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  • posted by Anindya Apr 5th, 2009

    Uber Esia di Rancamalang

    Uber Esia di Rancamalang

    I just came back from a visit to Rancamalang Village in Tangerang, Banten, on Thursday, 25 March, 2010. This village is located near the Bumi Serpong Damai (BSD) housing complex. Even though it is only about 6 km or about fifteen minutes away, the condition of this village is markedly different from that of the BSD area. There is very limited infrastructure there, and telecommunication facilities are limited. This is very ironic for a region which is so close to a major city.

    The condition of Rancamalang Village has made it a target for the Do Business With Esia program, known as “Uber Esia”. Uber Esia is a Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) program of Bakrie Telecom (Btel). However, Uber Esia is not your ordinary CSR program. It is a sustainable CSR program whose activities are not limited to providing assistance, but also include encouraging them to start business activities. As an analogy, we do not give them fish, but give them fishing poles and teach them how to fish. The hope is that they will soon be able to fish on their own, without our assistance.
    This program is in line with the government agenda to develop PNPM Mandiri (National Program to Empower a Self-Sufficient Populace). Members of the public are given assistance in the form of business capital, then they repay it in installments after their businesses are successful. The assistance which is paid back will be used again to help others. For sure, at present, the paradigm of giving assistance or pure charity has been replaced by the giving of empowering assistance.

    The Uber Esia concept is to empower micro-sized enterprises by reaching out to the marginalized communities with low purchasing power. The people are taught how to run an Esia cellular phone credits (pulsa) business in order to earn supplemental income.

    This begs the question, what is the difference between this and an ordinary pulsa business? Of course this is different, because while other such businesses require start-up capital, those participating in the Uber Esia program do not need to have initial capital. As we know, capital finance is often a business hurdle, especially for small enterprises.

    The price of a simple cellular phone as the means to start a phone credit business might very well be inexpensive. However, for poor individuals, even Rp300-400,000 is beyond their reach. For this reason, we are giving them cellular phones free of charge in order that they can begin their businesses. In Rancamalang we have distributed 500 Esia cellular phones, free of charge. In addition to these particpants, we provide a credit scheme with a weekly installment payment of Rp7,200 [less than one USD].

    We use a selection process in order to determine who can join this program. Screening is done by field officers from PT Rekan Usaha Mikro Anda (RUMA) by using a poverty assessment tool developed by the Grameen Foundation. This results in the selection of program participants, whom we call Village Phone Operators (VPOs). These are the ones who will receive funding and guidance to run businesses. The VPOs will also continue to be supervised and undergo a “coaching” process while they run their businesses.

    This program has begun in Tangerang and Serang, Banten. Later it will expand to all of Indonesia. At this time, Uber Esia already has 1,600 VPOs who are distributed in those areas. Praised be God, these VPOs said that they have already benefited from Uber Esia. In a meeting with me, the VPOs said that they have earned additional income of Rp100,000 to Rp450,000 per month.

    For example, take Sirma, a young woman who operates a small sundries shop on a daily basis. She said that she can earn income of Rp200,000 under the Uber Esia program. She sells Esia phone credits while she works at the shop. The same is done by Pak Rui, who says he is making additional income of Rp450,000 per month.

    These VPOs do not only sell the phone credits, but also use their Esia cellular phones as a sort of public telephone, by lending the phones to people who want to make calls. So it is like a public phone shop. In this way, we can also assist with the penetration of public-use telephones in regions which do not yet have such service. This is more advantageous than public phones, as the caller can take the cellular phone to their home if the wish to have a private conversation.

    As it turns out, in just six months, these VPOs are already serving 100,000 customers. This is of course a large number in the telecommunication business. A more important point about this program is that the communication network will be equally distributed to the outlying regions. This is important, because communication is a birthright of all people.

    Under Uber Esia we are synergizing with some large companies, namely the Grameen Foundation, a foundation which was pioneered by Mumammad Yunus, winner of the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize and founder of Grameen Bank in Bangladesh. Qualcomm, PT RUMA, and recently Huawei have come on board. This Chinese telecommunications equipment company feels that it has been operating for a long time and has benefited from being in Indonesia. They want to help Indonesians and have entrusted us to do so. This means that with this program, Bakrie Telecom is the liaison between the parties from Bangladesh, America, and China.

    This cooperation with Uber Esia has been underway since July2008. This cooperation was made official during a break in the 2008 Asia-Pacific Regional Microcredit Summit, which took place in Nusa Dua, Bali. At that time, Grameen founder and 2006 Nobel Peace Prize winner Muhammad Yunus was present. The concept of a village phone program, which became the basis for Uber Esia, has been conducted by Grameen in several countries and has been recognized internationally. Uber Esia adopted it and added the innovation of 3G CDMA support.

    Bakrie Telecom and Grameen have the same objective, namely empowering those of limited means and lowering the poverty level. This was also conveyed in person by Sean Dewitt, a Technical Project Officer from the Grameen Foundation, when speaking to residents of Rancamalang. At that time, Sean’s speech had to be fully translated by the MC, as the audience is not familiar with foreign languages.

    I greatly hope that that this program will continue and expand. Later we are going to make more programs like this one. Empowerment programs such as this need to be provided for the people. They do not need mere donations. They need help which can empower them.

    They need fishing poles, not just fish. In the future we are going to make new “fishing poles” to empower and lift them out of poverty. This is our joint duty and responsibility to create a better life for the people.

2 Responses to “Btel’s “Fishing Poles” for Poor Residents in Rancamalang”

  1. I need some advice for my blog….I like your layout. Can you help me? 9 4 2

  2. Dika Restiyani says:

    I’m very proud of Bakrie Telecom for conducting such a brilliant CSR program like Uber Esia. I heard, the number of VPOs were increased up to 2.000 VPOs now. Wow :D
    Hopefully there will be more one of a kind CSR program. Can’t wait for another “Fishing Poles” :) I’m assure it will bring Bakrie Telecom to be a sustainable company which concern about stakeholder’s satisfaction & engagement. amin.

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