When I arrived in South Africa for the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s conference on financial education I was struck by the contrasts in this fascinating country.
But even more intriguing than the economic, social and topographical diversity was a striking commonality. From the densely packed urban townships, to the opulent Cape Town shopping malls, to the rural farm communities, there are mobile phone towers. They spring up everywhere, even in places without running water or reliable electricity.
I was startled to find that 3G network access was available every place I went, including, at one a point, on a bone-rattling, dusty road miles from any buildings. Being in South Africa it became clear to me the need to also deliver financial education by this ubiquitous tool.
One of the biggest challenges for those of us working to improve financial literacy is how to have this vital information connect with consumers. It has to be relevant, timely and accessible. And it’s ‘accessible’ that is the moving target.
Ten years ago web-based content was often seen as the best way to reach the end user. While traditional computers accessing the Internet are still a powerful tool, mobile phones have become the screen of choice today for many audiences including everyone I met in South Africa.
I am convinced that in places like Africa, the next opportunity in financial literacy is to take the fundamentals of personal finance – budgeting, saving, responsible spending, wise use of credit and access to the banking system – and deliver them on a mobile device at the right time, to the right audience. This won’t be accomplished overnight or by one organization. Working collectively, though, I am convinced we can make it happen.
Posted by: Jason Alderman, Visa Corporate Relations on December 2, 2011 at 9:48 am