The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is aiming to accelerate the adoption of digital payments in the developing world by offering grants to firms that make it easy for small merchants to accept mobile money.
More than 2.5 billion adults around the world, and 59% of those in developing economies, do not have a formal bank account, trapping them in a cash-based economy that "steals away their chance to build a stable future," according to the foundation.
While mobile phones have helped usher in an era of person-to-person digital transactions, the vast majority of payments within the small merchant community continue to be cash-based.
Accessible, innovative digital financial products and services have the potential to help poor people across the globe fulfil their basic needs, make transactions cheaply and efficiently, and invest in their futures, argues the foundation.
It is now asking for ideas on how to help local merchants, schools and health clinics in emerging countries make the move to digital money. Interested parties are invited to fill out a short, two page application for the chance of a $100,000 grant. Those that prove promising could then get a follow-up sum of up to $1 million.
Kosta Peric, deputy director, financial services for the poor initiative, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, says: "Now, we need your ideas-and your commitment-to help empower billions in the developing world to take control of their financial lives and build brighter futures for themselves, their families and communities."