An interesting special report from The Economist Sep 26th 2009, on Telecoms in the emerging markets on how information makes markets more efficient and how mobild phone penetration in developing countries affect GDP. Examples of mobile money from Kenya where half of the population have phones, and 20% of the population uses phones for mobile money with M-Pesa which is different from buying air time.
M-Pesa replaces bank accounts with mobile bank accounts that are free of charge. Transactions (not free of charge) are performed with SMS which are sent by a little application on the SIM card developed by Sagentia (later transferring to IBM) for Vodafone. The concept was created to allow microfinance borrowers to receive and repay loans and has evolved into banking services enabling users to deposit and withdraw money, transfer money to other users and non-users, pay bills, and purchase airtime.
"If I want to send $20 to my mother back at home in a village, I go to the guy on the corner where I buy my scratch cards and I give him the money and he types a few things into his handset and i get a message saying that my money has gone into my mobile account and I can then by sending another little text message send a message to my mum that says here is the $20 and then she takes that message to the phone operator in her village who gives her the cash. Much cheaper, faster and more reliable than the alternatives."