Grand Challenges is a family of initiatives fostering innovation to solve key global health and development problems. Each initiative is an experiment in the use of challenges to focus innovation on making an impact. Individual challenges address some of the same problems, but from differing perspectives.
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Ross Anderson at the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom will develop technology to enable secure offline phone-to-phone and card-to-phone payments between customers and merchants. The ability to use mobile phones to make and receive payments has expanded access to secure financial services in low-resource settings. However, the requirement of a network connection makes it particularly problematic in rural communities. They will develop SIM overlay technology, modern cryptography and audio coupling to securely transfer payments offline also from a SIM format payment card for those without a phone. Merchants can then bank the payments periodically whenever they have a network connection. They will evaluate their prototype for usability and security, and work towards interoperability across countries so that migrant workers can also use it.
Stan Stalnaker of Hub Culture Services Ltd. in the United Kingdom will provide the global poor, merchants and partner NGOs with easy access to digital currency for making and receiving payments or distributing aid, with no transaction costs using mobile phones. The digital currency can be exchanged for a local currency for a fee using a Gateway Broker, who can be any merchant, NGO or bank. They will develop a new open-source set of APIs (application programming interface), and simple consumer and merchant interfaces using mostly icons so that people can easily register and transfer payments.
Ronald Azairwe of Pegasus Technologies Ltd. in Uganda will develop an online portal coupled with attractive incentives to recruit merchants and train them to accept mobile money in Uganda. Current methods of recruitment are slow and require multiple in-person visits, which can be difficult in remote areas. The portal will enable merchants to register online and an incentive structure will be developed to reward merchants based on transaction volume. They will test their portal by advertising to merchants in one urban and one rural location where large numbers of employees receive their salary in mobile money, thereby boosting demand for merchants to accept mobile money. They will also provide an online and phone-based helpline.
Christine Yee with Darpan Bohara and Yashna Sureka of Smith College in the U.S. will develop a fingerprint scanner that can link to phone networks and banks to enable merchants to easily and quickly accept mobile money payments in India. Fingerprint identification is relatively secure and will simplify the payment process so people with different levels of literacy can use it. They will test their prototype by giving deposits to a group of students and scanners to local merchants in Nelamangala, India, and providing the associated knowledge and resources needed to use their mobile money transfer system.
Ken Kinyua of Kopo Kopo Inc. in the U.S. has developed a software platform that gives particularly lower-income merchants in Uganda the possibility to receive every type of mobile money service on the market by registering with only one bank. This will promote the use of mobile money, which will also benefit the banks and mobile network operators, and both simplify and secure transactions for both the merchants and the consumers. They have licensed their software to a partner bank and will support implementation and uptake by providing personnel to establish the necessary services and expertise, and by advertising the facility to prospective merchants.
Ruth Foster of TIWA, LLC in the U.S. will develop a finance application tool using money pictures to enable illiterate users to make accurate transactions. They will design and test a tablet with touch screen and build associated software for consumers that can be used to scan barcodes, or manually add products and prices. The final cost of the purchases will be automatically displayed using images of real money, which the consumer can then use to pay the correct amount.
Jessica Vernon and Jennifer Stutsman of Maisha Meds in Kenya will encourage chemists and pharmacies to accept mobile money in East Africa by integrating their tailored software application with an established mobile payment system, and providing automatic registration and financial incentives. Chemists have found it particularly difficult to track transactions made using mobile money and therefore tend to avoid using it. Their existing software program can be run on locally available tablets and enables digital recording of pharmacy's sales and purchases, and stock tracking. They will integrate this with a mobile payment system and offer it to a network of chemists who use mobile money to evaluate the effect on frequency of mobile money transactions. They will also test whether automatic registration to a mobile payment system along with access to competitive loans can sign-up more chemists than existing subscription packages.
Akinola Dixon of Qrios Networks in Nigeria will simplify mobile money payments by building a platform incorporating a unique digital identity for all customer accounts and merchants, and leveraging a stable carrier signaling network using low-cost, automated communication technologies. When a merchant wishes to sell goods, the platform generates a unique payment code for the consumer to authorize on their mobile phone, and the money is transferred. They will research the requirements for their approach, design the required software, and test their platform.
Geraldine O'Keeffe of Software Group KE Ltd. in Kenya will develop a smartphone application so that smaller merchants in developing economies can use one system to receive mobile money from customers with different providers, and can digitally track sales and inventory. They will also explore options for subsidizing the technology including offering the generated data to financial service providers and others. Their approach will allow merchants to easily register online to encourage uptake, also reducing recruitment costs. They will customize their mobile application for the Kenyan market, integrate it with existing payment service providers, and perform a pilot study over 3-4 months with 25-50 merchants to evaluate functionality and usage for refining the platform.
Enoma Odia of Sofdia System Nigeria in Nigeria will apply network marketing to promote the uptake of mobile money by offering financial rewards to merchants for recommending it to other merchants within their community. This marketing system leverages the communal style of living, where the residing merchants sell similar products and share the same language. When a recommendation to use mobile money comes from a merchant in the same community, and the rewards for referrals are shared between users, it is more likely to be accepted. They will use their m-square platform, evaluate the most effective compensation levels to promote uptake, and add an accounting system for users to monitor their income.