Professor Muhammad' innovative approach to poverty alleviation in Bangladesh has inspired the global microcredit movement reaching out to millions of poor women.
A noted economist, Professor Muhammad started the Grameen Bank Project in 1976. Today, Grameen Bank provides collateral-free loans to 5 million clients in Bangladesh, of which 96% are women. Over the last two decades, Grameen Bank has loaned over 5 billion dollars to the poorest of the poor, while maintaining a repayment rate consistently above 98%.
Besides Grameen Bank, Prof. Yunus has created a number of companies in Bangladesh to address diverse issues of poverty and development. Among the companies are Grameen Phone (a mobile telephone company), Grameen Cybernet (Internet Service Provider), Grameen Communications (Rural Internet Service Provider), Grameen Software Ltd., and Grameen Information Technology Park.
The Village Phone programme, through which women entrepreneurs can start a business providing wireless payphone service in rural areas of Bangladesh has become a legendary success. In doing so, Grameen has created a new class of women entrepreneurs who have raised themselves from poverty. Moreover, it improved the livelihoods of farmers and others who were provided access to critical market information and lifeline communications previously unattainable in some 28,000 villages of Bangladesh. More than 260,000 village phones are currently in operation, with more than 80 million people benefiting from access to ICT.
The ITU World Information Society Award has been created to honour individuals or institutions that have made a significant personal contribution to promoting, building, or strengthening a people-centered, development-oriented and knowledge-based information society. Personal achievement may take the form of social accomplishment, mobilization of public opinion, or a key technical innovation.