Photo by Matthieu Young / Creative Commons

Photo by Matthieu Young / Creative Commons

MOBILE. Phones that is. It has changed our lives and the lives of people everywhere. By 2014, the number of mobile phones worldwide is expected to exceed the number of people. However, that does not mean everyone owns a mobile phone. Some individuals have more than one, while others have zero. And only one billion people have mobile broadband, which provides more opportunities for people, even in the most remote areas, to enhance healthcare, commerce, safety and food security. 

MONEY. Two billion more people have mobile phones than have bank accounts. I believe mobile phones – in particular mobile money – will produce a bigger impact on global prosperity, security and hunger reduction than even the hugely successful Green Revolution. Whether it is rapidly establishing a commercially viable mobile money system in Haiti within months after the earthquake destroyed much of the physical banking infrastructure to working with Indonesia to get the regulatory policies right, we identified the key places in the world where mobile money was instrumental in relief and development. We even went into war zones like Afghanistan to get more Afghan police officers, soldiers and teachers to get their salary on their mobile phone instead of having sticking fingers grab a piece before it got to them. Take a look at the scrappy entrepreneurial approach we used to help tip global and safe mobile adoption. We worked with regulators, elected officials, global banks and mobile money start-ups, multilateral agencies as well as global and supply chain companies.

While at USAID, we were the first bilateral assistance agency in the world to establish a division dedicated to mobile. We knew that if donors, companies and social entrepreneurs wanted to accelerate success, they would have to embrace mobile. With Priya Jaisinghani leading the team we focused on mobile money (wallets), access and mobile data services (e.g. farming, health, impact evaluation, etc.). And we worked with all parts of USAID, other AID donors, non-governmental and companies to 'mobile-enable'- their mainstream services and payments. 


 Photo Credit: Center for Global Development

Photo Credit: Center for Global Development

ACCESS. We knew that mobile access was not only key to getting everyone the opportunities to start business, garner health information, signal danger, but also improve free and fair elections, including stability for democratic reforms. Key partnerships conceived by Cherie Blair and her Foundation to close the mobile ownership gap for women that we completed and co-founding the Alliance for Affordable Internet are some examples. Read about how we worked with top global U.S. companies to help get digital literacy and infrastructure in place in Burma, knowing those were essential if the reforms were to become irreversible. 

DATA SERVICES. In the U.S. or England it can help us find a local restaurant or our next hike location, but in the developing world, it can help a farmer know the exact day they should plant or harvest their crop or even what market prices are, so middlemen can’t swindle them. In September 2014, Minister Ngozi at a UNICEF/UNGA forum pointed out the central role mobile phones played at the outset of the Ebola crisis in Nigeria, the most populous country not only in West Africa, but on the whole continent to become ‘Ebola-free.’ They utilized a critical two-way health communication system, reaching people throughout the country. The Economist urges the use of mobile phone call record data to track Ebola, pointing to the gigantic value it had in tracking malaria Kenya and cholera in Haiti. Farming and health are but two examples of power of mobile data.  

The mobile revolution has just begun. And it is transforming people’s lives and future opportunities. 


Want to learn more?

Watch this video on how mobile banking can transform development.