Chris Locke: ‘Show me the money’

United Methodist Communications will host the Game Changers Summit Sept. 3-5, 2014, in Nashville, Tenn. The conference will demonstrate how information and communications technology (ICT) can be used to improve all facets of life. The focus? Helping parts of the world left behind by the technological revolution, to solve problems in education, wellness and community development with cutting-edge communications tools. This article series will spotlight some of the speakers and panelists participating in the Game Changers Summit.

The accepted definition of a developing nation is one that lags behind in terms of economy, education or other resources. But Chris Locke thinks many developing nations have actually taken the lead in utilizing mobile technology.

“It’s actually a critical part of the infrastructure and, in many ways, the usage is more advanced than it is in our countries,” says Locke, founder of Caribou Digital, which analyzes how technology is changing in emerging markets.

“The real impact we’ve seen has been in financial inclusion, where mobile money is now at the rate where in many emerging countries, anywhere from 30 to 40 percent of the country’s GDP goes over mobile money. It’s replacing cash quite rapidly.”

A common misconception in the field of Information and Communications Technology for Development (ICT4D) is that mobile devices are a luxury in an impoverished nation or in a disaster-stricken area — a theory that Locke refutes. In the same way modern society considers a mobile phone to be an essential tool for daily life, the same holds true in a rural African village.

“For many people, a mobile phone gives them access to doctors and health information for the first time. It may give them access to educational information for the first time,” he says.

Furthermore, it gives them access to mobile money, which Locke considers one of the more vital facets in the ICT world. “It which gives them financial inclusion for the first time, which gives them a way to make small micro-payments to perhaps access a solar-electricity unit for their home for the first time. It may give them a credit rating for the first time to allow them to get loans to start a business.”

*Butler is a multimedia editor/producer for United Methodist Communications.

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