Innovating with Cell Phones to End Poverty

The populations of development countries are embracing information and communication technologies, starting with what is most affordable: cell phones and airtime. Their spending on ICT increases faster than spending in any other category, including health, education and housing. Already by the end of 2006, 68% of the world’s mobile subscriptions were in developing countries, where many are using their cell phones to innovate, solve problems, and increase their living standards. Ugandans started using prepaid airtime as a way of transferring money from place to place, something that’s especially important to those who do not use banks. This inspired new services for mobile banking where companies allow their customers to use their phones to store cash credits transferred from another phone or purchased through a post office, phone-kiosk operator or other licensed operator. In February of last year Vodafone rolled out its M-Pesa mobile-banking program in Kenya, and within a year they reached 1.6 million subscribers.

The whole story is available at nytimes.com (S. Corbett, April 12, 2008): http://www.nytimes.com/2008/04/13/magazine/13anthropology-t.html?_r=1&fta=y&oref=slogin