I first saw the impact mobile phones could have in the developing world when I spent 2 summers in rural Tanzania in 2003 and 2004. People who had never imagined getting a landline, didn’t have running water and often had only an erratic supply of electricity were buying phones and using them to do everything from chat with distant family to conducting business. As cheesy at it may sound, they were using these tiny devices to get information and access the world. And now the penetration of mobile phones in East Africa is incredible: at the end of 2010, there were 90 mobile phone lines per 100 Kenyan adults.
As mobile phones become more powerful, the line between what a full PC can do and what your $50 phone can do will increasingly blur. Ever since I saw the initial promise and potential in Tanzania, I’ve wanted to work on mobile technology and impact the billions of lives it can improve.
After my experiences in Tanzania, I went to work at Microsoft for several years. I started in Windows and held roles in product management as well as product planning, working on the consumer security product OneCare as well as Internet Explorer. I then made the move I had been looking forward to, working on competitive strategy in our mobile business. Smartphones were exploding and it was a great education in the rapidly evolving landscape of mobile OSes.
Now at Equity Bank (the largest bank in Kenya), my mission is to look at how we can push mobile money forward, to empower and enable all Kenyans access to financial services delivered to their handheld mobile device. Equity is an innovative leader in the banking world and is developing solutions that push the boundaries of mobile banking.
And thus I’m very fortunate to have a front row seat to watch and drive as some of the most advanced mobile money solutions are rolled out here in Kenya. For multiple reasons, the frontier of mobile money is not in the US, not in Europe or other developed countries – it’s right here in Nairobi.
In this blog, I will be writing about everything relating to mobile money. It’s a burgeoning new space that is set to change the way we conduct our financial lives, impacting our financial identity in fundamental ways that have yet to be fully understood. I will discuss the developments in mobile money as they unfold, their implications for the rest of the world, and the bright future that lies ahead.