The belief that people can improve their livelihoods when provided with the right tools has been widely accepted. In this context, one simple tool, the mobile phone, has created substantial impact in the developing world and changed the lives of numerous low-income individuals. Today, a total of six billion mobile phones are being used throughout the world, 75% of those by users in developing countries. Mobile technology has offered many impoverished individuals the opportunity to break the cycle of poverty, simply by providing access to markets, financial services, information and viable business opportunities.
The mobile market in Indonesia
Recognising the importance of the mobile phone as a tool to empower low-income individuals in rural areas, Grameen Foundation and eBay Foundation recently partnered to build solutions that can successfully address market challenges faced by microentrepreneurs in Indonesia.
Why Indonesia? The mobile phone coverage in the country is enormous. 80% of the population uses a mobile phone and 96% of those users text regularly. And this despite the fact that nearly 75% of Indonesia’s citizens live on less than $2.50 per day. The mobile phone is mainly used as information tool. Farmers are now able to access information about market pricing and weather conditions, the unemployed have access to job opportunities and the unbanked can engage in secure financial transactions. The mobile phone has proven to empower users to gain control of volatile conditions, particularly in informal markets.
The Partnership – Grameen Foundation and eBay Foundation
EBay Foundation will support Grameen Foundation’s Mobile Microfranchise initiative in Indonesia, which currently works with a network of more than 10,000 female microentrepreneurs. A 2010 study found that 47% of participants in the program were able to double their income by their fourth month of participation. Motivated by this success, Grameen Foundation looked into ways to maximise the impact of the program. This is where eBay steps into the picture. In 2011, the company transacted $5 billion through mobile devices and 60% of those mobile purchases came from outside the U.S..
As a first step, the companies agreed on a $750,000 grand from eBay Foundation along with a concept to develop the Mobile Transaction Platform and the Mobile Marketplace. In addition, eBay Foundation committed to engaging eBay staff throughout the project. These two new applications aim to extend the existing efforts of Grameen Foundation’s technology platform and increase the impact of the program. The partners expect that this initiative will contribute to the growth of the Indonesia-based network from 10,500 to 60,000 entrepreneurs over the next three years. These entrepreneurs will then be able to provide an estimated 4.5 million rural customers with access to the mobile marketplace.