SMS and Mobile Banking Saving Lives in Tanzania

A great story hit the web some days ago (CNN via Textually) about how doctors in Tanzania have used the speed and flexibility of mobile banking to lower the barriers of giving treatment for various health ills. Here’s a snippet:

Doctors at the Comprehensive Community Based Rehabilitation in Tanzania clinic (CCBRT) say the average cost of a return bus ticket for a woman traveling from a rural area for treatment is $60, a huge amount in a country where the majority of people live on $2 a day.

“We use the mobile phone to actually transfer those transport grants to the communities, so that those woman can reach our facility — and then the cost of lodging in a hospital, we also bear the costs,” says Erwin Telemans, who runs the clinic.

Using mobile to improve health care has been a common theme around the world, where this specific story gets legs is that its happening via mobile banking initiatives – services which started out very grassroots and have become quite effective and pervasive.

View video at CNN

Its Not Just Physical, Economic Health Also Effected

M-Pesa is one of the first mobile banking initiatives to come out of Africa (starting with Safaricom in Kenya and making its way across much of the continent) and currently handles hundreds of millions of transactions (the CNN article quotes 700 million transactions last year for M-Pesa). One analyst said that M-Pesa is being used by 35% of Kenyans, and is projected to be 20% of Kenya’s GDP for 2010. Essentially, what’s happening with these doctors isn’t just saving lives, but also giving economic health to a country.

A simple SMS is able to save a life, and then foster an economy. That’s the opportunity happening in mobile, how are you looking to do similar kinds of work in 2011?