M-donations to Haiti: Will this be permitted in most countries?

Posted on January 15, 2010  /  5 Comments

The 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami showed, among other things, the power of the Internet to raise money. Now Haiti is showing the power of the mobile to raise donations for earthquake relief.

Old-fashioned television telethons can stretch on for hours. But the latest charity appeal is short enough for Twitter: “Text HAITI to 90999 to donate $10 to @RedCross relief.”

In the aftermath of the earthquake in Haiti, many Americans are reaching for their cellphones to make a donation via text message. And plenty of them are then spreading the word to others on sites like Twitter and Facebook.

The American Red Cross, which is working with a mobile donations firm called mGive, said Thursday that it had raised more than $5 million this way.

Now I wonder would this be permitted in our countries? Haven’t thought about it at length, so I may be wrong, but methinks there will be some barriers. Any views? Solutions?


  1. Prof,

    our regulator is struggling to put interconnect in place, wonder they understand the concept in the first place.

    But if I remember correct we had a similar system of donations for “Api wenuwen Api”. In this model the mobile operator collects the money and handover to the fund.

  2. This works well in a developed country context where most mobile subscribers have post-paid accounts and get monthly bills. I am not sure how well it would work for folks with prepaid accounts (how will they get receipts for their donation for starters?) Revenue model wise, it is similar to any value-added service (stock alerts, daily horoscope, special charge sms etc) provided by a mobile operator and billed to the customer at the end of the month in the bill. From my research, this is the most effective mobile payment service that a carrier can provide without involving financial institutions and not crossing any boundaries set by banking regulations.

  3. in the prepaid business this may sometimes erodes operators ARPU as the customer will limit his conversations to the balance available in the mobile wallet.

  4. Not USD 5 million but 22 million! Half a million in one hour!! In each of our disaster prone countries, we need to get the systems in place.

    Here’s an except from the NYT story at http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/19/us/19charity.html?th&emc=th

    “As of late Sunday, the organization had collected pledges of $103 million, about $22 million of which came through the text-messaging program. The National Football League’s promotion of text-message donations during its weekend playoff games produced stunning results, with money “coming in at the rate of $500,000 an hour,” said Roger Lowe, a Red Cross spokesman.

    “I need a better word than ‘unprecedented’ or ‘amazing’ to describe what’s happened with the text-message program,” Mr. Lowe said.”