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Making Mobile Money Easier In Developing Countries

Emil Sjöblom
University of Washington
The UW’s new Digital Financial Services Research Group will develop technologies to make banking services more widely accessible in the developing world.";

In developing and third-world countries, moving money around digitally can be very complicated and risky. Computer science professors and students at the University of Washington are trying to make that task easier and safer.

In remote parts of India or Africa, “It’s very common for a farmer to leave his village, go the city, drive a taxi and then, every month, he wants to send his wages back to his family,” said Richard Anderson, a computer science and engineering professor at the University of Washington.

But how can that taxi driver do that without worrying about financial security threats and identity theft?         

Anderson said lots of mobile-money applications have security holes. Others are complicated,  requiring the users to carry around SIM cards for multiple cell phone companies. Anderson and a team of students will be spending the next two years developing easy and secure open-sourced code.

A $1.7 million grant from the Gates Foundation is paying for the creation of a new digital financial services group at UW.

Not only could a reliable mobile-money platform make it possible for people to send cash to relatives in remote villages, the technology could also be used by aid organizations to send funds directly to the people who need it most.


Jennifer Wing is a former KNKX reporter and producer who worked on the show Sound Effect and Transmission podcast.