Though there has been a lot of talk and media coverage about the tremendous potential mobile payments offer to the poor, underbanked and financially disenfranchised around the world–minus a few bright spots (M-Pesa) the progress of mobile in bridging the gap between the banked and unbanked has been slow going.
Bill Gates wants to see that process go faster, and is putting his (foundation’s) money where his mouth is.
According a post on the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation website, the organization is launching the Grand Challenges Explorations series of grants aimed at increasing financial access and inclusion for the poor. Specifically, the program is bent on adding value to mobile for poor and low income people by enabling universal acceptance of mobile money among small merchants and service providers.
“Specifically, we are looking for your ideas on how to promote universal acceptance of mobile money among small merchants and local providers of services to the poor—or to put it plainly, how can we make digital transactions as simple as they could possibly be? How can we enable local merchants, schools and health clinics to transition from accepting only cash to also accepting digital payments? If we can enable local merchants, schools and clinics to easily start accepting digital payments, it could have a major impact for financial inclusion across the developing world.”
The foundations says that the world as it now is offers the poor and low-income a broken system for addressing their finacial needs, and that this system is becoming more broken as the financial world is becoming increasingly digitally based.