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PERSPECTIVES ON DIGITAL CURRENCY

Nov 26, 2012

Emergency Assistance

Sparking Innovation in the Humanitarian and Development Community

Today Visa Inc. and NetHope, a consortium of 37 humanitarian organizations, announced the Visa Innovation Grants program to help modernize humanitarian aid payments. Through this program, Visa is making available $500,000 in grants to humanitarian and development non-governmental organizations to increase the speed, security and long-term impact of aid and development programs through the innovation and adoption of electronic payments.

Every year, humanitarian, development and government organizations distribute billions of dollars of cash payments to people in need through benefit stipends, emergency relief payments, and other development initiatives. Driven by the need to ensure faster delivery, greater transparency and increased security, these organizations are beginning to shift from distributing physical cash to electronic payments. For example, electronic payment distribution enables beneficiaries to use a card or mobile phone to purchase food, buy essential household needs, pay for preventative or emergency health care and obtain other critical needs more efficiently and with greater accountability.

Visa’s Innovation Grants build upon ongoing support of programs that improve and modernize humanitarian aid. For example, after the devastating flooding in Pakistan in 2010, Visa worked with the Government of Pakistan and our financial institution partners to distribute Watan Visa prepaid cards to 2.5 million families to help them purchase items to meet their basic needs. (Read more about Visa’s humanitarian response in Pakistan here). Visa also supports the Cash Learning Partnership, a consortium of humanitarian organizations focused on reducing the time and resources required to distribute relief funds to people impacted by emergencies. (Read more about Visa’s partnership with the Cash Learning Partnership here).

To encourage more innovative thinking in the humanitarian and development communities, we need to unleash better ways to deliver aid. These grants are just one way to spur the innovation needed to continue to bring humanitarian and development aid into the 21st century.

For additional information about Visa and NetHope’s grant program, please read today’s joint press release and joint post on CGAP’s blog.

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Posted by: Douglas Sabo, Visa Corporate Responsibility on November 26, 2012 at 6:58 am

Nov 18, 2011

New Technology to Improve Humanitarian Aid in Emergencies

This week, leading humanitarian organizations are gathering in Nairobi, Kenya, for “Cash Transfer Programming in Emergencies,” the fifth global learning event organized by the Cash Learning Partnership (CaLP).

This event brings together humanitarian professionals to share experiences and best practices in delivering cash in emergencies, with a particular focus on the role that new technologies—including digital currency—can play in improving the delivery of money. Technologies like prepaid cards to deliver money to flood victims in Pakistan; money delivered by mobile phone in Haiti for earthquake survivors to pay for recovery work; and codes delivered by mobile phone to use for purchasing food in the Philippines.

Building upon our existing partnership with the CaLP, Visa participated in today’s event to share our experiences and insights in electronifying the distribution of money, both in times of emergency and through non-emergency social development programs, including:

  • In the Dominican Republic, Visa has helped the government’s Social Subsidies Administration electronify the distribution of money through the Solidaridad Visa card, allowing more than 800,000 people to receive critical benefits like unemployment, nutrition assistance, and help for the elderly.
  • In 2010 after catastrophic flooding impacted 20 million people, Visa and our partner financial institutions helped the government of Pakistan deliver emergency cash aid via the Watan Visa prepaid debit card, reaching more than 2 million families and ensuring that flood victims received financial help quickly and securely

As Visa shared today in Nairobi, there are a number of challenges and opportunities to address, including:

  • Infrastructure: advancing the digital currency infrastructure needed to enable electronic delivery of cash ahead of when emergencies occur rather than deploying it during a crisis situation
  • Collaboration: enhancing the collaboration between the global development and humanitarian communities to advance the mutually-beneficial objectives of financial inclusion and enhanced humanitarian support, as well as incorporating a role for the private sector who can help these responses scale and be sustainable
  • Education: ensuring that the beneficiaries of these programs, often unfamiliar with digital currency, receive their benefits along with the education required to understand and use them

As the humanitarian community increases its use of programs that deliver cash in place of physical goods, we are committed to helping this community bring the distribution of aid payments into the 21st century. Because at the end of the day, it is about working together to help those impacted restore their lives.

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Posted by: Douglas Sabo, Visa Corporate Responsibility on November 18, 2011 at 9:19 am

Sep 10, 2010

Visa “Watan” Cards Deliver Relief to Pakistan Flood Victims

You most likely saw our press release yesterday, announcing our partnership with United Bank Limited Pakistan (UBL) and local Pakistani agencies to help distribute relief funds to 2 million families affected by the floods. The Watan Visa prepaid debit card, funded by the Pakistan government, will be loaded each with Pkr20,000 (US$230) and issued by UBL in the coming weeks. (Learn more about a similar program we enacted with UBL in 2009. The government used these cards as a solution for helping 1.4 million displaced families receive financial assistance, after fleeing the North-West Frontier Province to escape the ethnic and religious warfare in the region.)

We are proud to provide our fast and secure electronic payment network and products as part of the Pakistan relief effort. I asked my colleague in Pakistan, Amer Pasha, for his first-hand overview of the recent events:

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Posted by: Richard Martin, Visa Corporate Relations on September 10, 2010 at 8:52 pm