"My dad had to leave the country unexpectedly on business. He called to tell me he was leaving the next day but his spending money was still with me in Quezon Province. We were so thankful for mobile money because I could send it to him in just one second. It is such a simple process; it always makes my family feel so secure."
Armiel Azul, 23, is business operations manager for Rhudarda, a rural multi-purpose cooperative in the Philippines. Along with 90 percent of the country’s population of 90 million, he has no access to bank accounts. With 11 million Filipinos working abroad, a lot of people need to send money home — but it hasn’t always been easy.
When SMART Money, owned by top Philippine telecom operator SMART, launched international mobile-money transactions using SMS codes in December 2000, it quickly became a leader in providing financial transactions over cellular networks.
Mobile money gives people access to cash via a mobile phone, quickly. For people living in developing nations, unable to access regular bank accounts, commonly referred to as "the unbanked", mobile money services give them a safe way to save and transfer money without the risks that come with cash.
The biggest breakthrough for mobile money has been M-PESA in Kenya. Of the country’s 18.3 million mobile phone users, nearly 7 million use M-PESA, launched in early 2007 by Safaricom, Kenya’s largest mobile operator.
Mobile money is just one way that mobile communications growth is increasing security and improving people’s quality of life. There were 4.1 billion mobile subscriptions at the end of 2008, up from 1.3 billion in 2002, a recent International Telecommunication Union report said, with two-thirds of them in developing countries. An increase of 10 percentage points in mobile phone penetration leads to a 0.8 percent increase in a developing country’s GDP, according to the World Bank.
And services such as mobile money make a huge difference to people’s lives, as Armiel knows well: "It makes business transactions with suppliers easier and hassle-free."
"I use my SMART Money to pay my bills each month and send my brother's allowances. During emergencies, within a second, I can transfer money to my friends and relatives in need.
"It makes me feel secure wherever I go."
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