About the Authors: Maria Otero serves as Under Secretary of State for Democracy and Global Affairs, and Alec Ross serves as Senior Advisor for Innovation in the Office of Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.
Imagine you are a peanut farmer in northern Cameroon. There is one road from the north to the south, and the closest market is days away. Your family counts on the income fetched by market prices, and prays that a drought doesn't decimate the harvest.
Now imagine you are a peanut farmer with a cell phone. You sign up for SMS updates on market prices, and instead of walking south for days, you opt to go north for a chance at higher profits. Meanwhile, with a simple text, you can transfer part of your income to your child's school, buy crop insurance, and create a savings account at the closest bank -- 50 miles away.
The peanut farmer's story is coming closer to being a reality for hundreds of millions of people. In some parts of the world, such innovation through mobile phones is changing the lives of low-income farmers and entrepreneurs.
Just as mobile phones are becoming lower cost and more ubiquitous, over two billion adults around the world do not have access to either formal or semi-formal financial services. New developments in mobile education and banking are changing the cost equation of accessing remote and poor populations in the developing world, as mobile phones bridge income gaps and catapult over brick-and mortar-based service provision.
As part of Secretary Clinton's vision of 21st Century Statecraft, we are pleased to be holding the second iteration of the Tech@State series, this time convening leading experts on mobile money. We will discuss implications and applications of mobile money within U.S. foreign policy goals, such as food security, transparency and security, financial inclusion, and more. With participation from USAID, the Treasury Department, nonprofits, academics, and technology companies, we look forward to a productive discussion of the challenges and opportunities of mobile innovation.
As the State Department pursues its priorities of economic growth and empowerment, we are increasingly cognizant of the role that mobile technology will play for generations to come. We hope you will join us.
Tech@State: Mobile Money will be held Monday, August 2, 2010, at the George Marshall Conference Center at the Harry Truman building of the State Department from 8:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. To learn more about Tech@State: Mobile Money, please click here.