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Posts in category 'Financial'

14 July 2009

What you don’t know about M-PESA

M-PESA usage
Olga Morawczynski, a doctoral candidate at the University of Edinburgh and has spent more than a year investigating customer adoption and usage in both urban and rural Kenya, and has been sharing some of her insights on the CGAP blog. This time she talks about a third player, Sagentia, who was behind the M-PESA success:

“There was also a smaller player that had a vitally important role in the conceptualization and development of the application. That is, Sagentia, a technology consultancy firm based out of Cambridge. The firm not only wrote the software for M-PESA, they also designed the business processes, and provided operational and technical support during the pilot and after launch.” [...]

“They assured me that M-PESA was just the beginning. Using the mobile as a platform, they plan to create developmental services that penetrate other spheres —m-health, agribusiness. They further predicted that the mobile will soon begin to revolutionize these other spaces as well.”

Read full story

See also these earlier CGAP posts about her work (oldest posts listed first):

Morawczynski is the author of a forthcoming CGAP brief on M-PESA and recently co-authored Designing Mobile Money Services: Lessons from M-PESA with Ignacio Mas.

10 July 2009

Rural India

Rural India
The Wall Street Journal and India Knowledge@Wharton present a unique mix of reporting, analysis, interviews and video on life and business in rural India. The Rural India reader resource combines specially-commissioned material with recent articles.

A selection of articles relevant to the topics of this blog:

Vikram Akula: mobile banking could be the future of microfinance
In an interview with India Knowledge@Wharton, Vikram Akula, founder and CEO of SKS Microfinance, spoke about emerging trends in microfinance.

India’s rural poor: why housing isn’t enough to create sustainable communities
The real story of rural India must be told with more than five hundred million characters who live on less than a dollar a day, most of them in terrible living conditions.

The poor deserve world-class products and services
C.K. Prahalad has long championed the notion that business — rather than government handouts — represents the most effective solution to poverty.

Rural India Snaps Up Mobile Phones
India’s cellphone industry continues its steady growth, led by demand from rural consumers, and is showing no signs of slowing down.

Doing well by doing good?
The mobile phone is now one of the hottest development tools world-wide, with corporations eyeing untapped rural markets in the hope that new mobile-phone services can boost rural incomes and corporate revenue at the same time.

5 July 2009

The future of money

Stowe Boyd
Stowe Boyd, an internationally recognised authority on social applications and their impact on business, media, and society, launched a new interview series examining the future of money.

The series is sponsored in part by Neo.org, a non-profit he is working with. Because of Neo’s efforts toward defining and implementing a new digital currency, Boyd hopes that a series on the future of money might line up well, and draw some attention to Neo’s efforts.

Each interview comes with a video and a bulleted set of highlights.

Christian Nold and The Bijlmer Euro
In this interview Christian Nold, an artist, designer and educator working to develop new participatory models for communal representation, discusses his project in the Bijlmer area in South East Amsterdam, where he aimed to develop a prototype system for an alternative local currency that could support local development and work in conjunction with the Euro.

Bruce Sterling
“When you are interested in magic, you might want to talk to a witch doctor, so when I started to think about the future of money, I thought I should talk to a science fiction author. Who better? As it so happens, I know one,” writes Boyd.
Bruce was kind enough to mention me [i.e. Mark Vanderbeeken], our company and the recent KashKlash project we did with Heather Moore and the Vodafone UE Group.

Alternative currencies: Is small the new big?
This third piece reflects on the value of alternative currencies, starting with the following two questions:
1. Does an alternative currency have to be in large scale use? Is it possible for it to be a ‘success’ at small scale?
2. Do alternative currencies have to stand for something? Do they have to represent a strong position on some issue or social cause?

Intangible Money + Cell Network Banks = Secure Money
Olga Morawczynski is a doctoral candidate at the University of Edinburgh, posting some of her work on mobile banking in Africa at the CGAP (Consultive Group to Assist the Poor) website. She noted that the normal flow of fund transfers in Kenya — from the cities to rural relatives — reversed during recent violence there.

Richard Smith and the Dollar ReDe$ign Project
Richard’s deep motivation was to help restart the economy, and the means? Redesigning our money, and rebranding it, to shift our thinking and to help the little bits of paper in our pockets act as a sort of social catalyst for change. He set up the project in the form of a contest, and received dozens of truly wonderful designs.

