Here's a bit of follow-up on CGAP and Digital Financial Plus. One thing I like about this angle on mobile money is that at its core it's not about mobile money. It' about disrupting conventional--and profoundly inadequate--approaches to getting people the basic services they need (without resorting to socialism).

Quick example: M-Kopa is a startup that installs solar panels and a wireless payment and monitoring device, allowing the household to pay back the investment in small installments over time (sans usurious interest, we assume). Most customers already own the devices after having them for a year, and the company recently welcomed its 40,000th customer. "The short-term benefits are obvious: poor families get cheaper and cleaner energy," says Tilman Ehrbeck, CGAP's CEO. "Additional long-term benefits are up to the imagination. Children can study in the evenings, allowing for a better future, and owners of the devices have already started small side businesses by letting their neighbors charge their cell phones."

In a way, this is just a new way to think mobile money and related technologies; rebranding, even. If you already understand that these tools could have a profound impact when it comes to inclusion in the formal economy, access to financial services, and potentially even economic mobility, you probably won't find the Digital Financial Plus discussion particularly revelatory. But for audiences that may be newer to these concepts, something like DFP may prove to be tremendously helpful. It takes the focus away from the "M-" and puts it on the crucial service--water, electricity, education, health--that the "M-" is making possible, or at least closer to possible.

For a little more, check out the CGAP blog. They've been running interviews this week with experts in this space and people who work in related businesses. The first interview features a woman from a company called Angaza, talking about the pay-as-you go approach to solar energy.

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AuthorDavid Wolman