Mobile banking offers opportunity for financial inclusion of the poor, who have largely been ignored in emerging economies. Presently, more than half the world does not have access to banking services. The mobile phone can serve as a powerful technology for the delivery of financial services to the poor. In the past, we have highlighted efforts of mobile operators like Safaricom in Kenya. 

Around the globe, there is more interest in mobile banking and trying to reach a vast untapped market. Here are excerpts from a good article in the UK Guardian:

High-profile initiatives announced in recent months include South African operator MTN’s plans to roll out mobile money using Fundamo’s technology in 23 countries across Africa and the Middle East and Kuwaiti operator Zain’s plan to extend its Zap money service from Kenya across its network, which spans 24 countries.

The market is more precisely defined as:

Currently, about 3.5 billion people, more than half the world’s population, have no access to banking services. However, 1 billion of those people do have mobile phones and the GSMA sees that figure rising to 1.7 billion by 2012.

Till now, micro-finance has been the center of plans for greater financial inclusion of the poor. 100 million have benefitted from programs started by the institutions such as the Grameen Bank. But, mobile phones have the potential to reach more than 400 million people. The technology has the potential to eventually deliver services that could provide some world’s poorest people the chance to save money and obtain credit. Presently, the bulk of transactions currently taking place are simple money transfers.