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Making Money Mobile
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Making Money Mobile
Capturing the game-changing power of cellular telephones to deliver financial services to the poor in earthquake ravaged Haiti, teams are building on models developed in Kenya and elsewhere in Africa. This film highlights the potential of low-cost cellular technology to serve the poor.
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Produced and directed by Jonathan Stack, and produced by Mara Batlin.

Learn more about the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation's Short Film Initiative, a collaboration with the Sundance Institute.

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Segment 1

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Produced by Highest Common Denominator Media Group. Produced in association with the Sundance Institute Documentary Film Program for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
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Making Money Mobile
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Eighty percent of Haitians live in poverty, subject to natural and man-made disasters. The catastrophic earthquake of January 12, 2010 throws Haiti's fragile economy into chaos.
MAN
The situation is very bad, it's very bad.
KOKOEVI SOUSSUVI [Economic Recovery Program Manager, Mercy Corps]
When the earthquake happened I made a personal decision to come to Haiti. I lost a very dear friend of mine in the earthquake and I'd made a promise to him that one day I would come, and I had no other choice than coming here now, to hold that promise. After the earthquake, a number of branches, bank branches were closed, or some of them even collapsed. People could not get access to their own cash, cash they needed to protect themselves against the disaster, to buy food, medicine, water. So cash-based interventions were relevant in the context of Haiti. With a purely cash-based economy, we know that people have a very short-term view.
GEORGETTE JEAN-LOUIS [Chief Financial Officer, Fonkoze Microfinance Institution]
Our credit agents, sometimes they have to go by foot, and sometimes we are very high in the mountains, so we have to walk.
CLAUDE CLODOMIR [Deputy Chief of Party for USAID/HIFIVE]
The number one issue is violence, it's crime. We know for a fact that these women who actually make the majority of street vendors get money taken away from them.
GEORGETTE JEAN-LOUIS
These people, they can be robbed, they can be killed, they can be kidnapped.
PRIYA JAISINGHANI [Senior Advisor to the Administrator for USAID]
One woman was paying a gang member USD$20 a day to keep her safe.
MAN
I think life is not good at all for us, for almost all of us.
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In the midst of this chaos, cellular service continued to function.
PIERRE LIAUTAUD [VP Product Development, Voila]
Cell phones save lives. A number of people who were recovered underneath the rubble were able to text their exact location in the house.
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There are 6.8 billion people living on the planet. Nearly 5 billion of them use a cell phone.
CLAUDE CLODOMIR
People have cell phone service and needed these financial transactions. The economy was moving, but they needed to be facilitated and mobile banking became evident as a result of the earthquake.
KOKOEVI SOUSSUVI
Mobile phone penetration in Haiti is really significant, about 85 percent of Haitians own a phone.
PIERRE LIAUTAUD
Without cell phones in Haiti there is no communication. It's not a luxury; it's a basic need of survival.
STEPHANE BRUNO [Senior Technology Advisor for USAID/HIFIVE]
Since this device is already in the hands of the majority of the population, it makes sense to use it also for financial services.
KOKOEVI SOUSSUVI
You have a very strong platform for mobile banking to succeed: mobile payments, transfer from one person to the next, from one side of the country to the other, and international remittances.
CLAUDE CLODOMIR
Mobile banking is basically allowing someone to do a banking transaction via telephone.
PIERRE LIAUTAUD
Clearly the technology exists to allow a country like Haiti to become a cashless country.
CHARLES CASTEL [Governor, Central Bank of Haiti]
It is part of the initiative to enfranchise the disenfranchised.
PRIYA JAISINGHANI
And we've seen that it can work, we've seen in Kenya where there's a service called Mpesa. There are more than 10 million clients now using their cell phone to save money and to transact with one another. It's the silver lining in a devastating situation.
WOMAN
I need to add minutes to my phone.
KOKOEVI SOUSSUVI
Mobile payments are important because, in a country like Haiti, there are only two bank branches for about 160,000 people.
MAN
When I have to cash a check, you have to come to the bank, and the lines are so long and so slow.
PRIYA JAISINGHANI
You might have a woman who has some extra money, and she wants to hide it -- hide it from her husband, hide it from herself -- by buying a goat. But, when she needs just a few dollars, you can't just sell half the goat, you have to sell the whole goat, so it can be an illiquid and expensive way of saving money.
PIERRE LIAUTAUD
If all my money is in cash and it's not in the bank, where is it? In my mattress? What happens if my house burns down?
KOKOEVI SOUSSUVI
So linking cash-based intervention and mobile banking is taking this relief effort one step further because as we do this we also educate people to make the most of financial services.
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Mobile money training session
KOKOEVI SOUSSUVI
We are right in the middle of phone distribution, just about ready to begin the training on how to use the mobile phone to receive payment after a heavy cash-for-work day.
PIERRE LIAUTAUD
She's never had a phone before and I said, "You'll learn fast," and she said, "Yes, yes, yes."
STEPHANE BRUNO
It's really a tool that the government can use to improve the quality of its services to the citizen.
KOKOEVI SOUSSUVI
So by using the mobile technology we can actually bank outside the bank.
CLAUDE CLODOMIR
The benefit to someone, a poor person having savings -- it reduces their economic vulnerability; they are able to plan out expenses and invest in their small businesses.
WOMAN
For me, saving is great because I don't need to have the cash right away but it's there for me whenever I need it.
KOKOEVI SOUSSUVI
People are amazing, they are really getting it. They are really using their phone to test out the power of mobile money.
MAN
This is a tool that is going to be very good for us all.
KOKOEVI SOUSSUVI
We are there, right at the beginning of it. You know, we're the first one doing it. I mean, this is the best idea we've ever had.
PIERRE LIAUTAUD
I will bet that, one year from now, we will have seen the greatest success of mobile money in the world in Haiti.
KOKOEVI SOUSSUVI
It's going to be great.
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[end credits]
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The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) in 2010 launched a USD$10 million incentive fund to jumpstart financial services by mobile phone in Haiti. This initiative is helping deliver cash assistance to earthquake victims and lays the foundations for advanced banking services that could help millions of Haitians lift themselves out of extreme poverty.