Field research in the North

The first two days of our journey north were very revealing – above all for the vazah who has never been to these regions tos Madagascar.

Small ITC entrepreneur Mamsoa

On our way to Port Berge – abut 600 kilometer from the capital Tana – we stopped at the Village of Mamsoa. She is the village phone operator that IFC and airtel always take as an example.  She no only offers internet but also a printer, internet and a little shop for every day goods – among them solar lanterns. She now wants to set up a battery renting station but is not able to get the credit from a local MFI (we heard different sums ranging from 15000 to 30000 dollars). It was interesting that e talked a lot about the technical challenges – eg her solar panel is way too small – but not about the business constraints. The problem again seems not to be the demand but the amount of energy she can offer. She also told us that her main internet customers are the students and the teachers from the local school. Unfortunately, she could not present her service: both of her laptops had viruses and were out of service.

Excess power from telecom towers

On our drive to Port Berge we passed by a lot of telecommunication towers. We stop at one to talk to the family living nearby in a terribly tiny hut. They get some money from the telco company Orange to watch the tower and clean the solar panels that power that tower. Just opposite was one from airtel – very likely powered by diesel because we could not see any big RE power generation devices. These two towers were really far away from any villages therefore a kiosk there would make little sense.

We reached Port Bergé with the last beams of the sun (after more than 10 hours on the road) which is quite important because there are a lot of robberies at nights. The landscape here is especially beautiful because just before sunset when the lighte is different, a lot softer. It lightens the landscape in an  wonderful way. The streets are crowded with people and Zebus on their way home then – a very peaceful procession on the not very (car) busy route national.

Organising focus groups

Wednesday was the day of organizing things. We managed to find somebody to organize us a focus group near Port Berge and two villages with a UNICEF school.

On our way, we also talked with an other village phone operator how is offering “only” voice and SMS service. Unfortunately, her information was quite ambiguous and the rest of the villagers (we talk to some of them) told us different stories about her business, prices etc. She for sure is not willing to become an ITC village – she did not know what the Internet was.

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2 focus groups in one day, exhausting but very insightful