Before the devastating earthquake that struck Haiti in 2010, only 10 percent of the population had access to conventional banking services. After the earthquake, this number was even less as the disaster destroyed one-third of bank branches, ATMs and money transfer services.
Despite the lack of existing resources, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and USAID saw an opportunity to implement a short-term solution with long-term gains using the one thing many Haitians had left – their mobile phones.
The work was modeled after a successful program in Kenya, M-Pesa. This product allows everything from school fees to utility bills to be paid via mobile phone. Just three years after its launch, M-Pesa now reaches 40 percent of adults in Kenya. A recent University of Edinburgh study that suggests rural households using M-Pesa saw their income increase by 5-10 percent.
Right now, USAID will use the mobile technology primarily to distribute cash for work programs, which allow Haitians to earn a livelihood by providing critical services. As the Haiti continues to recover, mobile banking may help millions improve their lives.