Monday, November 16, 2009

Bill Gates Funds GSMA's Mobile Money Initiative

The GSMA awarded six additional grants under its the Mobile Money for the Unbanked Fund (MMU) initiative, which aims to use mobile phones to improve the lives of people without bank accounts. New grantees include AKTEL in Bangladesh, Dialog Telekom PLC in Sri Lanka, Grameenphone Ltd in Bangladesh, MTN Cameroon, MTN Uganda and Vodacom Tanzania. Grants are available for projects promoting the uptake of mobile money services for the unbanked and underbanked, with funding for projects up to a value of US$1million. The MMU programme is supported by a US$12.5 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

According to research cited by GSMA, only 13 per cent of the population of Bangladesh has a bank account, which means that upwards of 130 million people have no access to formal financial services. MMU funds have been awarded to two participants in Bangladesh, AKTEL (a joint venture company between Axiata Group Berhad of Malaysia and NTT DoCoMo, Japan) and Grameenphone Ltd. In November, AKTEL will launch a bill payment service (through mobile) for electricity subscribers, which has been awarded by the Bangladesh Power Development Board (BPDB) to AKTEL. Under the mCommerce initiative, AKTEL is introducing SMS and IVR based services with the aim of assisting financially constrained rural communities
By reaching the underbanked, the unbanked and those financially handicapped by high interest rates from existing services, Grameenphone and AKTEL are enabling individuals to create financial identities which will benefit the whole community. With regulatory approval, the implementation of mobile money services will enable Bangladeshis to take advantage of more efficient, less time consuming and more secure new services and in the long run help alleviate poverty in Bangladesh.

Sri Lankan-based Dialog plans to introduce mCommerce services to the North and North--Central provinces of Sri Lanka. Dialog will focus on regions deficient in financial services infrastructure, and on initiatives to enhance people's lives by providing a range of mCommerce services at affordable prices including utility bill payment, person-to-person money transfers, over-the-counter payments and cash withdrawal/deposits.