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Using Technology to Help People: Robert Collymore

Robert Collymore, CEO of Kenya’s top wireless provider Safaricom, envisions a future where a mobile communication system can be used to help people. Using M-Pesa, Safaricom’s secure network, users can move money via text message, an idea Robert had when he heard about police officers in Afghanistan being paid through text. Since this system is much more efficient than the old method of hand delivering money, Kenyans adopted it immediately. Though the average transaction is worth a few dollars, the system was handling two million transactions a day in 2012, with roughly twenty percent of the economy going through M-Pesa. Robert believes that M-Pesa can be used to benefit society on a larger scale. If health agencies paid for prenatal care and deliveries using M-Pesa, Kenya’s infant mortality rate, one of the highest in the world, could be reduced. In addition, it can be used to benefit refugees, by providing a secure way to send food vouchers to individual people. Robert also wants to use Safaricom’s wireless technology to bring books, articles and other educational materials to Kenyan children through tablet computers. He believes that technology is “the only way a child in Kenya is going to keep up with a student in a place like New York.”