.

  • I think Pinoys are willing to spend more if we dont have those unlimited services. We are already the text capital of the world even when text messaging is quite expensive. (1 peso / sms)

  • Yes 1 peso is expensive for us, but we are definitely cheaper than the US or Europe. I don’t know about other Asian countries – somebody should make a comparison.

  • Here’s a new article which covers cellphone ownership/sharing statistics. But, where is the source material?

  • Older surveys (and personal observation) have shown that even in shantyvilles, many residents have a karaoke machine and a TV. Basic necessities like clean water and decent shelter are nowhere to be found, but supposed luxury items are in no short supply.

    The fact that the poor spend so much on SMS and cellphones is no surprise to me anymore. Heck, some household helpers in the village have much better phones than I do.

    Forget softdrinks and food – the poor will spend their money on status symbols. Even if they starve, at least they starve in style, right?

  • To put things in perspective, I use a Nokia 1112 (low-end, cost me PhP 2.3k with warranty). A lot of people I see in the malls and on public transpo have very expensive phones (costing in the PhP 20+ and even 30+ thousands).

    I’d rather focus my funds on the upkeep of my two laptops, though, and in keeping my car shiny and spotless. 😛

  • It seems to us outsiders your all addicted to texting I sat with friends watching TV as a state of emergency was being declared and we were laughing so much only in the Philippines would you see members of the government sat texting at a time like that.
    In fact most countries if they ever got a phone out in a political meeting they would be out of a job.

  • txt messaging has been part of our daily life for years now.. so u can’t blame those people who spend much just to txt or greet their love ones through txt..