Malawi dials E-Currency party line

In mid-September, users of Malawi’s Telecom Networks (TNM) received a text message saying “With TNM you can now recharge your friends mobile using TNM directtop up service. Just use the following command: *112*phonenumber*recharge pin*. Its that easy”

Whatdoes this mean? Well, TNM users, for the most part, are on apay-as-you-go system–when you need more minutes, you buy scratch-offcards with a code to punch in for additional credit. TNM has alsolong-offered a service that allows cell phone owners to refill theircalling card credits by sending a simple text message. But now,following in the path of Smart Communications and WIZZIT e-currency paths–(You can check out the Digital Dividends case study from last summer on Smart Communications)– TNM also allows people to use textmessages to send credits to other users.? Emeka Okafor blogs that the next step should be the abillity to send unlimited credits.

Nextbillion’s Rob Katz recently posted his opinion that phone-banking is useful but has a major problem: the taxes on mobile ownership in many developping countries are very high.? I agree that is a serious flaw.? However, it should eventually make sense to tax these phone owners– since the idea behind cheap phones and banking services is to give the BOP access to communication and the global marketplace, and ideally, increase wealth.