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Mobile Food Stamps

With the global food crisis raging on, it is time for countries and international organisations to think of creative ways to address the issue. Giving free rations is not a viable economic answer. Consumers reeling from price hikes don't need food aid; they need assistance on the pricing.

One of the common solutions to address food inflation is issuing food stamps. Some countries like India issue 'ration cards' that entitle holders to purchase food items at low rates from designated shops.

In today's 'Goog-Mobile' world, I think it is time for countries to use the ubiquitous mobile phone as a channel for distributing food stamps. Governments can tie up with mobile operators and aid agencies to send 'food credits' to citizens mobile numbers. I had pleaded in one of my earlier blogs that it is time for the mobile phone to be used as a citizen ID. The added benefit of your mobile carrying 'food currency' makes it all the more attractive. Already, in countries like Kenya, the mobile credits are used as a P2P currency unit. So, why not download food stamps to mobile phones of needy citizens. The needy consumers will just need to go to designated shops, pay by mobile phone and collect their food items. Mobile phones and numbers are perhaps the fastest growing consumer item across the world - particularly in the Third World. Governments should come out the traditional mode of thinking and look for digital solutions. In fact, donors from across the world can actually donate mobile credits by uploading contributions to mobile numbers at the MSP's website!

The road to digital currency can begin at the most basic necessity - FOOD!

2402

Comments: (4)

A Finextra member
A Finextra member 09 July, 2008, 14:48Be the first to give this comment the thumbs up 0 likes

I agree that now its high time to look for some revolution in public distribution system (PDS) in countries like INDIA. However, in India many people don't have Citizen ID as well as mobile phone. Hence, I feel that before we include mobile phone in this system we should establish identity of each and every citizen. Mobile phone can not be used as a citizen identity for the following reasons:

1. Its a consumer item and all citizens have choice of changing service provider or changing the mobile number based on their convenience.

2. One person can have varios mobile phones. Hence, uniqueness of identity will not be maintained.

3. Still there is a huge population in India which does not have mobile phones but using PDS by government.

Sriram Natarajan
Sriram Natarajan - Credit Risk Fraud Cards Professional - Gurgaon 10 July, 2008, 06:19Be the first to give this comment the thumbs up 0 likes

Nikhil,

Please browse through my blogs of 2/12/07 and 4/12/07. you may find some answers to your concerns.

 

A Finextra member
A Finextra member 21 July, 2008, 06:48Be the first to give this comment the thumbs up 0 likes

Great idea Sriram. There appear to be one or two African countries which could also benefit from such a system.

One of the other applications is definitely minisation of harm through advanced warning of disasters like Tsunami's, storms, earthquakes etc.

The issue of hunger is the most serious. While Nikhil is correct that not everyone who is hungry has a mobile, those who do have one could certainy use it to confirm their identity.

A Finextra member
A Finextra member 24 July, 2008, 02:16Be the first to give this comment the thumbs up 0 likes

Hi,

By the looks of it the high food and fuel prices are here to stay. Food coupons and equivalent are temporary solutions.What governments and other agencies working in these related areas need to do is bring about a more focused agricultural policy that aims at increasing the food outputs in a more sustainable way.

Gone are the days when governements and research bodies work in isolation and are focused on IP creation. With the issue being a global one, a collaborativ model to comabt this crisis seems to be the best way to approach this.

Chandrasekhar