I will give you a short introduction to some of the projects I am working with here in Colombia. The first off is my precious baby, our mobile banking project.
In 2012 Estrategias Móviles will launch a project that will give more than 380.000 coffee farmers in Colombia access to banking services using their own mobile telephones. Mobile banking has for a long time been a hot topic in various countries in Africa and we are bringing it to Latin America.
The rural population in Colombia meets great economic challenges on a daily basis. The average income of a farmer is 140 USD, almost 3 times less than the average income of a person in a city. For many of them it is nearly impossible to get access to a bank account, even for those working on the coffee sector, one of the most important sectors in the country. Most of the 553.000 coffee farmers travel 4-6 hours every week to the nearest city only to do a withdrawal or cash in a check. The inconvenient cost them time, money, and also the carrying of cash has made them victims of robbery.
Estrategias Móviles, in cooperation with Movistar (local mobile operator), Banco de Bogota and the Coffee Growers Federation, plan to give farmers easy access to banking services using USSD, a technology that can be accessed from any phone, even without a data plan.
Picture of the main menu of the banking service, where the farmers can choose between the 8 different sub menus:
1. Check balance
2. Check purchases of fertilzer
3. Do a purchase
4. Do a withdrawal
5. Consult the coffee price
6. Consult last movements
7. Do a recharge on the cellphone
8. Change password (to enter the system)
The 384.000 families participating in the project will be able to check their balance while working in their farm, and also do withdrawals and buy farming products in the local store in their own village. They will get access to the market prices of coffee in the nearest areas to verify where they should sell their crops.
The project is a great example of how cellphones can be used as an important tool against poverty and injustice.
We are both excited and proud to be a part of this project, and we are sure that it will have a great social impact. Hopefully we will manage to launch the project in July, but my experience here in Colombia tells me that dates seldom are beeing held. But just to be clear, I will use ALL of my energy to try to launch it before I leave the country in the end of July. Let us cross our fingers!
Un abrazo desde Colombia!