The award, the first to be made through the Haiti Mobile Money Initiative (HMMI), a $10 million effort established by the Gates Foundation and USAID to jump-start mobile financial services in Haiti and expedite the delivery of cash assistance by humanitarian agencies to victims of last year's devastating earthquake, recognizes Digicel for launching Tcho Tcho Mobile, the first mobile money service in the impoverished Caribbean nation. The second such operator to launch and meet HMMI's stringent criteria within a year will receive $1.5 million, while another $6 million will be disbursed after the first five million mobile transactions take place, divided accordingly among those operators that contributed to the transaction total.
A year after the January 2010 quake that destroyed more than a third of the country's bank branches, ATMs, and money transfer stations, cash shortages among Haitians remain widespread. Establishing new mobile services will help humanitarian agencies, charities, and donors get billions of aid dollars and remittances into the hands of ordinary Haitians. Digicel's mobile money service makes it possible for customers to use their mobile phones to make deposits and withdrawals at retail outlets and transfer money between Tcho Tcho Mobile accounts. Other services to be added in the future include bill payments, payment for government services, and international remittance transfers.
"As we have seen in other places around the world, mobile money can unlock the economic potential for millions of people," said Sylvia Mathews Burwell, president of the Global Development Program at the Gates Foundation. "Making mobile money services available to the poorest families in the developing world can be a first step to introducing a broader range of financial services, including savings accounts, helping people build financial security and productive lives."