I picked up a couple of great stories in a recent Twitterflood I ran on Twitter. I couple of these stories came via Emily Turrettini @textually who consistently finds the best stories in mobile. Lets start from India
Simpa Networks has started to provide solar electricity systems for villages beyond the electrical grid. These are intended for very poor households. How can they possibly afford a modern solar energy system? Well, they pay on a pay-as-you-go principle of about weekly use of electricity in doses. When the right amount of payments have been made, in about 3 years, the person becomes the owner of the solar power system and the electricity will be free from that point on. Pretty nifty eh? Note, that the electricity is used in similar ways to how currently they use kerosene in the villages for lighting, cooking etc. Electricity not only is cheaper, it is far better for the ecology when the electricity is solar powered. Brilliant idea, right. So how do these poor villagers pay, as they often don't even have bank accounts, far less get loans or have credit cards. They pay.. by SMS. One premium SMS of 50 rupees or about one US dollar, will buy about one week's worth of electricity. Three years later,the villager owns the small solar power unit. And the savings are cheaper than equivalent kerosene powered systems. I love it.
Then a bit of news from the World Bank and mobile money. Already 20 countries have reached the point of mobile money, where 10% or more of the national population use mobile money. A good example is Haiti, where a mobile payments system called TchoTcho has been launched one years ago by Digicel and various partners. Out of Digicels 4 million mobile subscribers, 12.5% or 500,000 have already signed up to the service. They now report 300,000 transactions per month in the network. 3,000 retail establishments in Haiti already accept payment by TchoTcho. Remember, this is a very poor country and most of the nation's population are unbanked.
But now lets go to Africa. This is my favorite story right now, and I openly nominate this to any awards of any international mobile innovation and marketing awards. MTN in Ghana has handed out 150 solar powered tricycle wheelchairs to the disabled. That is nice. Why? So they can also act as MTN's dealers to sell SIM cards (mobile phone subscriptions) and airtime. The disabled have a very hard time finding work in Ghana where much of the work is quite intensive 'labor' ie on farms, mines etc. This is a beautiful updated adaptation of the story of branded umbrellas to the disabled in The Gambia by Gamcel, where also they recruited SIM vendors and the umbrellas not only protected the disabled from the scorching African sun, but identified where you could go to get a SIM card or top up your minutes. The electric power wheelchairs have of course sun-visors to keep the sun away and include MTN branding again so the buyers can spot where to get the SIM cards and do top-ups. Brilliant idea MTN. This is 'can-do'. I am very proud of you, this is a truly excellent case of caring for your people while marketing your company and helping the disabled. Excellent idea, deserves to be copied everywhere!