Month: December 2009

Mobile Giving in Africa

In another post I introduced a project I’m working on, a mobile phone initiative for Africa. In addition to the cool seminary training this project will provide, it also brings another benefit; a way for Campus Crusade’s staff members in Africa to focus on their ministry more efficiently.

Right now our staff members in Africa visit each person on their ministry team every time one of their ministry partners wants to donate to their ministry. For ministry partners who pledge a regular, monthly gift, this means the staff member visits their house monthly to collect this gift. The amount of time this requires puts a very significant strain on the time and ability of the staff member to do their primary ministry!

It isn’t possible for the ministry partner to make an electronic bank transfer to the staff member, in most cases, because retail banking services are not available . The continent’s retail banking industry is quite small.

In the last five years, with the advent of pre-paid mobile phone accounts, the phone companies have become de facto retail banks. They hold an enormous amount of cash on pre-paid cell phone accounts, and most have a system where individuals can transfer minutes from their account to the account of someone else. It is also possible to withdraw some of the balance on a pre-paid account in cash.

Putting this together with the advent of mobile phones in Africa means that virtually every person who has the ability to give to the ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ also has a pre-paid mobile phone account from which they can transfer some of their balance to a staff member’s account. This amount can then be treated as a gift and withdrawn as cash to help meet the financial needs of the CCC staff member.

The project I’m working on will develop software to make this type of transfer work smoothly for both the donor and the ministry staff member. It will provide reminders and receipts for the donor and provide an easy way for the recipient of the gift to thank the giver.

Best of all, it will allow our staff members to spend more time winning people to Christ, building them in their faith, and sending them out to reach others!

And if this project works in Africa, I will work to make it available in South Asia and anywhere else in the world where  it can help our staff members be more effective.

Mobile Seminary

HTC G1

T-Mobile G1 smartphone
– seminary textbook?

One of the things I have been excited about lately is a project I recently started on; a mobile phone-based system for theology training and banking.

To set the context, on the continent of Africa in the last few years, there has been rapid growth in the church. An estimated 20,000 new churches started, most running now without a trained pastor. On the continent of Africa there are about 26 seminaries or centers for theology education, the largest of graduating 50 students a year. Doing the math, you can see there is an enormous need for theology training for pastors in Africa!

Even if you added enough seminaries to equip 20,000 churches with a trained pastor (you’d need 40 new seminaries that can graduate 100 students to equip these churches in the next 5 years!), you would still have the problem of getting these pastors to leave their families for a year, leave their jobs, and travel a long way. Money, time, and family considerations make this simply impossible.

But in the last five years almost half of all Africans acquired a mobile phone. Each of these phones can do two things: send text messages and interact with their account at the phone company.

If you add to this picture a smartphone, like the HTC Hero, you now have a platform for delivering seminary training to the pastor at the location of his church! Add to this a micro-finance loan and you have a way for almost any pastor in Africa to acquire a smartphone. Put it all together and this is a way to train 20,000 pastors in the next five years!

This excites me.

Right we are partnering with a university-based team of programmers developing software to do just this. The software is now in the testing phase, and we hope to deploy it in a test setting this summer. I hope to visit the Campus Crusade for Christ seminary in Nairobi, Kenya in the next couple months and be involved in launching this test.

If all goes well in Kenya, I will start looking for ways we can use the same technology in India or East Asia.

And there’s more….. I’ll write another post about it.