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Yes, the iPhone is cool. But not as cool as mobile phone banking for the poor

Jim Rosenberg's picture

Okay, we're three days into the era of the iPhone. While my first-hand experience playing with one over the weekend was exciting (I'm intrigued but will keep my beat-up Treo 650 for awhile, thanks very much), there's another nascent development in cell phones that could potentially be a much bigger deal over time: mobile (cell) phone banking and its potential to increase access to financial services for poor people.

At CGAP, we're partnering with companies like Globe Telecom to explore how poor rural communities might be better served with appropriate, responsible services through mobile phones.  As this effort gets underway, we're also taking a look at how regulators in several countries, including the Philippines, are dealing with mobile phone banking.  Here are some highlights from our preliminary assessment of Pakistan's banking regulations when it comes to so-called branchless banking:

• Several mobile network operators (MNOs) have started developing concrete proposals to offer mobile phone payments and banking directly;

• Improving access to financial services features highly on the agenda of the Government of Pakistan;

• Key regulatory issues that may help "branchless banking" increase access to financial services are (a) allowing the use of agents (such as retail shops) outside bank branches; (b) easing account opening (both on-site and remotely) while maintaining adequate "know your customer" standards; and (c) permitting a range of players to participate in payment service provision and e-money issuance (especially MNOs), enabling innovation from multiple parties.

In addition to Pakistan, CGAP is working on similiar assessments in Brazil, India, Kenya, South Africa, the Philippines, and Russia. So, more to come...


Thanks for excellent info on the innovative use of mobile phones. We are an NGO based in India. We are running a global observatory and knowldge portal on use of mobile phones for delivering public services. The URL of the portal is Would like to know more on CGAP initiatives in the domain and also discuss the opportunities for collaboration. Vikas Kanungo Chairman - The Society for Promotion of e-Governance, India

Submitted by Farhad Madan on
Hi Jim, I work for a company called Utiba which provides the GCash platform to Globe Telecom (on which the various micro finance initiatives are deployed). I am in the India office. Utiba is already partnered with a telco in India and our platform is already used by a 500,000 strong retailer network. We have some ideas on how to leverage this platform to provide very real benefits to MFIs in India. Would love to discuss if you wish. My email ID is [email protected]

Submitted by John Owens on
If you would really like to see the power of how new electronic payment platforms can change the lives of people in developing countries when properly linked to private banks, just check out the new RBAP website at When banks get into the picture and link to mobile wallets, this simple mobile payment platform can be transformed and utilized to offer true banking services like deposits, withdrawals, loans, and money transfer services anywhere there is a mobile phone signal.

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