And there is more to come still…

11 June 2009

Barclays on less becoming more in product and service design

Barclays 360 magazine
Barclays 360 magazine, a quarterly thought leadership magazine for senior management within the Barclays Group, is devoted to simplicity in product and service design.

Here are the feature articles (of which the last one, which is excellently written and directly dealing with the current state of user experience, is my top recommendation):

Education: Business is increasingly plugging the skills gaps of the world’s workforce
by Sarah Richardson and Paul Tyrrell
With skills shortages affecting both developed and developing countries, business is increasingly stepping in to help educate the workers of tomorrow – feature includes examples from the Fashion Retail Academy (UK), BP Angola, Intel Corporation. and more.

Small sums, big benefits: microfinance brings banking to untapped markets
by Sarah Murray
Across Africa, Barclays is giving fledgling entrepreneurs access to modern financial services for the first time.

Simplicity: new designs focus on making complex products easy to use
by Rob Tannen
Leading companies are realising that they need to refocus on what consumers actually want and need, rather than stuffing more into products and services than their rivals.

View and download magazine

11 June 2009

Video interview with M-PESA pioneer Nick Hughes

Nick Hughes
The people of Microfinance Podcast have just posted a short video interview with Nick Hughes, Head of International Mobile Payment Solutions at the Vodafone Group, who has been instrumental in getting M-PESA up and running.

Watch video

(via CGAP)

11 June 2009

What Is conversational currency?

Conversational Currency
Jay Deragon argues in a short piece on AlwaysOn that social media and related tools are generating a new currency that is created by the propagation of your conversation and its relevance to your audience, and whose worth increases over time.

“A conversation turns to currency when people discover something meaningful in a “conversational” experience, they are prepared to spread the conversation as if it were their own. [...] Conversational currency is created by the propagation of a conversation by others that incorporate your conversation into their own narratives. The more valuable your conversation is the more likely they are to be propagated by others.”

Read full story

5 June 2009

PICNIC ’09 announces key themes

PICNIC '09
The upcoming PICNIC ’09 conference (Amsterdam, 23-25 September) just announced is key themes:

Exploding Media: Exploding Story
This is the story of the extraordinary transformation of Media from all the creative and technological aspects… From traditional storytelling to the impact of gaming on education; from city interaction and augmented reality to the Metaverse, this narrative will feature all the latest innovations that the media industry is going through. We will also introduce creative geniuses pushing the envelope on these new developments, and their impact on personal creativity, brand marketing, learning and entertainment.

The Next Economy: Social, Sustainable, Creative
The attention economy, the experience economy, the sharing economy, the local economy… The economy is currently top of mind in every discussion. What emerging business models can we explore? Can print media be saved? How can communities create local currencies or micro-economies to create sustainable abundance? What is the future of money?

Life in Motion: Finding the Magic in Mobile
Mobile phones are the most personal devices in our lives. In certain parts of the world, mobile is the only media and mobile internet is the only internet. PICNIC ’09 will give mobile the attention it deserves. We will explore mobile lifestyles around the world, look at how creative brand managers are using mobile to establish brand loyalty and showcase the most innovative mobile applications.

1 June 2009

Thinking about an Ushahidi-for-mBanking platform

m-Pesa
After Patrick Meier, a doctoral research fellow at Harvard University, a PhD candidate at The Fletcher School, and an active contributor at Ushahidi, participated in a high-level mobile banking (mBanking) conference in Nairobi, he reflected on the issue of trust in mobile banking in emerging markets, and presents a crowdsourced solution in a piece on iRevolution.

“One of the issues that keeps cropping up when discussing mBanking (and branchless banking) is the challenge of agent reliability and customer service. How does one ensure the trustworthiness of a growing network of agents and simultaneously handle customer complaints?

A number of speakers at Fletcher’s recent conference highlighted these challenges and warned they would become more pressing with time. So this got me thinking about an Ushahidi-for-mBanking platform.

Since mBanking customers by definition own a mobile phone, a service like M-Pesa or Zap could provide customers with a dedicated short code which they could use to text in concerns or report complaints along with location information. These messages could then be mapped in quasi real-time on an Ushahidi platform. This would provide companies like Safaricom and Zain with a crowdsourced approach to monitoring their growing agent network.”

