Be-Bound’s head of QA, Guillaume Favez, tells us about his recent trip to Bangladesh to improve the country’s mobile connectivity
Guillaume, why did you travel to Bangladesh?
Be-Bound signed an agreement with the government of Bangladesh to assist with the implementation of the Digital Bangladesh Plan (also known as Vision 2021). We’re working on digitalizing the entire country with our mobile technology. The digital intitiatives cover the whole gamut, from mobile health to mobile banking… basically everything that encompasses mobile for development. My job was to go to Bangladesh to get the projects off the ground.
How would you describe the state of technology in the areas of Bangladesh you visited?
Well, it’s quite difficult to describe if you’ve never been there. I travel a lot for Be-Bound, and each country I travel to is different in regards to technology. In Bangladesh, 3G is available in big towns, but not in the smaller towns or villages, which is where a lot of people live. Meanwhile, in the towns where I spent my time, taxi drivers use smartphones for GPS, and games, Facebook and Whatsapp are all very popular.
As for smartphones, there were phone stores everywhere: one store for each phone brand in each shopping mall! I was amazed to see so many different Android smartphone brands that are completely unknown in France, and all of them are compatible with Be-Bound apps! A lot of them are manufactured in China, and rebranded for the local market. They’ve got everything from low-end to high-end devices.
How did the smartphones in Bangladesh differ from those in France?
Actually, Samsung and Sony have exactly the same models at the same price. But these aren’t affordable for very many people. Buyers tend to opt for local brands, cheaper but still good enough for most apps to function. They basically have a dual core 1Ghz CPU, 1GB of RAM and a 3G connectivity, with a 5 inch screen.
Why has the switch from feature phones to smartphones taken so long?
Affordability. Until recently, smartphones weren’t adapting or available to lower incomes. But now you can get a smartphone for $25 or less. So smartphone manufacturers have woken up to the fact that there’s a big market at a lower price. And people are willing to spend the extra $5 for added functionalities, from pictures to GPS, games, social networks and messaging. On the other hand, the advantage of feature phones is that they still have much better battery life than smartphones! So really, all users face the same issue: Smartphone battery life is never enough! …Something that smartphone manufacturers are still trying to address.
The Digital Bangladesh Vision 2021 is meant to transition the entire country toward a more digital way of living. Any thoughts on this after your visit?
There are so many things that can be done. People there have poor access to Internet at home and on their mobile phones. From banking to health, information, transportation… many sectors have to move towards digital, and it has already started. Think for a minute about how much your smartphone has changed your life in recent years… and there was a time when you didn’t even think you needed one! That was the general feeling I had: that they’re on the brink of a digital tipping point. I have no doubt that the Digital plan is going to be transformative.
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