Two weeks ago, the impressive glass house of the CCD venue in Dublin hosted the TMF conference, an annual event that brings together the great and good of the global telco world. Global business leaders, service and product innovators, and world-class engineers gathered to mingle and talk shop. However, the forum’s real stage is for engineers and technicians to share their knowledge. They, after all, are the ones on the front lines determining the policies and procedures that will assure the delivery of the unstoppable growth of communication.
There are now more than 1 billion people around the world who have mobile phones but no bank accounts. It is is therefore not surprising that Mobile Financial Services have been hailed as an effective means for providing the unbanked population in emerging markets with access to essential financial services. Providers like M-Pesa in Kenya or M-Paisa in Afghanistan (researched on the ground by frog executive creative director Jan Chipchase) have gained traction and are considered to be potentially groundbreaking “reverse” innovations that could also inspire business models in developed markets where Mobile Financial Services are on the rise, too (nearly 30 million Americans accessed financial services accounts through their mobile phones in the fourth quarter of 2010, a 54% rise on the same period the previous year, according to comScore). But how widespread is the adoption of these services really among “the unbanked”?