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IDB and Fundación Telefónica present report on mobile communications and access to financial services in Latin America and the Caribbean

MEDELLÍN, Colombia – The Inter-American Development Bank and Fundación Telefónica today presented a report on mobile communications and access to financial services in Latin America.

The report analyses the level of development of mobile technologies and financial services in eight countries in the region, and is the result of a dialogue with leaders from the public and private sectors, carried out through a series of workshops organized by the Multilateral Investment Fund (MIF) of the Inter-American Development Bank and Fundación Telefónica.

“The new report provides a valuable and timely contribution. It presents a vision of the opportunities and specific challenges that the region faces in improving access to financial services and the way in which mobile technologies can become an answer to such challenges,”said Julie Katzman, manager of the MIF.
A great expansion of mobile communications in the last few years in Latin America and the Caribbean, reached remote and underserved areas, and became a valuable tool for strengthening social ties and enhancing business and employment opportunities.
“While the advent of mobile communications has been a great step towards the democratization of access to information and communications, leapfrogging traditional communications infrastructure,”said Katzman,“the region still faces major challenges for improving the conditions of the majority of Latin Americans.”

Mobile banking has great potential for extending financial services to unbanked people through a technology that is both familiar and widespread. However, despite some successful experiences of financial inclusion through mobile phones in Asia and Africa, the offer in Latin America and the Caribbean is still limited.

The lack of access to financial services prevents people from achieving their potential and developing their personal and professional projects. While in 2008 80 percent of Latin Americans carried a cell phone, only 30 percent had access to basic financial services, including merely 13 percent of the region’s micro entrepreneurs.
“In our work we found that there are no major barriers for the development of mobile financial services in the region, and regulators, mobile network operators and financial institutions are showing an increasingly open attitude, which will be very helpful in the development of m-banking,”said Jaime García Alba, IDB expert responsible for the report. “Furthermore the mature state of the microfinance industry in Latin America and the Caribbean should provide a very valuable platform to reach more people in rural and marginal urban areas,”added García Alba.

The IDB and Telefónica share their interest for the identification of innovative solutions that, through a combination of new technologies and new business models, can help improve people’s lives and contribute to the social and economic development of Latin America and the Caribbean.

Pilot program of the National Federation of Coffee Growers of Colombia

Telefónica MoviStar, the Federation of Coffee Growers and Banco de Bogotá, presented today the initial results of a pilot program with a mobile-banking project in the Colombian departments of Santander, Caldas and Risaralda. The initiative will benefit more than 300,000 coffee growers in the country.

The coffee growers are now able to make economic transactions through their cellphones with money deposited in an Intelligent Coffee I.D., make payments and withdraw money from commercial establishments. They can also check coffee prices, their balance and latest operations in their cards from their farms. Thanks to this project, the coffee growers and the financial system will reduce in a significant way handling of cash.

In only one month of the starting-up of this pilot project, coffee growers of the municipalities of  San Gil, Río Sucio, Socorro and Quinchía have made more than 1,300 transactions through text messaging from their MoviStar cellphones, generating an average of 43 daily operations.

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