As the debate about digital wallets and mobile payment models rages in the US, many point to the very successful mobile schemes in markets such as Africa as proof positive that a mobile payments infrastructure can be sustained as a viable model. M-PESA in Kenya is perhaps the flagship model, now with over 14M accounts and 28,000 cash agents in just 4 years since being launched in 2007. Of course, the infrastructure is not provided by the banking system, but by a mobile phone carrier, Safaricom. The model of course is that subscribers (account holders) add cash to a virtual wallet in the form of stored value. Value can then be transferred to another suscriber to credit their wallet balance. That in turn may be redeemed for cash at a participating agent office. One reason for the success of M-PESA and similar schemes in emerging markets is because mobile networks became more ubiquitous than traditional hard-wired payment and transaction networks.
Mobile Healthcare Vouchers
But let's take the mobile payment a step further in emerging markets and apply this to an industry perspective - healthcare. It is probably impossible to overstate the importance of accessible healthcare services in emerging market countries. Just reviewing the numbers from the World Health Organization shows the dire need, yet many of these same countries also have highly developed mobile networks and a high number of mobile phone users.
Just as there's a growing wave of financial inclusion initiatives, here's an extended idea for Corporate and Social Responsibility (CSR): mobile healthcare vouchers redeemable at a clinic for specific services. This could be for vaccinations, pre-natal care, pediatric services etc. being offered through the mobile device, this also allows the clinic/health organization to issue vouchers when treatments are due and track that service has been provided. As the mobile phone becomes de riguer for financial transactions, the opportunity is there to leverage that for multiple other uses.