All things ICT and mobile germane to the base of the pyramid

Three Steps to Jumpstart Mobile Finance: Step 1 – Researching smallholders’ financial behavior to help them transition to mobile payments

Editor’s note: This is the first of a three-part series that will run this month, laying out three steps for embedding mobile money into agriculture development at the BoP. Click here for part two and part three. Something exciting is happening in agriculture – and in mobile money. Upcoming research by The Technical Centre for Agriculture and Rural Cooperation (CTA) will reveal that there is a race among large commodity buyers to have the fastest speed of payments to their smallholder farmers. At CTA’s recent Revolutionising Finance for Agri-Value Chains conference in Nairobi, the GSMA – the apex organization for 850+ mobile network operators worldwide – agreed, declaring that transitioning payments to farmers from cash to mobile is a huge opportunity for mobile financial service providers. Other organizations such as Rockefeller Foundation, MasterCard Foundation and USAID are also looking at this intersection of agriculture and mobile money. Last year, USAID even committed to including language in all its grant and contract solicitations to accelerate the use of mobile and electronic payments globally. It’s becoming increasingly clear that cash payment schemes are obsolete in the 21st century. By definition they present a value chain efficiency gap deserving of a designed intervention...
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Three Steps to Jumpstart Agriculture Mobile Payments: Step 3 – Overcoming farmers’ illiteracy, financial illiteracy and lack of trust

ditor’s note: This is the final post in a three-part series that began two weeks ago, laying out three steps for embedding mobile money into agriculture development at the BoP. Click here for part one and part two. The first and second blogs respectively introduced the need to conduct behavioral research into how people use cash as a preamble to forming strategic alliances, and some suggestions on how to form and manage those partnerships. The third step, as I detail in this post, considers the need to overcome illiteracy, financial illiteracy and, perhaps most importantly, a lack of trust by embedding mobile payments by large buyers to farmers into agricultural value chains. Farmers are often unable to read and/or are unfamiliar with the numerous forms required to open bank accounts. They usually live nowhere near a financial institution and, in many other respects, have been otherwise disenfranchised from formal economic activity for generations. Nevertheless, research has shown a consistent pattern of interest on the part of farmers to learn how to receive and send mobile money. Herein lies an opportunity for the agricultural partner in a strategic alliance to leverage its status as a trusted intermediary to promote awareness and...
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2015 – The Breakout Year for Agriculture Digital Payments?

A robust foundation has been built since mobile money began in 2007, and it seems digital payments will continue to gain traction in 2015. The closing plenary by Bill Gates at the October 2014 SIBOS conference for 7,000 financial industry professionals worldwide was about the potential of digital finance to promote financial inclusion, reduce poverty and promote women’s empowerment. And according to the GSMA’s State of the Industry report, there were 219 live mobile money platforms in 2013. By October 2014, this number had already increased to 251, with over 100 more in the pipeline. But for digital finance to really expand throughout Africa, MENA, Asia and Latin America this year, it needs greater uptake in rural areas. And though it ’s being used to facilitate transactions for health care, education, clean cookstoves, water, solar power and lanterns, and any number of financial products, the only sector with the transactional volume to economically justify the creation of this new payments channel at scale in rural areas is agriculture. Therefore, to leverage the potential of agriculture as a gateway to serving other village-level mobile finance needs, we must think about how best to strategically insert digital finance into the agriculture value...
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Target Market Segmentation and Education: Comparing agriculture digital payments systems

In 2007, the same year that the pioneering M-Pesa in Kenya was launched, another, lesser-known digital payments system was started in Colombia. In partnership with the Colombian Coffee Growers Federation, the Bank of Bogota launched Cedula, a smartcard digital payments initiative that was meant to be a digital channel through which the federation would pay its 574,000 coffee farmers for their beans. A traditional agriculture cooperative, the federation provides agriculture extension services (knowledge transfer) and technical assistance as well as purchases coffee beans on behalf of its coffee farmers – the pride of Colombia’s agricultural economy. A key function of the federation – or any agriculture cooperative – is the transfer of knowledge to farmers about good agriculture practices in a wide range of areas, including better production quantity/quality, better post-harvest handling, agriculture marketing and much more. Within its scope as an agriculture cooperative, the federation sought to leverage the membership ID card of member farmers by partnering with the Bank of Bogota and converting it to the Cedula magnetic strip smartcard. The federation deserves credit for its visionary pursuit of this digital payments mechanism that it initiated in 2007 – the same year that the pioneering M-Pesa in Kenya...
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A Comprehensive ICT4D mHub Platform?

I had the pleasure of participating in and being a lunch table discussion leader for the recent ICT4AG conference here is Washington D.C. As I’ve reflected on the various presentations and coffee break conversations it seems that we can imagine what might be the next generation of ICT4AG or more broadly ICT4D. Currently there are numerous applications/functionalities but they are not synced with each other. So perhaps the next generation will be a comprehensive mHub type of platform that is multi-sectoral (e.g. agriculture, health, education, etc.) and multi-functional.  This is an expansion of what was a formal outcome of another ICT4AG conference in Kigali, Rwanda in November 2013.  That conference  imagined that the next generation of ICT4AG would be a comprehensive platform(s) that includes multiple agriculture functionalities that align with each other. Such type of comprehensive platform for multi-sectoral and economically viable mobile money and mobile solution functionalities for rural communities will be a manifestation of the vision in the Gates Annual Letter 2015 that “the lives of people in poor countries will improve faster in the next 15 years than at any other time in history.”  If we accept this notion of an eventual aggregation of all these wonderful ICT/mobile...
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