Read full story

(See also this Reuters story)

30 May 2009

Gartner: Users of mobile payments to double by 2012

 
The number of people using mobile devices to purchase goods and services is expected to more than double by the end of 2012 globally, research firm Gartner Inc. reported.

The impact is to be felt most in developing world where access to banking is limited.

“Mobile payments, when used in developed countries such as the U.S., are usually an extension of an existing payment infrastructure, but in developing countries, users can combine mobile payments with mobile banking to pay bills more conveniently and to gain access to loans and other financial services that might not have been possible before, said Sandy Shen, a Gartner analyst. “It can greatly improve standards of living,” she said.”

Read full story

30 May 2009

NPR: mobile phones do much more than make calls

Ethiopia
In Asia, Africa, Europe and elsewhere, cell phone technology has always been way ahead of what’s available in the states. Around the world, people use their phones in innovative, creative ways.

For example, mobile phones help rural farmers gather information about crop prices, and bargain shoppers download coupons on the fly.

For this NPR Talk of the World program, guests and listeners from around the world discuss innovative ways they use their cellular phone.

Guests are:
Natasha Elkington, journalist for Reuters. She uses her mobile phone to pay her farm manager in Kenya.
Amy Webb, principal for Webbmedia Group
Alieu Conteh, founder of Vodacom, a cell phone company in Congo
Hiram Enriquez, independent consultant focusing on mobile technologies and digital media strategy

Listen now

28 May 2009

CGAP podcast with Jonathan Donner of Microsoft Research India

Jonathan Donner
Leading up to the 2009 Mobile Money Summit CGAP, an independent policy and research centre dedicated to advancing financial access for the world’s poor, is running a podcast series with some of the key people involved in the CGAP/DFID Branchless Banking in 2020 scenarios work.

The process is based on one driving question: How can government and private sector most affect the uptake and usage of branchless banking among the unserved majority by 2020?

Jonathan Donner is a researcher in the Technology for Emerging Markets Group at Microsoft Research India. Previously, Jonathan was a Post-Doctoral Research Fellow at the Earth Institute at Columbia University, and worked for the consultancies Monitor Company and The OTF Group. He holds a Ph.D. from Stanford University in Communication Theory and Research.

Speaking on the side of a workshop that was held in Cape Town last month, Jonathan shared his views on how cash and electronic money aren’t so different when it comes to a question of trust, and how branchless banking is helping poor people spend less time and money to do simple financial transactions.

Listen to interview (mp3)

28 May 2009

Africa banks on cell phones

Ghana cellphones
Global Post reports on how millions in Ghana are entering the banking system through mobile phone system.

“Nobody stands to benefit quite like Africa’s increasingly powerful telecom companies, the conglomerates who built this continent’s cellular towers and enable its calls.

“These guys are going to be more powerful than Google, more powerful than Microsoft, within the locality in which they operate,” Amankwah said. “Already, telecoms move more money than the banks. And they have control over the channels — it’s their sim card. You’re using their network.”

Read full story

25 May 2009

Talking mobile banking in Kenya

mBanking 2009
Erik Hersman reports on his blog White African from the e Fletcher mBanking conference in Nairobi.

Talking Mobile Banking in Kenya
Notes from the panel “Perspectives on Mobile and Branchless Financial Service”

Volume vs Value in Mobile Payment Systems
Talk by Stephen Mwaura Nduati, who is in charge of “Payment Systems” at the Central Bank of Kenya

25 May 2009

Wired economics

IdeasProject
Nokia’s Ideas Project published a feature story on why technology may be making money superfluous.

“We’re entering a time in which products are expected to give themselves over as platforms for innovation and reinvention. Even money, something we tend to think of as absolute, seems to have lost some standing as a singular fixed medium with which to conduct transactions. This deterioration may have begun with the excesses of the past thirty years, when money came into its own as a commodity. Derivatives, options, credit default swaps, margin calls, shorts were inventive new ways to repackage money, some of which resulted in the near-collapse of our financial system. The recent challenges to our banking system notwithstanding, a different kind of transformation, on with implications to the very essence of our money system, is being affected by technology.

From its role in institutions to its use for transactions, in places as far flung as Uganda and Bangladesh, money is giving way to other forms of currency or, in some cases, nothing at all.”

