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Friday, November 10, 2006

Vodafone's New M-Banking Reports

By William Kramer

Vodafone logoOf the MNCs with which we have worked, none goes to greater lengths than Vodafone to create opportunities to listen to its "stakeholders" - and the company counts us as one.? I attended such an occasion in New York Wednesday evening, linked to the publication of a new Vodafone report, "Economic Empowerment Through Mobile," (pdf) to which we contributed a piece.?? Cynics will say that these gestures are mere flattery, or worse, bribery, designed to disarm potential critics, and no doubt many companies do just that, but in the case of Vodafone, I don't buy it.? Vodafone understands what it takes to generate innovative ideas - and it's not gathering only like-minded folks to reinforce everything they already know.? In my experience, the company actually listens hard to what outsiders say, and they try to respond.? As Vodafone is a big company, and there are lots of competing interests and priorities - and the demands of the market (Vodafone has had a few bad years, and it has slowed them down) - but, in the main they are inclined to be responsive, and that puts them in a class of company with few peers.? And by the way, read the report, it's good, if we must say so ourselves.

Continuing the social butterfly circuit, I returned to DC to attend yet another soiree related to the release of the full study of Wizzit, the South African BOP-focused cell service on which we have previously reported, that is contained in the aforementioned Vodafone publication.? This study, "Mobile Phone Banking and Low-Income Customers: Evidence From South Africa", (pdf) was done in cooperation with CGAP and UN Foundation.? CGAP's Elizabeth Littlefield made it abundantly clear why mobile phones are the platform of the future for all manner of BOP-related activities, including financial services.? It's just in the numbers - try 20 million total existing outlets worldwide for financial services as traditionally defined, and 2 billion mobile phones today, with the number rising by the hundreds of thousands a day, mostly from growth in emerging economies. ?
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