GSMA and Gates Foundation Partner to Expand Mobile Banking in Developing Countries

mobile-banking-3The interest in mobile banking in developing countries has seen an exponential increase in recent years.

Why? Because, especially among African nations, it represents perhaps the perfect business opportunity – the confluence of the ubiquity of mobile phone subscribers and the fact that many yet do not own bank accounts. That notwithstanding, there’s the increasing need for financial transactions to occur in a secure, real-time and low-cost fashion.

To this end, the GSM Association and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation are working together under the Mobile Money for the Unbanked (MMU) Program to “fund regulatory and market research to help overcome some of the barriers of providing these services and demonstrate the business case for serving this market”.

I think once such a business case is made to banking regulators, the process of approval for mobile service providers to provide these services may be hastened because they won’t feel like they’re groping in the dark in this new policy area.

Once the regulatory hurdles are surmounted, the onus will be on mobile network operators to provide value-added services and focus on service delivery.

The Case for Technology Localization

Technology LocalizationWire James Lunghabo, of Linux Solutions Uganda and ICT Translations Uganda [registered but no site], makes a compelling case for localization of technology and why it should be considered as one of the forefront issues that is a barrier to adoption of technology, particularly in the rural communities.

A number of telecentres in Uganda have either closed or are on their deathbed as a result of this very issue. When you get the top of the range PCs and take them to a community that is hardly literate in English, what do you expect? People naturally get intimidated by any new technology and will require all sorts of incentives to adapt to it.

Read the complete article.

Africa’s Undersea Fiber Projects: Will They Materialize?

underseacables

There are four major fiber cable projects under construction targeting Eastern and Southern Africa:

  • EASSy (The East African Submarine Cable System) a 9,900 km undersea cable to stretch from South Africa all the way to Sudan.
  • TEAMS (The East African Marine System) to run from Fujairah in the UAE to Mombasa in Kenya.
  • RELIANCE (The Kenya Data Network Cable) to provide a link between Yemen, Mombasa and later South Africa,
  • SEACOM marine cable system to provide connectivity between South Africa, Madagascar, Mozambique, Tanzania, Kenya, India and Europe.

The multiplicity of Africa’s fiber cable projects has raised the hopes of many, including myself, that the ubiquity of high capacity, low cost internet bandwidth will bolster ICT-for-development initiatives in the continent.

So now the question is whether these projects will actually materialize; and if so, in what time frame?

An AfricaNext Investment Research report suggests that there are “too many” cable projects in progress, that at least 4 out of 10 of which probably won’t materialize due to a lack of adequate secured funding in these difficult economic times,¬† major Service Provider and/or Government support.

Unfortunately, the political wrangling and posturing plaguing some of the projects, for instance EASSy, is well documented (Google’s O3B v. EASSy v. NEPAD).

TEAMS is expected to be completed first, within the first quarter of 2009. According to the President of SEACOM, Brian Herlihy, the project is slated for completion on June 17th, 2009. EASSy if projected for mid-2010. Will they stay on schedule?