12 December 2011: Mobile Ecosystem Conference

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Programme Manager, Daan Boom, and Head of IT Services, Sushil Pandey of the Knowledge Management Programme participated as Panel Discussant Lead and Speaker respectively at the first Mobile Ecosystems Conference organised by InfoDev (World Bank) and various local partners. The mobile conference launched a new platform for gathering and exchanging information on the application of mobile systems in Nepal (mobilenepal.net). The conference was opened by the Honourable Ms Kalpana Dhamala, Minister, Ministry of Science and Technology, Government of Nepal. We learned from the opening that mobile penetration is close to 46 % and still growing rapidly. It is projected that by 2014 the number of smartphones will bypass ordinary mobiles and market penetration will exceed 60 %. While it is recognised that mobile coverage in the plains has reached almost 100 %, the mountainous areas still face some blank spots, and that mobile operators are closing the gap rapidly. The conference was organised around various themes on usage in the agricultural sector and by farmers, climate change, and mobile financial systems. It was stated that while a conducive regulatory environment and investment opportunities need to be improved, the private sector, banks and agricultural wholesalers/ middlemen, are going full throttle with designated and specific services. An interesting case was presented by NIMBUS Agribusiness Enterprise Ltd, an agricultural commodity trader, who introduced a Market Price SMS service for various goods enabling farmers to respond to market volatility. The financial services industry is developing and introducing financial services such as account overviews, as well as the payment of bills using a mobile. It was noted that providing financial services (cash) in the mountains is still an issue for various reasons including ‘the security or transport of money’, which is a major problem. Collaborating with agricultural wholesalers who do have access to rural and remote areas is an option which could be explored further to reach out to banking services in remote areas.