Foundations Announce Mobile Health, Banking Initiatives

The United Nations, Vodafone (NYSE: VOD), and the Rockefeller Foundation’s mHealth Alliance has banded together with the intention of uniting existing mobile health projects, aiming to guide governments, NGOs and mobile firms on how they can save lives in the developing world. UN/Vodafone Foundation Partnership head Claire Thwaites said that the alliance is “looking at scaling up and bringing governments together with NGOs and corporations, and it will commission pretty rigorous research on what the market opportunity is for mHealth, answering the question: why should a business get involved in this area?” reports the BBC. Showing a value proposition to network operators could bring together individual, small-scale efforts into something larger. It not just phones, either: “In South Africa, the SIMpill project integrated a sensor-equipped medicine bottle with a SIM card, ensuring that healthcare workers were advised if patients were not taking their tuberculosis medicine…The percentages of people keeping up with their medicine rocketed from 22 percent to 90 percent.”

Another big problem is finance, which is being tackled by the GSMA and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The Mobile Money for the Unbanked (MMU) will start with a $12.5 million grant from the foundation and work with mobile operators, banks, microfinance institutions, government and development organizations to encourage the expansion of reliable, affordable mobile financial services to the unbanked. The main target is the billlion or so people in emerging markets who have a mobile phone but not a bank account. The programme includes $5 million to “catalyse a new wave of mobile money innovation, encouraging mobile network operators to create new services for previously unbanked people in emerging markets”. About 20 projects will be supported, focusing on Africa, Asia and Latin America with the goal of reaching 20 million previously unbanked people by 2012. (release)

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