A plan to provide 3 million poor people in Africa and South Asia with their own mobile numbers and identities could promote banking and health initiatives in both regions. About 75 percent of the potential beneficiaries of the scheme are women. Participants are given their own mobile numbers rather than the current arrangement of having to share a number with the rest of their family or neighbours. This means they are free to log in at any mobile phone to make or receive private calls, as well as accessing other services including mobile payment systems and health information. The scheme is the brainchild of a UK technology firm called Movirtu. The company does not say how much it will charge for the new service but does describe it as being “low cost."
The company says it will introduce the service to at least 12 countries in Africa and South Asia by early 2013. A minimum of 50 million people across both continents will have access to the technology and be potential beneficiaries. Movirtu has a target of 3 million using the scheme on a regular basis. It is currently trialling the service with local operator Airtel in Madagascar.
The scheme is a contribution to the Business Call to Africa (BCtA) initiative that encourages companies to adopt inclusive business models that enhance development as well as pursue commercial success. The BCtA initiative is supported by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) among other international organisations. Gaining access to mobile communications is a means “of improving lives and expanding the earning potential of one billion people living on US$1-2 a day,” said Amanda Gardiner (pictured), BCtA acting program manager.
Movirtu has developed cloud-based technology that ties identity to individual users rather than devices, so opening a potential new market for mobile operators in serving poor, rural communities.