Haiti's Mobile Money Revolution

Cell phones provide vital banking services as the nation recovers from earthquake.

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NPR reported over the weekend on a development in Haiti's slow earthquake recovery: "mobile money" networks that allow cell phones to serve as debit cards, and more.

In a country where we use Smartphone apps for everything from Twitter to "Words With Friends" to photography, this might not seem too exciting. But in the earthquake-ravaged nation, it's huge. In fact, USAID has handed over millions of dollars to help get these systems up and running because they'll allow aid groups to distribute food vouchers electronically, saving valuable time and resources.

The technology can also be used to pay employees and will provide many Haitians with their first access to banking services like savings accounts, wire transfers and itemized records.

Does it sound too good to be true? Hopefully not. It's a comfort to know that the cell phone companies providing the service will charge a fee of less than 1 percent of every financial transaction.

The only downside we can think of is that a misplaced or stolen phone for a Haitian citizen who depends on mobile money could bring life and well-being to a screeching halt (much more than a few days of inconvenience and a "lost phone in cab -- txt me your #" post on Facebook).

On balance, this strikes us as a promising technological development in a country where good news has been frighteningly scarce. 

Read more at NPR.