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Wireless Technology Strengthens Indonesia’s Micro-Entrepreneurs

As a milestone marking the success and growth of the Wireless Reach Application Laboratory (AppLab) project, Bakrie Telecom invited me to participate in the launch of a new mobile phone that has a unique application package called “Usahaku.”

Usahaku provides income-generating opportunities for micro-entrepreneurs through a variety of applications that can be downloaded and activated according to the needs of each user. For example, the “Jual Pulsa,” or “Top Up,” app allows entrepreneurs to increase their income by selling airtime from all operators to customers.

AppLab builds on the Wireless Reach Village Phone Operator (VPO) project, which was launched in Indonesia in 2008. VPO helps Indonesians by extending affordable telecommunication access and offering a profitable business opportunity to people who cannot afford their own mobile device.

The core concept is simple, effective and sustainable: a local small-business entrepreneur purchases a pre-packaged kit that includes a mobile phone with a microfinance loan and then re-sells the “airtime minutes” to neighbors. The mobile phone then serves as a platform to provide additional applications and services to further increase their revenues and margins.

As of June 31st, the VPO initiative has recruited over 7,500 entrepreneurs and serves more than 750,000 unique customers. Partnering on the project is Grameen Foundation, who estimated 47% of the micro-entrepreneurs who stay in the portfolio for more than four months have moved above the poverty line, which the World Bank defines as US $2.50 per day. More than 85% of the businesses are owned by women and 100% of VPOs are profitable.

The Bakrie event was a wonderful opportunity to recognize all partners, including Grameen Foundation and Ruma, who believe in providing sustainable business opportunities to the “next 60 million” Indonesians who are living at the base of the pyramid.

Recognizing the project’s impact, AppLab recently received a prestigious international award at the Global Telecoms Business (GTB) Innovation Awards 2011 in London, England, in the mobile applications category. The GTB awards innovative projects from telecommunication operators and content providers worldwide that make a difference in the communications sector.

AppLab is one of several Wireless Reach projects that aim to lift entrepreneurs out of poverty by harnessing the economic benefits of wireless connectivity. To view others, please visit the Wireless Reach website.

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