Building a digital economy that benefits everyone takes more than just getting the right technology and infrastructure in place. Economies are about people, first and foremost—and if people don’t actively adopt and use mobile money in their everyday lives, building a digital economy is near impossible.
Here at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, we’re keenly aware of the importance of working with local merchants, whose unique needs must be addressed for a digital economy to be successful. Last fall, we announced round 15 of our Grand Challenges Explorations (GCE), an initiative to encourage innovation and help incubate early-stage projects in specific fields of interest to the foundation. This round was particularly exciting as it was the first time our Financial Services for the Poor program has participated. We put out a call to action seeking innovative ideas to promote widespread acceptance of mobile money among merchants. And what a response we had!
We received a total of 304 applications from 30 different countries –and while judging was extremely difficult, we are pleased to announce nine awards. This group of nine—listed below—represents a diverse set of approaches to products, merchant services, technologies and models, which will be developed and incubated in a number of countries, including Nigeria, Pakistan and Benin. These recipients will operate independently of the foundation in pursuing their areas of focus, a full list of which is provided below. We will be profiling each of these winners over the coming weeks to showcase how these organizations plan to use this grant to bring their great ideas to life.
And this isn’t the last you’ll hear about the GCE. With such a strong response to our initial first round, the Level One Project launched a second Grand Challenges Exploration this past February. Applications are currently under review and we’re looking forward to sharing the next round of winners with you soon.