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Paying teacher salaries with mobile phones

Michael Trucano's picture

no worries, everything here and orderly and under control, all money is being accounted for in a clear and timely mannerI often find that a sure way to generate rather heated discussions in many quarters is to bring up the topic of teacher salaries. They're too low! or: They're too high! They should be linked to [insert some sort of 'performance indicator']! or: Attempts to link them to [insert name of a performance indicator] are misguided (and perhaps even dangerous)!

I'll leave it to others more informed and expert than I am to weigh in on such (often quite contentious) debates. However one might approach such discussions, and whatever conclusions one might draw from them, there isn't a lot of debate about one issue related to teacher salaries that has been well documented, and widely (and rightly) deplored.

Many teachers around the world suffer as a result of poorly-functioning systems to pay the salaries [pdf] they are due [ppt]. This is especially problematic, and notable, given that teacher salaries have for many decades constituted huge percentages of the overall education budgets in many countries. As a World Bank publication from a few years ago (Teachers for Rural Schools : Experiences in Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Tanzania, and Uganda) laments, "Teachers in remote schools are [compared with their colleagues in more urban areas] more likely to be the direct victims of administrative failures, which undermine teacher morale and damage the system. One frequently mentioned administrative failure is the delay in paying teachers’ salaries and allowances." An 'administrative failure' of this sort can have many causes. Even where sufficient budget exists to pay teachers, flawed teacher salary systems, poor internal controls, logistical challenges related to transport, and corruption can conspire to ensure that in many places, especially in rural areas in poor countries, teacher salaries are sometimes paid only infrequently, often with great delay. The results of this can be devastating for education systems -- to say nothing of the impact on individual teachers, schools, students and local communities.

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Back when I worked with the World Bank's infoDev program, one of my responsibilities was to serve as a point person on 'mobile money' issues, briefing groups on emerging lessons and experiences from nascent activities to use mobile phones to transfer money from one person to another. I left infoDev in 2008, just as activities in this regard were really starting to heat up (Kenya's M-Pesa program, the best known 'mobile money success story', launched in 2007), but continued to meet semi-regularly with folks -- colleagues from the World Bank and other international donor agencies, government officials, NGOs and foundations, businesspeople, researchers -- who were interesting in exploring how new mobile payment options might be used in inventive ways to help address some longstanding developmental challenges. (Those totally new to the topic may benefit from watching this short video from CGAP, which demonstrates how mobile money activities look in practice.) Most of these conversations, as it happens, included considerations of how money transfers via mobile phones might be used to ensure that teachers got paid, in full and on time. As I prepare for a trip next week to the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, I realize haven't fielded one substantive information request related to this topic in the past three years.

Up until about 2010, I met quite often with groups who were looking for creative ways to help address the 'paying salaries to teachers in rural areas challenge' and who had seized on the idea of taking advantage of the increasing ubiquity of mobile phones in such areas to help fashion some sort of 'solution'.  In the last three years, however, the volume around these sorts of discussions in many quarters has almost died out. Part of this might be explained by the fact that there are now many 'experts' on mobile money issues, people much more expert and well informed than I am about related issues, and so I simply might be 'out of the loop'. (Back in the 'early days' of work on this topic, I could never shake the nagging feeling that the reason that I was approached by so many groups for related information and advice was at least partially a result of the 'in the valley of the blind, the one-eyed man is king' phenomenon.) That said, given that a regular part of my daily work at the World Bank is to field questions related to the use of new technologies in education in all sorts of ways around the world, and that a lot of my job isn't so much about in providing answers, but about helping people formulate better questions, the fact that this question seems no longer to be a topic of much discussion makes me wonder:

Whatever happened to the idea of paying teacher salaries with mobile phones?

Weekly Wire: The Global Forum

Kalliope Kokolis's picture

These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.

Twitter Angling For More International Users
Tech President

“Twitter is following Facebook and Google's lead in creating an avenue for feature or "dumb" phone users to access their service, even without an Internet connection. They have partnered with the Singapore-based company U2opia Mobile, Reuters reports. Chief executive and co-founder of U2opia Mobile, Sumesh Menon, told Reuters that they will launch the Twitter service next year. U2opia Mobile already helps more than 11 million people access Facebook and Google Talk through their Fonetwish service without using data.”   READ MORE

Open government data emerging, trust in government declining
Internet Policy Review

“The use of open government data has declined since last year, a new study by the Initiative D21 and the Institute for Public Information Management (ipima) reported at a press conference in Berlin today. According to the fourth edition of the eGovernment Monitor, the number of users of eGovernment services in Sweden in 2013 was 53 percent, compared to 70 percent in 2012. On average, the decline was as high as 8 percent in those countries that were monitored. Numerous data breach scandals and the revelations about pervasive surveillance were obvious reasons for the heightened caution, the researchers wrote in their summary.”   READ MORE
 

Media (R)evolutions: How Many Kenyans Use Mobile Money?

