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.