MWC 09: Gates' cash means mobile payments for all

Bill and Melinda Gates have pledged $12.5 million to extending mobile phone payments to the ‘unbanked.’

Mobile payments are being heralded as the next big thing that will revolutionise how we pay for goods around the world, however, until now not much has been done for those who are not necessarily so advanced in basic phone usage, or indeed those without bank accounts.

Today, at the Mobile World Congress event in Barcelona, efforts were made to redress the balance. The GSMA and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation have pledged their collective support to ensure that mobile payments can become a reality for both those in developed and developing countries, both the banked and so-called unbanked.

A $12.5 million funding injection from the foundation will certainly go some way towards helping their philanthropic Mobile Money for the Unbanked (MMU) programme succeed.

The programme will work in unison with mobile players, financial institutions such as banks, governments and development organisations to make mobile financial services an affordable reality for everyone.

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"There are over one billion people in emerging markets today who don't have a bank account but do have a mobile phone," said the GSMA's chief executive and member of the board Rob Conway, in a statement.

"This represents a huge opportunity and mobile operators are perfectly placed to bring mobile financial services to this largely untapped consumer base."

The foundation's investment falls under its umbrella Financial Services for the Poor initiative.

"Traditional financial services are often too costly and inconvenient for people who earn less than $2 a day to obtain, and too expensive for banks to provide," said Bob Christen, director of the Financial Services for the Poor initiative at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, in a statement.

"Technology like mobile phones is making it possible to bring low-cost, high-quality financial services to millions of people in the developing world so they can manage life's risks and build financial security."

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