Professor Michael Barrett of Cambridge Judge Business School has praised a mobile phone solution that offers financial access and business potential for populations in emerging economies.

“Two thirds of GDP is in services these days,” commented Professor Barrett. “Many large companies are looking at ways to grow through services and I was interested in the question of how large companies get the support of small companies to deploy and grow services in emerging economies so meeting needs of people in these economies and perhaps, overtime, not just be a corporate social responsibility initiative but grow into a real business unit.”

He added that with minorities of the populations in Kenya and other parts of Africa having access to bank accounts, there was huge potential to access the financial system.

“The opportunities are endless especially with a mobile-based technology. A platform that allows for lead–users to discover new applications but also to take it on and, in a network effect, develop new businesses around the platform on their own, improvising, experimenting and creating.

“In Africa and other parts of the developing world there’s a lot of creativity – necessity is the mother of invention - where there is need, there will be a thriving, interesting and creative way of developing new innovations.” 

Professor Barrett has conducted a case study into an application called ‘M-Pesa’ – a dual project undertaken by Sagentia in Cambridge and Vodaphone. The phrase, ‘M-Pesa’ reflects M for Mobile and Pesa a Swahili word for money, meaning literally, mobile money.

Professor Barrett’s research has focused upon the use of technology to support emerging or developing countries. He says he was particularly attracted to the M-Pesa initiative by the way in which a very large company, Vodafone, with an interesting CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) initiative, partnered with a small Silicon Fen company, Sagentia, to deploy and further partner with Kenya’s Safaricom mobile network.

More information about his case study, ‘M-PESA Power: Leveraging Service Innovation in Emerging Economies’, can be found via the Cambridge Judge Business School.