Iqbal Z. Quadir (born August 13 , 1958 in Jessore , Bangladesh ), founder of Gonofone and GrameenPhone , is currently the Co-Founder and Co-Director of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology 's Program in Development Entrepreneurship, Senior Research Associate at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard University 's John F. Kennedy School of Government , and the founding co-editor of Innovations: Technology, Governance, Globalization , a journal published by MIT Press .
Quadir was born in Jessore , and moved to the United States in 1976 and later became a naturalized U.S. citizen. He received a B.S. with honors from Swarthmore College (1981), an M.A. (1983) and an M.B.A. (1987) from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.
Finance, Development, and Entrepreneurial Success:
Quadir served as a consultant to the World Bank in Washington, D.C., (1983–1985), an associate at Coopers & Lybrand (1987–1989), an associate of Security Pacific Merchant Bank (1989–1991), vice president of Atrium Capital Corporation (1991–1993), and founded GrameenPhone in Bangladesh during 1993-1999. He served in the management and on the Board of GrameenPhone during 1996-1999.
Quadir's vision, which was deemed radical at the time, was to create universal access to telephone service in Bangladesh and to increase self-employment opportunities for its rural poor. In 1993, Quadir started a New York-based company named Gonofone (Bengali for “phones for the masses”), which later became the launch-pad for GrameenPhone. Currently the largest telephone company in Bangladesh with nearly twelve million subscribers, GrameenPhone provides telephone access to more than 100 million rural people living in 60,000 villages and generates revenues close to $1 billion annually. With infrastructure investments of more than $1 billion, GrameenPhone is providing cellular coverage throughout Bangladesh.
Quadir's vision of a large-scale commercial project led him to organize a global consortium involving Telenor , Norway's leading telecommunications company; an affiliate of micro-credit pioneer Grameen Bank in Bangladesh (winner of the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize ); Marubeni Corp. in Japan; Asian Development Bank in the Philippines; Commonwealth Development Corp. in the United Kingdom; and International Finance Corp. and Gonofone in the United States. He attracted these investors by complementing his vision of connecting all of Bangladesh with a practical distribution scheme whereby village entrepreneurs, backed by micro-loans, could retail telephone services to their surrounding communities. In fact, Quadir coined the phrase ‘connectivity is productivity' to explain the unique impact of Information Communication Technologies (ICTs), particularly mobile telephones, in improving economic efficiency.
GrameenPhone's success has been lauded as a model for a novel approach to improving economic opportunity and connectivity and empowering citizens in poor countries, through profitable investments in technology. According to Economist Jeffrey Sachs GrameenPhone ‘opened the world's eyes to expanding the use of modern telecommunications technologies in the world's poorest places.'
From 2001-2005, Quadir served as a fellow at the Harvard's Mossavar-Rahmani Center for Business and Government, and at the Center for Business Innovation at Cap Gemini Ernst & Young (now Capgemini ). As a lecturer, he taught graduate-level courses on the effects of technology in developing countries at the John F. Kennedy School at Harvard University.
Quadir coined the phrase invisible leg to describe how technological innovations change economies in terms of the distribution of economic and political influence.
In 2004, he founded, with his siblings, the Anwarul Quadir Foundation to promote innovations for Bangladesh. In 2006, the foundation established a $25,000 global essay competition , the Quadir Prize, through the Center for International Development at Harvard University .
Quadir founded Emergence BioEnergy , Inc., as an effort to apply his development approach to electricity production in Bangladesh, where 70 percent of the population does not have access to the national electricity grid. This and other current projects (including removing arsenic from water) were featured in an article entitled ‘Power to the people' in the March 9, 2006 issue of The Economist .
Quadir's work has been recognized by leaders and organizations worldwide, with invitations to speak at many forums, including the World Bank , United Nations , World Economic Forum , and Aspen Institute . In 1999, Quadir was selected Global Leader for Tomorrow by the World Economic Forum based in Geneva, Switzerland. In 2006, he became the 12th recipient of the prestigious Science, Education and Economic Development (SEED) Award from the Rotary Club of Metropolitan Dhaka, for initiating universal telephone coverage to Bangladesh. He appeared on CNN and PBS and was profiled in feature articles in the Harvard Business Review (Bottom-Up Economics, Aug 2003, & Breakthrough Ideas for 2004, Feb 2004), Financial Times, The Economist, and The New York Times, and in several books. In Spring 2007, Wharton Alumni Magazine selected Quadir for its list of 125 Influential People and Ideas .
The 2007 book You Can Hear Me Now: How Microloans and Cell Phones are Connecting the Worlds Poor To the Global Economy by Nicholas P. Sullivan showcases Quadir's innovative work in Bangladesh.
1. Friedman, Thomas L. The Lexus and the Olive Tree. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux. 2000. Page 360.
2. Quadir, Iqbal Z. ‘For the poor, connectivity means economic opportunity' in The Wireless Internet Opportunity for Developing Countries by Wireless Internet Institute, United Nations. 2003. Page 27.
3. He's Got Connections. Wharton Entrepreneurial Programs. GetItStarted. Fall 2004.
4. Sachs, Jeffrey. The End of Poverty: Economic Possibilities for Our Time. New York: Penguin. 2005. Page 264.
5. Quadir, Iqbal Z. ‘The Bottleneck Is At the Top of the Bottle.' Fletcher Forum of World Affairs Vol. 26(2) Summer/Fall 2002. Page 10.
6. Power to the people. March 2006. The Economist.