The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has announced a $12.5 million grant for a program designed to use mobile phones to expand the availability of financial services to millions of individuals in the developing world.
Created in partnership with GSMA, an association that represents the interests of the worldwide mobile communications industry, the Mobile Money for the Unbanked (MMU) program will work with mobile operators, banks, microfinance institutions, governments, and development organizations to encourage the expansion of reliable, affordable mobile financial services to the unbanked — individuals who do not have accounts at banks or other mainstream financial institutions. The program will fund regulatory and market research to help overcome some of the barriers to providing these services and includes a $5 million fund to catalyze a new wave of mobile financial innovation by encouraging mobile network operators to create new services for previously unbanked individuals in emerging markets.
MMU will support approximately twenty projects in developing countries, with the goal of reaching twenty million previously unbanked individuals with mobile financial services by 2012.
"Traditional financial services are often too costly and inconvenient for people who earn less than $2 a day to obtain, and too expensive for banks to provide," said Bob Christen, director of the Gates Foundation's Financial Services for the Poor initiative. "Technology like mobile phones is making it possible to bring low-cost, high-quality financial services to millions of people in the developing world so they can manage life's risks and build financial security."