The University of California, Irvine has announced a $1.7 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation for a first-of-its-kind research institute focused on the growing use of mobile technology in providing banking and financial services to individuals in developing countries.
To be housed in UCI's School of Social Sciences, the Institute for Money, Technology, and Financial Inclusion will explore how the world's poorest individuals spend, store, and save money and will study how these habits are affected by the emerging mobile banking industry, or "m-banking," which could make financial services and the security they provide available to millions of the world's poor for the first time.
Officially launched last week, the institute will also fund research in developing countries, host conferences, provide scholarships to those who conduct such research, and create an archive on the emerging m-banking industry for use by researchers around the nation and the world. The Gates Foundation will provide funding for the institute through August 2011.
"This kind of research is critical to informing the design of financial products and services that meet the needs of the poor," said Amolo Ng'weno, senior program officer for the foundation's Financial Services for the Poor initiative. "We need to understand ways that the poor think about and use money so that new banking models can become relevant for the population with the most need. Convenient, low-cost, high-quality savings and other financial services can help the poor transform their lives."