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May 18, 2012 - Worldwide, mobile phone subscriptions have reached 5.9 billion, with 79 percent penetration in developing countries. Mobile phones are no longer used only to stay connected, they allow low-income people to gain access to health information, agricultural data, banking services, employment and educational opportunities.
On May 3, the Business Call to Action, Business Fights Poverty and Business Action for Africa brought together Seema Desai, Director and Claire Penicaud, Coordinator, GSMA Development Fund's Mobile Money for the Unbanked Programme (MMU), Karin Svingby, Director Projects & Partnerships, Sustainability and Corporate Responsibility, Ericsson, and Richard Leftley, President and Chief Executive Officer, MicroEnsure for a webinar discussion about how mobile technology empowers people. Watch the full webinar here.
Seema Desai and Claire Penicaud opened the discussion by providing an overview of the work of the GSMA Development Fund and the Mobile Money for the Unbanked Programme (MMU). The MMU recently conducted a survey of the mobile money industry, which found that mobile money deployments have gone up from 17 to 123 since 2009, with over 60 million registered users as of June 2011. Ms. Desai outlined some of the barriers to reaching scale in mobile money deployments including operational hurdles, securing up-front investment, as well as navigating financial regulation structures. She also discussed the need to broaden the types of services offered through mobile technology. We see that predominantly person to person money transfers is a common product , but there is certainly an opportunity to extend the range of services to meet more of the financial needs of unbanked customers such as savings, microinsurance, and microcredit. Watch GSMA's presentation. Access the PowerPoint and the recently released Mobile Money Adoption Survey Report.
In her presentation, Karin Svingby offered a unique perspective from Ericsson's work on employing mobile technology at the base of the economic pyramid. Ericsson provides communication networks, and it services mobile operating companies such as Safaricom and MTN. Forty percent of the world's mobile calls pass through Ericsson's networks, enabling the company to promote affordable access to telecom and improve access to healthcare, education, and finance through commercially sustainable initiatives. We support and take the risk with mobile operators to see how we can build sustainable business cases by expanding into offering services fit for the user segment and we also show governments what value can be delivered using the commercial networks.Ms. Svingby provided an overview of some of Ericsson's projects such as Connect to Learn, which provides access to education services through cloud technology and broadband connectivity. Another Ericsson project, Refugees United, works in partnership with UNHCR to help reconnect refugees with their families. Watch Ms. Svingby's presentation. Access the PowerPoint.
Richard Leftley, the CEO of insurance intermediary MicroEnsure, gave an overview of MicroEnsure's business model, which has proven successful in providing life and health insurance for low-income people in Africa and is being expanded to Asia. Access to insurance among the poor has grown from 70 million in 2007 to over 500 million currently. MicroEnsure services 4 million clients with 200,000 additional users each month. We (MicroEnsure) see insurance, or the provision of insurance as a safety net that stops people from sliding back into poverty, but if we look at the data we see that a very small number of people in the developing world really buy insurance a quarter of people who go into hospital in India are above the poverty line, and when they come out they are below. Mr. Leftley outlined two MicroEnsure programs which work through partnerships with mobile operators MTN and Tigo, and also discussed the importance of developing consumer trust in the provision of microinsurance products. Watch Mr. Leftley's presentation. Access the PowerPoint.