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Bridging the Mobile Divide
Three million people living in poverty in Africa and South Asia, around 75 percent of them women will gain access to their low-cost mobile telephone identities (cloud phones) by early 2013 through an initiative of a United Kingdom-based technology firm, Movirtu.
Instead of sharing a phone number with family members or neighbors, those provided with a Movirtu cloud phone number can use any mobile phone to log in with their own unique number to make and receive individual calls and access critical information and services such as banking or agriculture support.
With cloud phones, users will access network applications that provide information about employment opportunities, promote access to mobile payment systems or banking services, and help keep users up-to-date on a variety of health and market topics.
Through this initiative, Movirtu plans to bring this patented technology to at least 12 markets in Africa and South Asia by 2013, giving at least 50 million people in both continents access to the technology, with a target of three million using it on a regular basis.
Women in rural communities in South Asia and sub-Saharan African will be the main beneficiaries of Movirtu's investment. Low-income women in these regions are up to 21 percent less likely to have mobile phone access than a man, according to global mobile operator association GSMA. Movirtu's cloud phones will help approximately 2.4 million women close that gap and gain access to private mobile identities.
On average, Movirtu phone customers save an estimated US$60 a year on phone charges incurred from shared phones.
As of June 2011, over 8,000 points of sale had access to the Movirtu cloud phone in Madagascar. On August 1, 2011, the program was fully launched in Madagascar alongside NGO partners. Additional country launches in Africa and South Asia will be announced later this year.