mBanking: Fears and Promises

This morning's Technology Salon covered the legal hurdles facing mBanking - using your cell phone to interact with your bank account - in developing world scenarios.

Cell Phone in rural India
Cell Phone in rural India

The Salon started with a great overview of what's out there today in mBanking; current business models, and common technical and legal hurdles. The second speaker focused on some of the unique challenges facing Western African nations in creating a multi-country cross-border mBanking system to facilitate regional and international trade. I've redacted the names and any organization-identifying information from this post and my notes because the discussion was intended to be freeflowing and not on the record.

The three general models presented provide a good structure for seeing how mBanking is being approached. First is banks adding mobile services as value-adds to their current customers. This is seen often in more developed situations, and is not intended to target the unbanked or new customers. Second are banks specifically seeking new customers (who do not currently have any bank account) through tailored mobile banking. Finally, we see Mobile Network Operators - MNOs - adding mBanking features to their services.


OLPC joyride no so joyful (or, what Jon did all day Sunday)

So, this weekend I thought it'd be a great time to upgrade to the latest joyride builds, which are rumored to have solved the earlier record problems, and hopefully the SD card corruption issues as well. This is supposed to be an only-mildly-painful experience, with a few command line tricks, a few boot tricks, and so on. Nothing serious.
XKCD on upgrading difficulties (and sharks)


Many Paths Leading to the "Base of the Pyramid"

Paths to the Pyramid
BoP Spending
(on Flickr by Merkur*)

(on Flickr by Merkur*)NextBillion, which spends most of its time praising social entrepreneurship, comments on Michael Edwards' new book, Just Another Emperor, which attacks rampant "philanthrocapitalism" (market solutions to development problems);
"Despite its flaws, Just Another Emperor does a superb job of fulfilling Edward's main intent - deflating the hype around philanthrocapitalism without denying it its place as a tool for combating poverty. Edwards reminds us that the free market cannot solve all social ills and inequalities. While noting the benefits of approaches championed by social entrepreneurs and venture philanthropists, he suggests that these movements complement - rather than replace - non-market-based approaches to poverty and sustainability."


Could Many Give Many?

olpc xo sales
Give Many XO minimums

So there's an ongoing tension between small projects interested in using OLPCs and the guys over at 1CC who are too busy to really deal with a ton of small orders, regardless of the value of the particular cause, the built-in support it may already have, or any other warm, fuzzy reason. If the order doesn't get up to the Give Many standard, it falls on seemingly deaf ears -- all good reasons to negotiate a term sheet when navigating the GiveMany waters.

I wrote about this general problem first in a long and academic paper when OLPC was still selling in only lots of a million laptops and only to governments. I railed on OLPC for missing the importance of the small but well supported projects in favor of unmanageably huge (but big-number) projects, and proposed a solution -- peer networks of small schools, governments, and any other interested parties banding together to be able to meet the minimum order.