Read full story

20 May 2009

Portfolios of the Poor: Financial diaries of the bottom billion

Portfolios of the Poor
Portfolios of the Poor: How the World’s Poor Live on $2 a Day
by Daryl Collins, Jonathan Morduch, Stuart Rutherford, Orlanda Ruthven
Princeton University Press
Hardcover, May 2009

Abstract

About forty percent of the world’s people live on incomes of two dollars a day or less. If you’ve never had to survive on an income so small, it is hard to imagine. How would you put food on the table, afford a home, and educate your children? How would you handle emergencies and old age? Every day, more than a billion people around the world must answer these questions. Portfolios of the Poor is the first book to explain systematically how the poor find solutions.

The authors report on the yearlong “financial diaries” of villagers and slum dwellers in Bangladesh, India, and South Africa–records that track penny by penny how specific households manage their money. The stories of these families are often surprising and inspiring. Most poor households do not live hand to mouth, spending what they earn in a desperate bid to keep afloat. Instead, they employ financial tools, many linked to informal networks and family ties. They push money into savings for reserves, squeeze money out of creditors whenever possible, run sophisticated savings clubs, and use microfinancing wherever available. Their experiences reveal new methods to fight poverty and ways to envision the next generation of banks for the “bottom billion.”

Book review The Economist:

“The unbanked do not have access to such luxuries as standing orders, which richer people use to overcome the temptation to spend whatever they earn. And they are forced to pay for things that are free for most—which enables women like Jyothi to earn a crust by offering a safe store for small savings. But with some ingenuity, they use unorthodox financial instruments to create a more stable life than their erratic incomes would otherwise allow.”

Book review Next Billion blog

“Often times in the development community the bottom billion is thought of in terms of aggregate statistics without much attention given to the individuals and their day to day lives. The goal of the authors was to find a happy medium between aggregate data/statistics and individual anthropological research. What they developed as a result were Financial Diaries, which give a basic overview of every financial transaction made and service used over the studied timeframe.

Through the use of Financial Diaries, the researchers meticulously tracked every detail of their subjects’ financial lives by interviewing them bi-weekly for one year using metrics of the portfolio management world, including cash flow and income statement analysis. While gathering evidence, they discovered that it took approximately six interviews with each respondent to develop the trust required to obtain accurate data and account for margins of error. This is in interesting implication for research that is often times based on one interview. Their analysis approached households as start-up organizations and adjusted their research using these metrics.”

30 April 2009

A selection of CHI2009 papers

CHI2009 proceedings cover
Today I spent some time looking through the CHI 2009 papers. Here is a personal selection (and you need an ACM membership to access them):

A comparative study of speech and dialed input voice interfaces in rural India
Neil Patel, Sheetal Agarwal, Nitendra Rajput, Amit Nanavati, Paresh Dave, Tapan S. Parikh
In this paper we present a study comparing speech and dialed input voice user interfaces for farmers in Gujarat, India. We ran a controlled, between-subjects experiment with 45 participants. We found that the task completion rates were significantly higher with dialed input, particularly for subjects under age 30 and those with less than an eighth grade education. Additionally, participants using dialed input demonstrated a significantly greater performance improvement from the first to final task, and reported less difficulty providing input to the system.

Sacred imagery in techno-spiritual design
Susan P. Wyche, Kelly E. Caine, Benjamin K. Davison, Shwetak N. Patel, Michael Arteaga, Rebecca E. Grinter
Despite increased knowledge about how Information and Communications Technologies (ICTs) are used to support religious and spiritual practices, designers know little about how to design technologies for faith-related purposes. Our research suggests incorporating sacred imagery into techno-spiritual applications can be useful in guiding development. We illustrate this through the design and evaluation of a mobile phone application developed to support Islamic prayer practices. Our contribution is to show how religious imagery can be used in the design of applications that go beyond the provision of functionality to connect people to the experience of religion.

