Could mobile money change aid distribution and emergency relief?

After a drought in Niger, some households got cash transfers via mobile money (called zap), one-third got manual cash transfers, and one-third received manual cash plus a phone.

the zap-based program strongly reduced the variable distribution costs for the implementing agency, as well as program recipients’ costs of obtaining the cash transfer.

The zap approach also resulted in… more diverse purchasing, a greater diversity of diet, fewer depleted assets, and a greater diversity of crops grown, especially marginal cash crops grown by women.

…lower costs and greater privacy of the zap mechanism—as well as changes in intra-household decision-making—explain the advantage.

Full paper here.

I have been a skeptic of ICTs and development, but the mobile money business will probably make me a believer.