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Report

Disaster Response: Mobile Money for the Displaced

2014 — By GSMA

Advances in mobile technology have opened up new opportunities, not only for communication, but also for using the mobile handset as a platform for a range of applications. The introduction of data transfer facilities and the rise of mobile financial services around the world have allowed mobile money services to evolve and grow rapidly. At the same time, cash is increasingly being used as a form of humanitarian assistance, either as an alternative to, or in conjunction with, the provision of food or other items. However, while funding for cash transfers in emergency contexts has increased from 2007 levels, it still remains a very small proportion of total global humanitarian assistance. According to available estimates, when the level of funding peaked in 2010, financing for cash transfer programmes constituted 1.9% of the $13.8 billion in humanitarian funding that donor governments provided. In 2012, it fell to 0.9% of the $12.9 billion from donor governments.This increase in the use of cash in emergencies has been the result of humanitarian agencies recognising that cash is able to support a range of needs, including providing access to a wider variety of types of food and helping to rebuild or protect livelihoods. It is also increasingly acknowledged that cash can be a more dignified way of assisting affected populations, as it empowers people to determine their own needs and the best way to meet them. Cash-based interventions are a particularly effective tool in urban settings where viable market and banking systems are already in place, but can be equally useful in rural areas, where markets become increasingly dynamic as more people settle there. Sensing the potential of mobile technology to make cash transfers more targeted, cost-efficient and rapid, the humanitarian community has begun partnering with mobile money service providers as part of their emergency response to support communities affected by conflict, disasters, and food insecurity. There has been some important work, particularly by research institutions and platforms such as the Cash Learning Partnership (CaLP), GSMA and the Consultative Group to Assist the Poor (CGAP), on evaluating the use of mobile money in emergency contexts. However, there has been less focus on the current and potential use of mobile money by refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs). This report aims to begin to fill this gap by examining the use of mobile money in these contexts, and discussing the challenges and opportunities for enhancing the impact of mobile money on refugees and IDPs in the future.