Mobile money to help save lives in emergencies

Updated: Mar 25, 2021

World Food Programme
A mobile money humanitarian programme will deliver cash-based transfers to save lives in global emergencies. PHOTO: ImageCollab

An industry organisation representing mobile network operators worldwide and the World Food Programme (GFP) are expanding their partnership to help the world’s most vulnerable people through mobile money. The GSMA Mobile for Humanitarian Innovation programme, funded by the UK Department for International Development (DFID), will deliver digital assistance through cash-based transfers to save lives in global emergencies including pandemics and natural disasters in a three year collaboration. John Giusti, chief regulatory officer at GSMA, says as humanitarian crises become more frequent, complex and protracted, the need to devise services that are scalable, replicable and efficient for humanitarian organizations has become crucial. He says with over one billion mobile money accounts worldwide, the use of digital technology, specifically mobile money services, can provide the foundation for rapidly scaling cash transfers to safely and effectively deploy resources. Enrica Porcari, director of technology at WFP and chair of the Emergency Telecommunications Cluster (ETC), says he is delighted that five years into the relationship, the GSMA is expanding its work with WFP and the ETC. He says this will scale up mobile money use for humanitarian assistance through WFP’s cash-based transfer and beneficiary services management platform called SCOPE and will have an enduring impact on all those facing food insecurity. “As well as being fast and efficient, digital assistance offers better security, tracking, transparency and therefore accountability. It also boosts financial inclusion by offering vulnerable people access to a range of digital financial services and more flexible choices about how to spend their assistance which can in turn boost local businesses,” says Porcari. In 2020, the partnership aims to use mobile technology to deliver impactful assistance by working with regulatory authorities and local mobile network operators in key countries. With continued support from UK DFID, the partners will focus on improving the efficiency and effectiveness of the digital cash transfer process starting in Nigeria and expanding to other countries. Giusti says the GSMA will support WFP to access mobile money industry initiatives where first the GSMA Mobile Money Certification initiative will ensure the WFP’s ability to deliver safe, secure and reliable services while protecting the rights of consumers. He says this certification will enable WFP to fast-track due diligence on mobile money providers for the disbursement of cash-based assistance digitally to those affected by crises. Second, the Mobile Money API, a GSMA-led industry initiative, will provide harmonized specification to access mobile money services across multiple providers and markets making it simple and secure to integrate for assistance seamlessly. According to the WFP and GSMA, digital inclusion, digital identity and integrated payment frameworks are critical to the success of any cash transfer initiative via mobile money services and of any response infrastructure established by governments, humanitarian organizations and the private sector. “Allowing large organizations to collaborate using services that meet global standards allows them to deliver swift and secure help to the growing number of people affected by conflict, climate change, natural disasters and health crises. The GSMA and WFP call on other humanitarian organizations to consider the use of mobile technology in their strategies since well tested mobile services such as mobile money allow for safe delivery of support, particularly in fragile environments," says Giusti.

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