Mobile Phone Top Up in the 21st Century
The history of mobile phone credit has taken somewhat divergent paths in the developed and undeveloped worlds. This difference is particularly stark if you look at the US and UK and compare it to the use of mobile phone technology in Africa.
In the developed West, mobile phone credit has increasingly used the monthly billing route, with users negotiating a service including calltime, text messaging and internet access with their provider, for which they are billed monthly. This service is subject to credit checks, and therefore not available to those with a poor credit history, or without an address, or at least without an address recognised by the authorities.
This is only one of the reasons that the developing world favours pay as you go credit in it’s ever increasing use of mobile communications technology. While mobile communications are very important in the developing world and, as time goes on, will become as ubiquitous as it is in the west, the economic realities do not make a monthly, credit checked service a useful option for the majority of the potential market.
The communication benefits of a mobile phone in sub-Saharan Africa, are manifold. In countries without access to the electricity grid, mobile phones can be charged at stations powered by solar panels, and are getting both businesses and consumers online via mobile, skipping the slow evolution via desktop computers we are familiar with in the west. This is allowing businesses to evolve and find a market on a continent where that sort of innovation was previously much more difficult.
With a dawning universality of mobile technology, and an unquestionable value to its use, top up credit is becoming equally valuable to citizens in the developing world. It’s got a clear value in calltime or internet usage, it’s transferable (increasingly so) and is therefore on the rise as a de-facto currency.
This means that services allowing users to send top up online are currently a big area of expansion and innovation. This is a way for people who are geographically distant from friends and relatives, whether in the developing world or in the developed West, to send money home, safely and at relatively low cost. This doesn’t just ensure they can communicate with their loved ones but also allows them to access to key services that improve their health, wealth and quality of life.