A comparison of mobile money-transfer UIs for non-literate and semi-literate users
Indrani Medhi, S.N. Nagasena Gautama, Kentaro Toyama
Due to the increasing penetration of mobile phones even into poor communities, mobile payment schemes could bring formal financial services to the “unbanked”. However, because poverty for the most part also correlates with low levels of formal education, there are questions as to whether electronic access to complex financial services is enough to bridge the gap, and if so, what sort of UI is best.
In this paper, we present two studies that provide preliminary answers to these questions. We first investigated the usability of existing mobile payment services, through an ethnographic study involving 90 subjects in India, Kenya, the Philippines and South Africa. This was followed by a usability study with another 58 subjects in India, in which we compared non-literate and semi-literate subjects on three systems: text-based, spoken dialog (without text), and rich multimedia (also without text). Results confirm that non-text designs are strongly preferred over text-based designs and that while task-completion rates are better for the rich multimedia UI, speed is faster and less assistance is required on the spoken-dialog system.

Comparing semiliterate and illiterate users’ ability to transition from audio+text to text-only interaction
Leah Findlater, Ravin Balakrishnan, Kentaro Toyama
Multimodal interfaces with little or no text have been shown to be useful for users with low literacy. However, this research has not differentiated between the needs of the fully illiterate and semiliterate – those who have basic literacy but cannot read and write fluently. Text offers a fast and unambiguous mode of interaction for literate users and the exposure to text may allow for incidental improvement of reading skills. We conducted two studies that explore how semiliterate users with very little education might benefit from a combination of text and audio as compared to illiterate and literate users. Results show that semiliterate users reduced their use of audio support even during the first hour of use and over several hours this reduction was accompanied by a gain in visual word recognition; illiterate users showed no similar improvement. Semiliterate users should thus be treated differently from illiterate users in interface design.

StoryBank: mobile digital storytelling in a development context
David M. Frohlich, Dorothy Rachovides, Kiriaki Riga, Ramnath Bhat, Maxine Frank, Eran Edirisinghe, Dhammike Wickramanayaka, Matt Jones, Will Harwood
Mobile imaging and digital storytelling currently support a growing practice of multimedia communication in the West. In this paper we describe a project which explores their benefit in the East, to support non-textual information sharing in an Indian village. Local audiovisual story creation and sharing activities were carried out in a one month trial, using 10 customized cameraphones and a digital library of stories represented on a village display. The findings show that the system was usable by a cross-section of the community and valued for its ability to express a mixture of development and community information in an accessible form. Lessons for the role of HCI in this context are also discussed.

Designable visual markers
Enrico Costanza, Jeffrey Huang
Visual markers are graphic symbols designed to be easily recognised by machines. They are traditionally used to track goods, but there is increasing interest in their application to mobile HCI. By scanning a visual marker through a camera phone users can retrieve localised information and access mobile services.
One missed opportunity in current visual marker systems is that the markers themselves cannot be visually designed, they are not expressive to humans, and thus fail to convey information before being scanned. This paper provides an overview of d-touch, an open source system that allows users to create their own markers, controlling their aesthetic qualities. The system runs in real-time on mobile phones and desktop computers. To increase computational efficiency d-touch imposes constraints on the design of the markers in terms of the relationship of dark and light regions in the symbols. We report a user study in which pairs of novice users generated between 3 and 27 valid and expressive markers within one hour of being introduced to the system, demonstrating its flexibility and ease of use.

“When I am on Wi-Fi, I am fearless”: privacy concerns & practices in everyday Wi-Fi use
Predrag Klasnja, Sunny Consolvo, Jaeyeon Jung, Benjamin M. Greenstein, Louis LeGrand, Pauline Powledge, David Wetherall
Increasingly, users access online services such as email, e-commerce, and social networking sites via 802.11-based wireless networks. As they do so, they expose a range of personal information such as their names, email addresses, and ZIP codes to anyone within broadcast range of the network. This paper presents results from an exploratory study that examined how users from the general public understand Wi-Fi, what their concerns are related to Wi-Fi use, and which practices they follow to counter perceived threats. Our results reveal that while users understand the practical details of Wi-Fi use reasonably well, they lack understanding of important privacy risks. In addition, users employ incomplete protective practices which results in a false sense of security and lack of concern while on Wi-Fi. Based on our results, we outline opportunities for technology to help address these problems.
Predrag Klasnja, Sunny Consolvo, Jaeyeon Jung, Benjamin M. Greenstein, Louis LeGrand, Pauline Powledge, David Wetherall