Kalliope Kokolis's picture

New developments and curiosities from a changing global media landscape: People, Spaces, Deliberation brings trends and events to your attention that illustrate that tomorrow's media environment will look very different from today's, and will have little resemblance to yesterday's.

This week's Media (R)evolutions:  How Many Kenyans Use Mobile Money?

 

Bring in the tech nerds to help expand financial inclusion

Ignacio Mas's picture

(image: Sean Graham, Flickr Creative Commons)

It has become mainstream to think that digital technologies will have a significant role to play in addressing the financial inclusion challenge in developing countries. This may be so, but if all we in the financial inclusion community do is merely add the mobile phone (or the smart card) to our stock of dearly-held beliefs, we will accomplish little. Technology will not work additively; if technology-based models work it will be because they will have changed pretty much everything. I’m not saying that everything will change: I’m just saying that that should be the bet.

What’s Next for Mobile Money?

In recent years, mobile money has attracted sustained attention in ways that few other mobile services have. And for good reason: from East Africa to Pakistan, the Philippines and elsewhere, mobile money services are growing and diversifying into fields such as savings and insurance. Kenya-based M-PESA remains the global leader, and the benefits from increased market efficiency, consumer risk-sharing and third party utilizations are significant. But mobile money can no longer be considered an isolated phenomenon, and as it matures, a variety of new challenges and benefits will influence its developmental potential.

Mobile money is changing the financial landscape around the world. What's next? (Credit: Flickr Creative Commons, Gates Foundation)

Although it is notoriously difficult to make predictions about such a fast-moving and wide-ranging industry, in the new edition of Information & Communication for Development 2012, we highlight some emerging issues in mobile money that will likely become relevant in the upcoming years.

Weekly Wire: the Global Forum

Kalliope Kokolis's picture

These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.

International Center for Journalists
Digital Map to Track Corruption Launches in Colombia

“A new digital mapping tool to track and monitor corruption in Colombia on a national scale, launched July 24th a result of our partnership with the Consejo de Redacción, a country-wide organization of investigative journalists.

The "Monitor de Corrupción" (or "Corruption Monitor") will provide journalists and citizens a platform to submit reports that will expose and map incidents of corruption.

It’s a project I anticipate will contribute to making Colombia a more transparent and stronger society. The idea for this grew out of another similar project by Knight Fellow Jorge Luis Sierra.”  READ MORE 
 

Data Makes a Difference in Financial Inclusion

Leora Klapper's picture

These are exciting times in the world of financial inclusion. In the past few years, policymakers and private-sector leaders have made some bold and innovative moves to modernize financial infrastructures and expand financial access. Mobile money products have seen impressive growth in parts of Sub-Saharan Africa; bank agents are expanding access to underserved populations; and governments are increasingly disbursing payments via formal bank accounts.
Nevertheless, large challenges remains in the financial inclusion agenda: 76 percent of adults – almost 500 million people - in Sub-Saharan Africa remain outside the formal financial system and 36% of these unbanked report that having a formal account is too expensive. To continue moving forward we need to assess financial behavior and understand where the challenges and opportunities lie for the future. To do that, we need high-quality, multi-dimensional, comparable financial inclusion data.Savings groups are one of the ways people are saving money (Photo credit: mckaysavage, Flickr Creative Commons)

And so, in April the World Bank Development Research Group released the Global Findex, an individual-level dataset that measures how adults in 148 economies save, borrow, make payments, and manage risk. The Global Findex is just one of the foundations of the G20 Basic Set of Financial Inclusion Indicators that was formally proposed by the Global Partnership for Financial Inclusion (GPFI) in Los Cabos this week. 

Weekly Wire: the Global Forum

Kalliope Kokolis's picture

These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.

Mobile Media Toolkit
A Profound Media Shift in the Arab World

“A report from the Center for International Media Assistance analyzes the growth of digital media in the Arab region.

A new report from the Center for International Media Assistance (CIMA) highlights a profound media shift happening in the Arab world. Amidst continued repression and threats to free expression, both online and offline, this year saw tens of millions of individuals and news outlets using social and digital media tools to capture and share events. The full report is available here: Digital Media in the Arab World One Year After the Revolutions.”   READ MORE

Can mobile phones be used to "bank" the poor?

Gabriel Demombynes's picture

The phenomenal success of Kenya’s M-PESA system, which allows people to store and transfer funds via electronic accounts that they access via mobile phones, has raised hopes that mobile money may provide a way for the poor to access basic banking services. In an earlier post, I presented findings from my recent working paper with Aaron Thegeya, showing that a remarkable 73% of Kenyan adults use mobile money, and nearly a quarter use it every day

We also show that savings with a simple M-PESA account is common, with 2/3 of M-PESA users reporting that they save in some form with M-PESA. We see some mild evidence that M-PESA may increase savings: controlling for various characteristics, those who are registered for M-PESA are 32 percent more likely to report some savings activity.

Why do people save with M-PESA when it doesn’t pay interest?  A possible explanation comes from an experimental study on health savings (not involving M-PESA).  


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