> Posted by Center Staff

On Wednesday, a new joint-initiative was launched that puts free financial education lessons into the phones of Tigo’s seven million mobile subscribers in Colombia. The service, Su Dinero (Your Money), features online financial education content from Microfinance Opportunities (MFO) tailored to the local Colombian context. Supported by project partners DAI and Souktel, the financial education platform is housed on Facebook’s Internet.org phone application. Though web-based, the app can be accessed by Tigo’s mobile subscribers without cost or data charges due to the businesses’ unique arrangement, aligned with Internet.org’s social mission: extending affordable internet access to the five billion people around the world who don’t have it.

Less than a third of the global population use internet-based financial or commercial services. By and large this isn’t a reflection of a lack of connectivity, as mobile phone reception now covers about 85 percent of the inhabited world, although smart phones penetration is far lower. Internet.org, founded by Facebook in 2013, is out to make internet access 100-times more affordable and increase uptake worldwide by targeting the following barriers: cost of devices; cost of service plans; lack of content in local languages; limited availability of power sources; difficulty in networks supporting large amounts of data; lack of awareness of the value of the internet; and remaining gaps in mobile network connectivity.

In the Colombia initiative, Internet.org partners with mobile network operators (MNOs), NGOs, governments, and other stakeholders, with the goals of reducing the cost of internet-housed data, reducing the amount of data required by internet-based services, and exploring new business models. Mechanisms to reduce the cost of serving customers include affordable devices and more efficient mobile infrastructure (e.g. cell towers). Reducing the amount of data required includes harnessing data compression technologies and running apps using more data that is cached (stored on device) rather than fetched from servers.

Tigo Colombia’s Internet.org app offering not only includes financial education resources that can be used without data charges, but also a host of other free services on health, employment, and local information. The Internet.org app, though without the MFO modules, is offered by several other MNOs around the world. The app was first launched this summer Zambia, and since has been rolled out in India, Ghana, Kenya, and Tanzania.

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