The UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) 2013 Global Assessment Report on Disaster Risk Reduction, launched at a press conference Wednesday, highlights the potential of mobile money as a means for the private sector to distribute aid to the countries most in need during disaster relief efforts.
“The financially excluded, the natural disaster victims, and the poorest people are all the same,” Jay Collins, Vice-President of Investing Banking at Citigroup, tells MediaGlobal. Citigroup recently partnered with USAID to work on facilitating widespread implementation of a mobile money network.
The use of mobile money, explains Collins, is especially useful in “serial natural disaster victim countries” or countries that are repeatedly hit by natural disasters, like Haiti, which suffered a chain of cyclones two years before its 2010 earthquake.
Governments using mobile money will “have reached out to the group that is the same group that is hardest hit by natural disasters,” says Collins.
According to Collins, the new technology would carry a number of benefits: 2 billion unbanked people could still have access to social benefits via mobile systems. While aid funds can still be intercepted, direct donor-to-user distribution would guarantee that the transaction be virtually corruption-proof.
“I also now have the potential to have a two-way dialogue with you,” adds Collins. “You could actually tell me back information that could be useful during the natural disaster recovery period.”
The Citigroup-USAID alliance is one of several global partnerships between businesses and aid groups—including partnerships that Collins cited between Target and FEMA, and Pfizer and UNICEF—that have formed since the Indian Ocean tsunami in 2004 to mitigate financial damages in addition to human and structural losses.