The Grameen Foundation, Bangladesh, has launched a new online assistance centre for microfinance institutions (MFIs) to offer the benefits of telecommunications to poor communities worldwide.
The Village Phone Direct Assistance Center, Village Phone Directory has already been launched in Nairobi, Kenya during the International Telecommunications Union's “Public & Private Sectors Partnership Forum” (PPPF-Africa 2007) conference. The centre will help MFIs to work independently with local telecommunications providers to develop Village Phone Direct programs for their clients. Microfinance clients can use micro-loans to purchase a cell phone starter kit and service plan from their local MFI and then retail the “minutes” to others in the community. Negros Women for Tomorrow Foundation (NWTF), an MFI based in the Philippines has already adopted the program and is planning to create 500 new businesses throughout the region it serves.