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I’ve seen the future (in Haiti)

Haiti, December 4, 2010

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Nick Kristof

New York Times
December, 2010

Cash is so 20th century. I’ve been experimenting with a 21st-century alternative, using money on a cellphone account to buy goods in shops. It’s a bit like using a credit card, but the system can also enable you to use your cellphone account to transfer money to individuals or companies domestically or internationally. And it’s more secure because a thief would have to steal not only your phone but also your PIN to get access to your money.

... Mercy Corps, through a United States government-financed program, is providing food for people here in St.-Marc who have taken in earthquake survivors. The standard method would be to hand out bags of rice, or vouchers. Instead, Mercy Corps will be pushing a button once a month, and $40 will automatically go into each person’s cellphone savings account — redeemable at local merchants for rice, corn flour, beans or cooking oil.

“It doesn’t get any cooler than this,” said Kokoévi Sossouvi, the Mercy Corps program manager. She’s right — and the technology isn’t just cool, but could be a breakthrough in chipping away at global poverty. ...