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We Can Create Business Opportunities and Alleviate Poverty with Mobile

Research has shown that 2.5 billion people do not have access to financial services and approximately 900 million people are living on less than $1.25 per day. These are just two of several reasons Qualcomm Wireless Reach™ has been working closely with Grameen Foundation in Indonesia, Hapinoy in the Philippines, and others around the world to develop projects that use mobile tools to increase incomes and alleviate poverty.

I recently had the pleasure of speaking alongside Christopher “Happy” Tan, CEO of Grameen Foundation in Asia, at a conference sponsored by the US Chamber of Commerce, the Indonesian embassy in Washington, DC, and AmCham Indonesia. We shared how we are “capturing the entrepreneurial spirit by empowering human capital” through our Mobile Microfranchising and Application Laboratory (AppLab) programs in Indonesia.

The Mobile Microfranchising project is based on an innovative and business-oriented model where local small-business entrepreneurs, mostly women, use a microfinance loan to purchase a pre-packaged kit that includes a mobile phone with apps and services they can sell. So far, the project has recorded more than 15,000 entrepreneurs who have served more than 1.5 million unique customers. And, showing a significant impact, an estimated 47 percent of the entrepreneurs who stayed in the portfolio for more than four months have moved above the poverty line—defined by the World Bank as US$2.50 per day. To extend the availability of the AppLab suite to more people in Indonesia, we have also worked with local operators to make the apps commercially available through phones sold at their stores.

Looking beyond entrepreneurship, we have also been working with Grameen Foundation to identify other areas that can have a positive impact on those at the base of the pyramid. Without access to banking facilities, people cannot learn to manage their finances, or sustain a business properly, making it difficult to break out of the poverty cycle. However, with mobile broadband becoming a primary method of Internet access, mobile banking is becoming a viable solution to this challenge. Many would be surprised to learn that 80 percent of the world’s mobile money transactions are taking place in the emerging region of East Africa.

In the Philippines, we are also collaborating with Hapinoy, a local social enterprise, to train mothers to become village shop owners and learn how to complete mobile money transactions while meeting compliance and liquidity requirements. By providing this service to the community, these shop owners have the potential to generate additional revenue for themselves and are also helping members of the community save on time and transaction costs by offering competitive rates and a service in their local area.

We see how innovative 3G wireless technologies can facilitate entrepreneurship and empower people to pull themselves out of poverty. Together with other project collaborators, we are combining knowledge, experience and technology to provide those at the base of the pyramid with the products and services needed to manage their finances and grow their businesses—and we look forward to continuing to do so.

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