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“Mobile phones and wireless internet end isolation, and will therefore prove to be the most transformative technology of economic development of our time.”

– Jeffrey Sachs –

M4A closes the digital divide by connecting people –especially women– throughout Africa to mobile phones that are accessible, affordable and ethical.

As a result we can better serve people living in poverty and align this new technology to people’s best interests.

B&MM4A is thrilled to be the recipient of a Grand Challenge Exploration Award from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Through this grant, M4A is partnering with Vodafone Mozambique and the Harvard School of Public Health to pilot innovative solutions to increase mobile phone and digital financial services usage in rural Mozambique.

Read more here 

Melinda Gates explains the transformational promise of mobile phones in Africa.

In Africa, a phone is not simply a phone. It’s access to a better life, especially for women.

Throughout Africa, millions of people still live without electricity, telephones, internet, and basic financial services. In this context, the phone is 4-inches and 100 grams of modernity. It’s a bank to save for school fees, light to study by, a mentor for better farming practices, and a hotline to quality medical advice. Women, however, are still significantly less likely than men to own a mobile phone.

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We are changing lives by connecting people throughout Africa to smarter phones and life-changing apps that help people use technology to serve their best interests.

Good medicine and medical care is essential for every family, but it’s hard to access in rural communities. A mobile phone can help people locate essential drugs, notify NGOs and local governments of drug stock-outs, connect people to reliable medical advice, and even be programmed to send timely reminders about important appointments for prenatal care or immunization visits for their children. With mobile connections, farmers who are looking for affordable seeds and farming supplies can easily call local suppliers to get the best price. When it comes to harvest time, they can find out the best prices at the market, and agriculture apps allow farmers to get real time farming tips and and weather alerts.

Internet use throughout Africa is largely mobile, and it’s exploding throughout the continent. With cheaper connection rates and better access, 1.5 billion people are expected to join the world of mobile internet by 2020. But first, people need phones. Digital financial services is growing fast — over 10 million transactions take place each day. It will allow millions of people to take advantage of all that financial access has to offer: savings, loans, payment transfers, access to credit, and most importantly, the opportunity for economic development for families.

Why Phones Matter: The Numbers

In the next 5 years, mobile Internet use is predicted to explode in the developing world, reaching 1.5 billion new users. M4A leverages this historic moment by intentionally designing the next 1.5 billion phones to improve people’s lives so that phones become tools of transformation for the people who need them most.

M4A does this by making phones:

Accessible

M4A aggregates demand for phones in hard to reach rural areas and works with MNOs to be sure phones are sold where rural people can access them. We also train sales agents, with a focus on female agents who are more trusted by women, to teach new users on how to use their phones.

Affordable

M4A partners with MNOs to get phones at cost and crowdsources donations to offer people living in poverty phones they can afford.

Ethical

M4A is connecting first-time phone owners to phones in ways that are intentionally designed to align with their best intentions. For example, if your goal is to save for school fees so your children can finish high school, M4A wants to introduce you to the technology you need, like digital savings, to accomplish that goal. Future projects will experiment with helping new phone owners limit their usage of phone applications (like online betting) that widen, rather than narrow, the gap between their best intentions and actions.

Meet our Current partners

Mindy Hernandez

Founder, Executive Director

Mindy is passionate about increasing social and economic opportunities for people living in poverty. Mindy has particular expertise and interest in blending mobile technology and behavioral science to make development programs more effective. She is the founder of the behavioral design consulting company, Design for Humans. Mindy has advised governments, companies, donors, and NGOs around the world on applying cutting edge behavioral science to measurably improve programs and policies. In 2013, she was asked to be the the liaison to the White House’s Social and Behavioral Science Team for the US Agency for International Development. Prior to launching Designs for Humans, Mindy was a Senior Researcher with ideas42, a behavioral economics action tank at Harvard University. Mindy received her undergraduate degree from Cornell University and her MPA from Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School. Mindy and Design for Humans are based in Washington, DC.

Brigit Helms

Founder, Board Member

Dr. Helms has spent 30 years finding innovative solutions to development problems across more than 30 countries in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. Brigit was Senior Expert at McKinsey & Company, where she worked with banks and telecommunications companies to build new business models to reach low income clients. Prior to that, she spent four years in Asia with the IFC working on agriculture development, sustainable forestry, infrastructure, business environment and financial services. Brigit was a founding member of CGAP, a global center of excellence for financial services. Brigit holds a PhD in Agriculture and Development Economics from Stanford University and a Masters in International Studies from Johns Hopkins SAIS.

Katie Brennan

Research Assistant

Katie is a third year Mathematics student at UCLA and a board member of UCLA’s Global Development Lab. Katie’s work focuses on quantitative data analysis. Before working with Design for Humans and Mobiles 4 All, Katie lived in Peru and worked on agricultural development projects. Katie is fluent in Spanish and Portuguese. In her free time, Katie enjoys traveling, outdoor sports, and reading. 

Rita Nunez

Implementation Manager 

Rita’s work focuses on helping clients implement intricate, multi-stage interventions.  Rita draws on years as an English and Spanish teacher to support clients in problem-solving through clear, step-by- step processes. Prior to teaching, Rita worked as an electrical technician, overseeing the programming of complex industrial machinery. As a native Spanish speaker with fluent English and Portuguese, Rita has also worked as a translator. Rita has two children and lives in Galicia, Spain.

Margaret O’Connor

Board Member

Margaret is an entrepreneur with 25 years experience in Africa, Asia, the US and the UK. She works as Chief Strategist at Impact Brands Africa, a Johannesburg-based international marketing advisory firm. The formerFinancial Times journalist has worked on projects across Africa since 2002. Prior to that, she co-founded a New York-based, Silicon Valley venture funded video content management business that Reuters used to disrupt its business. O’Connor built trust in the MasterCard brand in frontier markets as the founding head of New Technology Communications and as Vice President of Communications and Government Relations for MasterCard in the Asia-Pacific region. She left the Woodrow Wilson School’s International Relations program to work for the Korean Minister of Finance.

Hillary Miller-Wise

Board Member

Hillary is CEO of Esoko, a technology company that links businesses to smallholder farmers, and is passionate about the use of technology to improve the lives of the poor. She came to Esoko from Grameen Foundation, where she led the organization’s programs in Africa using mobile to link the poor to health, financial and commodity markets. Previously, she served as Country Director then Deputy Regional Director at TechnoServe in Africa, where she designed and launched mobile agriculture partnerships with Vodafone and Tigo. She has spent her career in social enterprise and economic development in both non-profit and for-profit firms. She holds a Master’s in International Economics from Johns Hopkins University and an MBA from INSEAD, where she received the Social Entrepreneurship Scholarship.