New York/London (August 4, 2011) — Three million people living in poverty in Africa and South Asia — around 75 percent of them women — will gain access to low-cost mobile phones identities and mobile phone numbers following United Kingdom-based technology firm Movirtu’s commitment made today to the Business Call to Action.
BCtA is a global initiative supported by United Nations Development Program, among other international organizations, which aims to encourage private sector efforts to fight poverty.
Instead of sharing a phone number with family members or neighbours, those provided with a Movirtu cloud phone number will be able to use any mobile phone to log in with their own unique number to make and receive individual calls and access critical information and services such as banking or agriculture support.
“Evidence shows that access to mobile communications is a way of improving lives and expanding the earning potential of one billion people living on $1-2 a day,” said Amanda Gardiner, BCtA Acting Program Manager.
“By providing low-income communities with access to secure mobile accounts and identities, Movirtu is helping to bridge the divide between those that have easy access to mobile phones and those that rely on community phones or paying a borrower’s premium to friends to meet their communication needs,” Gardiner added.
The company plans to bring the phone technology to at least12 markets in Africa and South Asia by early 2013, giving at least 50 million people in both continents access to the technology, with a target of 3 million using it on a regular basis.
A unique personal mobile identity will allow users to access network applications that provide information about employment opportunities, promote access to mobile payment systems or banking services, and help keep users up-to-date on a variety of health and market topics.
“It is a basic fact not everyone in the world can afford their own mobile phone,” said Ramona Liberoff, Executive Vice President of Marketing, Strategy and Planning at Movirtu. “With Movirtu’s Cloud Phone™ technology, we give shared phone users their own mobile identity, opening up the world of mobile banking and payments and customized information services. Our goal is to increase the earning potential of those on $1-2 a day by saving money and allowing them to access the economic benefits of a full mobile identity today.”
Women in rural communities in South Asia and sub-Saharan African will be the main beneficiaries of Movirtu’s investment. Low-income women in these regions are up to 21 percent less likely to have mobile phone access than a man, according to global mobile operator association GSMA.
Movirtu’s phones will help approximately 2.4 million women close that gap and gain access to private mobile identities which will improve the security and ease with which women can complete basic communication and financial transactions.
On average, Movirtu phone customers save an estimated US$60 a year on phone charges incurred from shared phones.
Movirtu has been piloting the phones in Africa. The first market entry point is in Madagascar where over 8,000 points of sale had access to the Movirtu cloud phone. On August 1, the program was launched to cover all 22 regions of the island by Madagascar’s largest mobile phone operator Airtel. Additional country launches will be announced later this year.