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Most people reading this won’t think twice about paying a bill, sending and receiving money, or arranging credit. Not being able to do these things would have a massive impact on our lives. But for two billion people worldwide, this is the reality. They are “unbanked”, without their own bank account or access to financial services.

There are multiple barriers to entry, including the fees to open the bank account and use it, the often inconvenient locations of the banks themselves, and the lack of trust in traditional financial services. This has left 66% of Sub-Saharan Africans without a bank account and without the ability to do the financial transactions that most of us take for granted.

This has to change. But how? Well, you can’t bank the unbanked without connecting the unconnected. And that is precisely World Mobile’s mission.

Here, we’ll explore how bridging the digital divide is the first step towards financial inclusion and how our partnership with Input Output is a crucial part of solving this huge problem.

World Mobile’s mission is to connect the unconnected

If you’re new here, welcome. We’re World Mobile, the first mobile network built on blockchain and the sharing economy. More importantly, we’re creating a world where everyone, everywhere, is connected. 3.7 billion people globally are without internet access, something we believe to be a fundamental human right. So, starting in villages in sub-Saharan Africa, we’re going to change that.

Traditional mobile network operators have tried to bring connectivity to these people and failed, concluding it unprofitable and unsustainable. A totally different approach was needed. The World Mobile model is the first to share the ownership of the network with local business owners, sharing the rewards and creating the much-needed long term sustainability.

As our CEO Micky Watkins puts it, “a network built by the people, for the people”.

Once they are connected, the world opens up. They can communicate with people on the other side of the world. But to do business with them, they need more than just connection. They need a digital identity. And that’s where Input Output (IOHK) comes in.

Input Output’s mission is to cascade disruption

Input Output is one of the world’s pre-eminent blockchain infrastructure research and engineering companies. If you haven’t heard of them, you’ll definitely have heard of one of their creations, Cardano, deemed to be the first third-generation cryptocurrency. Not only are they the only people doing what they are doing, but they have a clear vision of exactly why:

“The reality is that people live in two different configurations; one for developed countries and one for the developing. I started Input Output in February of 2015 with a dream—to deliver economic identity to the billions of people around the world who do not have any control over their own lives.” Input Output CEO, Charles Hoskinson.

Input Output’s purpose perfectly aligns with ours at World Mobile, as Micky Watkins explains:

“I saw IOHK and what they stand for, and it was an obvious choice. There was nobody else in the space who had the same vision, and it matched ours. To bank the unbanked, you need to connect the unconnected; it’s a perfectly symbiotic relationship.”

It wasn’t just their vision that impressed Micky:

“We chose Cardano for their Ouroboros consensus mechanism, Plutus Platform smart contracts, and Atala Prism Digital IDs (DID), which are essential in unlocking access to banking and other financial or insurance services such as micro-loans.”

Cardano’s Ouroboros consensus mechanism is the first blockchain protocol of its kind, with a less energy-intensive system that can potentially handle up to one million transactions per second. Their Plutus Platform aims to model the widest range of digitally secure and programmable smart contracts, and is peer-reviewed and high assurance. It’s also designed to protect users' privacy rights and regulator needs. And what about Atala Prism, providing that crucial digital ID?

Atala PRISM

Atala Prism is a Cardano based decentralised identity solution that enables users to communicate with businesses and organisations securely, including verifying digital records without the need for third parties who can often slow this process down and cost money. It could literally take a person one click on a mobile app to get their identity verified. And not just for banking, but for access to medical records, for a potential employer, even to vote in elections.

“We see blockchain as a powerful force for social good. By creating digital identities we can give people the tools to climb out of poverty, giving them access to vital services like finance, or even providing backup copies of important documents like property rights which can allow vulnerable people like returning refugees to reclaim their homes. Ultimately, we want to create a global marketplace where everyone has equal access, and where we can create the safest, most auditable investments in the world, for the poorest people in society.” Charles Hoskinson, CEO of Input Output.

This solution also allows individuals to own their personal data, giving them total control over who can access this data and how it is used.

“In the quest for connectivity, the quest for a faster internet connection, we sold our rights. This is going to be rebooted in Africa. This is a network that gives people self data governance, gives people economic freedom of choice, and ultimately it leads to giving people back their dignity, something that we don’t have anymore.” Micky Watkins, World Mobile CEO.

World Mobile built on Cardano’s blockchain will connect the unconnected and bank the unbanked

In Sub-Saharan Africa, although each area has its own opportunities and challenges, lack of trust in government, and in financial systems and services is a common and long-standing issue. Legacy financial service providers have struggled to overcome this. The World Mobile and Input Output approach actually creates trust, through a sharing economy model and blockchain—the latter being commonly referred to as “the trust machine”.

It’s not just the trust element that makes Africa the perfect place to start, as Input Output’s John O’Connor explains:

“Africa has the second-largest growing GDP behind emerging market markets in Asia, at 5.5%. This represents a very strong concentration of a growing middle class in a relatively young population, which provides much of the backbone and foundations for seeing successful financial services. The GDP growth and middle class are really the foundation of future lending and insurance markets and provide a fertile ground for decentralised financial services.”

Despite traditional banking penetration being low, mobile phone penetration is high. So once people have digital IDs and reliable, high-speed internet, the device that is already in the palm of their hand is their gateway to financial inclusion and so much more.

“By providing people with the connectivity, by providing people with identity, we’re actually going to see the real intention behind blockchain—we’re going to see people sitting on the other side of the world, being able to fund via staking pools, the ability to roll out whole countries and continents. We’re going to see people being able to take loans from the other side of the world - this is the bridging. This is the digital divide. This is where we change everything, together.” Micky Watkins, World Mobile CEO.

Hear Micky discuss the role digital ID plays in banking the unbanked and connecting the unconnected on this IBS Intelligence podcast.

To find out more about World Mobile and Input Output’s partnership, watch World Mobile X IOHK — Connecting Africa.

Interested in connecting the unconnected? Learn how you can join our mesh network and earn rewards. Read the White Paper, World Mobile Chain: A blockchain-based solution to empower a sharing economy for telecommunication infrastructures.

Helen Towers
Helen Towers is a content creator and copywriter with over a decade of experience making brands matter to the people who matter to those brands. Creating for a wide variety of platforms with an even wider variety of clients, she’s at her happiest when working with others who care about results, relationships, and doing good.