Mobile Payments in Poor Countries

  • Overseas
  • 2011

At present, 2.5 billion people in developing countries have no access to formal financial institutions like banks. They must rely on cash, tin-can savings, and other unsafe and inconvenient methods of managing their family finances. This also drags down national economic growth. Since its creation in 2004 by the founder of eBay, the Omidyar Network has made multimillion dollar donations to overcome that lack of financial infrastructure.

Almost 2 billion of those 2.5 billion people lacking banking services do, fortunately, have access to a mobile phone. Omidyar and other U.S. donors have thus made it a focus of their overseas work to support and expand methods of bill-paying and saving via mobile phone. In developing countries, platforms like MPeso and GCash now have millions of users of their reliable systems of financial exchange. Poor people rely on phone transactions to pay the school bills of their children, buy supplies for their small businesses, and purchase medical care.

With a $2 million grant in 2011, the Omidyar Network was one of the founders of Mobile Money for the Unbanked—a support group for firms providing financial services by cell phone that helps them connect to additional customers, encourages interoperability, and resists regulatory barriers by governments. Omidyar also supports efforts to bring other life-enhancing services and products to people in the developing world via their mobile phones.

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