Sharing empty moments: design for remote couples
Danielle Lottridge, Nicolas Masson, Wendy Mackay
Many couples are forced to live apart, for work, school or other reasons. This paper describes our study of 13 such couples and what they lack from existing communication technologies. We explored what they wanted to share (presence, mood, environment, daily events and activities), how they wanted to share (simple, lightweight, playful, pleasant interaction), and when they wanted to share (‘empty moments’ such as waiting, walking, taking a break, waking up, eating, and going to sleep). ‘Empty moments’ provide a compelling new opportunity for design, requiring subtlety and flexibility to enable participants to share connection without explicit messages. We designed MissU as a technology probe to study empty moments in situ. Similar to a private radio station, MissU shares music and background sounds. Field studies produced results relevant to social science, technology and design: couples with established routines were comforted; characteristics such as ambiguity and ‘movable’ technology (situated in the home yet portable) provide support. These insights suggest a design space for supporting the sharing of empty moments.

25 March 2009

Pay by cellphone? Sounds great. So why don’t we do it?

OboPay
Fast Company’s Chris Dannen reflects on why Americans don’t use mobile banking.

Obopay is an payment system that works on your cell phone–kind of like a mobile PayPal. The service is cheap, easy to use, and fantastically convenient. Not only that, it’s well-backed; today Nokia [NOK] announced it would funnel an additional $70 million into the startup in exchange for a minority stake in the company. So why isn’t everyone using this thing? [...]

It’s no fault of the concept; mobile payments have exploded in popularity in Africa and other developing regions. Obopay itself operates in both Indian and American markets; in India, they’ve garnered a strong customer base. In the U.S., not so much. Why won’t Americans get with it?”

Read full story

6 March 2009

The user experience of money: how interaction design can help

UX money
Alexa Andrzejewski of Adaptive Path reflects on the user experience of money:

For anyone designing for consumer finance — banking, investing, billpay, money management tools, insurance providers or any business selling “savings” as a value proposition (as a consultant, I’ve learned a lot through having had opportunities to touch all of these areas) — here are some design principles you can employ to make saving a little easier for us all:

– Create perceptions that motivate.
– Make the abstract concrete.
– Equip the mind to control the flesh.
– Architect complex choices carefully.

Not sure it is enough to address people’s deep distrust towards financial institutions in the current financial crisis.

Read full story

1 March 2009

KashKlash booklet now online

KashKlash
After the project, the collaborative website, the game, now also the booklet.

KashKlash is an open forum and web project focusing on alternative economies in a post-money future. What will such a world look like? How will the concept of value be measured? What concepts will shape the formal and informal economies? Bright thinkers from around the world came together online to discuss, debate and ideate in this innovative and exciting project.

KashKlash is a collaborative project between Heather Moore of Vodafone, Experientia and a group of independent visionaries. The project started with four bright and innovative provocateurs, Nicolas Nova, Joshua Klein, Bruce Sterling, and Régine Debatty, and as the debate gathered steam, contributions, comments, flickr photos and twitter streams rolled in from more than 50 additional participants to shape and envision possible futures.

Download booklet (pdf)

1 March 2009

Ethan Zuckerman on mobile news and mobile currency in Africa

Ethan Zuckerman
Ethan Zuckerman, a multifaceted thinker whose work focuses on the impact of technology in developing countries, and a research fellow at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard Law School, was interviewed on Ideas Project, the Nokia site that explores “where technology and communications may be taking us”.

Information will be used as money (transcript)
Ethan Zuckerman, who specializes in the implementation of transformative technological innovations in developing countries, observes how a system for transferring money in Uganda has anticipated a trend in the use information such as cell phone credits as a viable currency for day to day transactions. These alternative payment systems will be mediated by phone companies and anyone who is in the business of turning money into information.

Shedding new light on Kenyan violence (transcript on same page)
Ethan Zuckerman describes a project called Ushahidi, a project which resulted from the elections in Kenya, that allows anyone around the world to gather reports by mobile phone, email and the web – and map them.

Mobile reporting deepens global narratives (transcript on same page)
If we don’t have reporters in Gomah, but we do have a lot of connected citizens in Gomah, how do we take advantage of that? How do we take advantage of their ability to witness and report, and how do we knit that together into narratives that tell us something we didn’t know previously?

Related:
Money transfer service wows Kenya
Ethan Zuckerman article on m-banking in Africa
Industry report on the future of mobile banking