Week One | Social Enterprise in Sri Lanka
23 January 2014 - Mayur Paul
Stevie Wonder once sang, I just called to say I love you!

But what if you could not call your loved ones because your phone had small buttons that you could no longer see?

This is the stark reality that many older people face worldwide. Last year, HelpAge International released a joint report with the UN titled Ageing in the 21st Century, that showed 61% of older people across the world use a mobile phone. However, most agree mobile phones are designed for young people and can be over-complicated and hard to use due to small buttons or touch screens.

A social enterprise

Sri Lanka’s largest mobile telephony service provider Dialog Axiata PLC is trying to change that. By launching the Big Dial Phone, Sri Lanka will for the first time have a phone tailor-made for older people.

What’s more, as part of HelpAge’s work around social enterprises, Dialog Axiata will donate 300 Sri Lankan rupees (USD 3.8) to HelpAge Sri Lanka for each phone sold.

The money generated from this project will help older people in Sri Lanka.

phone jpg

Key features

Costing 3,990 rupees (USD 31.50), this mobile comes with a free Dialog connection and has unique features, such as:

  • a key pad with large, alphanumeric keys,
  • a SOS button to inform your loved ones in the case of an emergency,
  • an in-built high power torch,
  • a FM radio.


A small start

This new phone shows Sri Lanka taking a lead on this issue and is a first step in ensuring equal access to technology for older people. In the next ten years, there will be over one billion consumers aged over 60 worldwide, representing a huge shift.

UK Context

In the UK, Age UK has launched a range of personalised solutions for quick and easy to use mobile phones.  See here for more.

The Impact Hub Fellowship for Longer Lives in partnership with AXA and Swiss Re Foundation is offering entrepreneurs a chance to win £30,000 worth of start-up support to develop an idea that will tackle challenges of an ageing society.  We’ve joined forces with HelpAge International for a series of blogs that will highlight some of the global issues.

HelpAge International is a global network that helps older people claim their rights, challenge discrimination and overcome poverty, so that they can lead dignified, secure, active and healthy lives. In the past year, they have helped 624,000 more older people receive new or better pensions and benefits, worth US$258 million more a year.