The critical role of the mobile phone in alleviating poverty

As the World Bank recognises the importance of remittances in the global fight against poverty, one Irish start-up offers powerful alternative – mobile phone remittances.

Dublin, Ireland, 3rd May 2015 - A recent report by the World Bank reinforces the importance of migration and remittances to the global economy. By allowing people move to where they can be more productive, migration ultimately results in increased output and income in both origin and destination countries. The report states that remittances can reduce the severity of poverty in a variety of ways including higher capital accumulation, greater health and education expenditures, improve access to formal financial sector services and enhanced small business investment.

With the development of mobile technology and the ever-increasing access to handsets across the emerging world, the mobile phone plays an important role in amplifying the overall impact of remittances. Back in 2006, Irish entrepreneur Mark Roden recognised that the ability to transfer credit directly on to mobile phones abroad would be a convenient, safe complement to traditional money remittance and one that could have an exceptionally positive impact on the lives of the receivers.

“A topped-up mobile phone enables better access to information and communication technologies which empowers the individual and drives improved productivity, more entrepreneurship and better preparedness for natural disasters or epidemic outbreaks,” say Roden

Connected to 4 billion phones across 130 countries, there are numerous ways in which Ding is being used to make a difference to people’s lives. There is Uriana, a 39 year old mother in rural Nicaragua who is totally cut off from modern day communications. Her sister in the US uses to send top-up to Uriana’s phone ensuring she gets the most out of it. When asked, Uriana confirmed that while being able to communicate is key, the best thing about receiving credit is that it allows her use Google to help her daughter with her homework.

Then there is Marvin, an aid worker with ActionAid Liberia who uses Ding to top-up phones of the field workers ensuring they can communicate, a critical lifeline during outbreaks such as Ebola. “The top-up goes a long way to help us obtain and share useful information – allowing us regularly call hospitals and update others in rural regions on vital medical information,” Marvin says.

Haiti Projects is a not-for-profit organisation focused on empowering women in rural Haiti. Partnering with Ding, they use top-up as a reward to boost productivity at the organisation’s sewing co-op as well as an incentive for women to keep vital appointments at their Family Planning clinics. “In a country such as Haiti, ensuring another generation is not born into poverty is critical for ongoing development. By incentivising women to keep their appointments, we are protecting the Haiti’s future generation and giving these women top-up, something that is so empowering in their daily lives,” says Cherie Miot Abbanat CEO of Haiti Projects.