Grameen Foundation and eBay Foundation – A Mobile Commerce Approach to Poverty Alleviation
Tuesday, September 18, 2012
The simple idea that people can improve their livelihoods when provided with the right tools and opportunities has been transformative in developed and emerging markets alike. A simple and widely available tool — the mobile phone — is creating substantial impact in the developing world, changing the lives of low-income individuals, especially in rural communities. Cellphone use has experienced its greatest growth in emerging markets, where much of the community has bypassed traditional land-line telephones. Today, six billion mobile phones are being used throughout the world, with approximately 75 percent of users living in developing countries. Mobile technology provides unparalleled opportunities to break the cycle of poverty by providing access to markets, information, financial services and viable business opportunities that were previously unavailable.
Not only is the pervasiveness of cell phones striking in the developing world, but so too is the way they are being used. Consider Indonesia, where 80 percent of the population uses a cell phone and 96 percent of those users text regularly — even though nearly 75 percent of citizens live on less than $2.50 per day. Many people in rural Indonesia are embracing mobile technology as a strategic business tool. Farmers are now able to access information about weather conditions and market pricing for their cash crops, the unemployed can search for job opportunities electronically, and the unbanked can engage in secure financial transactions. In this way, mobile phones are empowering users to gain control of often volatile financial conditions, particularly in informal markets.
Recognizing the opportunity offered by this technology, Grameen Foundation and eBay Foundation began working together this summer to build solutions that address market challenges facing microentrepreneurs in Indonesia. Our joint effort will support Grameen Foundation’s Mobile Microfranchise initiative, which currently works with a network of more than 10,000 women microentrepreneurs, heavily concentrated in the West Java region. A 2010 study found that 47 percent of participants in the Mobile Microfranchise program doubled their income by their fourth month of participation.