Mobile telephony and banking: Phoney finance
About half a million South Africans now use their mobile phones as a bank. Besides sending money to relatives and paying for goods, they can check balances, buy mobile airtime and settle utility bills. Traditional banks offer mobile banking as an added service to existing customers, most of whom are quite well off. But Wizzit, and to some extent First National Bank (FNB) and MTN Banking (a joint venture between Standard Bank and a mobile-phone network), are chasing another market: the 16m South Africans, over half of the adult population, with no bank account. Significantly, 30% of these people do have mobile phones. Wizzit hired and trained over 2,000 unemployed people, known as Wizzkids, to drum up business. It worked: eight out of ten Wizzit customers previously had no bank account and had never used an ATM.
Liberation technology: Mobiles, protests and pundits
(I)n August residents of Muyinga province acted fast when they saw fresh corpses drifting downstream; they used their mobile phones to contact NGOs, who in turn tipped off the United Nations, whose soldiers got to the scene fast enough to recover some forensic evidence.
The use of mobiles as a tool of “empowerment”, even in the poorest and worst-governed parts of the world, is not always so grisly. The cruder kinds of electoral fraud, relying on poor communications between the capital and the boondocks, are now much harder. Even with minimal resources, monitors can count the voters and conduct exit polls—and then phone their findings to a radio station before the authorities stuff the ballot boxes. Such methods have helped make elections a bit cleaner in places like Ghana and Kenya.