I am a program officer at the Grameen Technology Center, a Seattle-based initiative of Grameen Foundation. Based in Washington, D.C., Grameen fights global poverty by using microfinance and information technology to make operations more efficient and enhance income-generating opportunities for the poor.
As program officer, I work on the Village Phone initiative, which provides telecommunications in rural areas. In many rural communities around the world, people are forced to walk more than six miles just to place a phone call. Village Phone lets microentrepreneurs start a Village Phone "business"—in essence, they become the pay phone for their village. It currently operates in Uganda and Rwanda with more than 5,000 operators. We just launched a pilot program in the Philippines, and we are preparing for another pilot in Cameroon. Village Phone was first pioneered in Bangladesh by Grameen Telecom more than a decade ago. Our goal is to spread it across the world (see BusinessWeek.com, 12/26/05, "Muhammad Yunis: Microcredit Missionary"). My job requires the occasional trek to Africa.