The Future of the Public Payphone: Findings from a Study on Telecom Use at the Bottom of the Pyramid in South and Southeast Asia

Nirmali Sivapragasam, Juhee Kang


Public payphones, such as traditional payphone booths, have been in use since the late 19th century. However, with growing telephone ownership, particularly of mobile telephones, demand for public payphones has experienced a decline in recent years, in both developed and developing countries. Despite this, provision of public payphones continues to be a part of universal service obligations in some South Asian countries. This article examines the changing demand for these phones in developing countries, particularly in the context of low-income earners, through two consecutive surveys of bottom of the pyramid telecom users in 2006 and 2008 in six South and Southeast Asian countries. The study finds that, although demand for public payphones is declining in general, they still play a role among the poorest of the poor, and even among mobile owners. It recommends alternative forms of public payphones based on mobile technologies and suggests more inclusive mobile services for all.


public phones, payphones, BOP, mobile services, developing countries, ICTD

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