Last Thursday, the 2015 Gates letter identified mobile money as a transformative innovation for the next 15 years, driving faster improvement of the lives of people in poor countries than has ever been seen.
We are excited to officially announce the winners of the innovation fund for mobile money challenge! These projects were selected from the 100 ideas that were submitted on the innovation fund challenge web site, reviewed by external advisors, and finally decided on by an internal judging panel. These projects will be implemented over the course of the next year by BRAC in Bangladesh—so stay tuned for many more updates!
In March, the social innovation lab launched the BRAC Innovation Fund for Mobile Money. The challenge fund was an opportunity for us to think ‘digitally,’ and explore the potential of mobile money to innovate and improve BRAC’s work.
On a recent trip to Bangladesh, one question kept pestering me: if mobile bank accounts are so good for the poor, why haven’t they adopted them already? After all, financial products and services for the poor have the potential to improve lives, but only if they are actually adopted and used.
There is a lot of optimism and speculation about how mobile money can improve the lives of the poor. For BRAC, the success of an intervention is judged not only by its impact, but whether it can be scaled nationally. In order to do that, initiatives have to be frugal—which is why frugal innovation is at the heart of BRAC’s culture. If we didn’t keep our costs low, we wouldn’t be able to impact 120 million people. With the importance of this in mind, the social innovation lab has made hosting Frugal Innovation Forums an annual event.
Mobile money is creating new ways to work with the poor and help them manage their money. Already in four countries, there are more mobile money accounts than bank accounts. Innovative development approaches are appearing around the world. Bangladesh is the fastest growing mobile money market in the world, and organisations like Oxfam, FHI 360, Chars Livelihood Programme and others are experimenting with it.
Last week I wrote about mobile phones and the potential for unbanked and poor households to benefit from digital financial services, as an introduction to topics that we’ll explore on Day 1 in the upcoming Frugal Innovation Forum: Scaling Digitally. Day 2 will bring yet another exciting and urgent topic—data.
As if that’s not enough, there will be substantial growth in the number of people online. Google is hoping to create access for 50 million women in India alone. Most of this won’t be through computers. The “one laptop per child” mantra has given way to a “one affordable, probably made-in-china smart phone per child” approach.
Bangladesh is a recent entrant into branchless banking – deployments only began in earnest in the middle of 2011. CGAP reviewed the first year of branchless banking (referred to as “mobile financial services” in Bangladesh) together with Bangladesh Bank up to March 2012.