Q&A with Mojaloop Foundation Director Kevin O’Neil, Director of Data and Technology at The Rockefeller Foundation

With the launch of the Mojaloop Foundation as a charitable organization that will support the deployment of the Mojaloop open source software, the initial founding Sponsor members will take on the responsibilities of providing financial, technical and legal assistance to ensure the health and growth of the user community.   Sponsor member  The Rockefeller Foundation will continue to contribute at multiple levels to the growth of Mojaloop and the Mojaloop Foundation.

We recently interviewed Kevin O’Neil, Director of Data and Technology at The Rockefeller Foundation. Kevin will serve on the inaugural Mojaloop Foundation Board of Directors.

Specifically, what first brought you to the Mojaloop Foundation, and how will your background support the development of the organization?

KO: Since its founding 107 years ago, The Rockefeller Foundation has sparked innovative uses of data and technology to solve global challenges.  Today, we’re committed to ending energy poverty, ensuring everyone is well-nourished, using data to improve public health, and expanding economic opportunity and equity – while leveraging private capital for social good. We also work to pioneer new tools and partnerships that will make it possible to accomplish all those things—and that’s what brought us to the Mojaloop Foundation.

We share The Mojaloop Foundation’s ambition of seeding financial inclusion at a massive scale. We also share a conviction about the right methods for getting there. Over the last several years, The Rockefeller Foundation has supported a number of open source projects building digital tools for public use, such as the Open Mobility Foundation and State Software Collaborative. Each has proven the benefits of collectively developing digital standards, software, and systems that are open, interoperable, transparent, and designed for inclusion. These digital public goods offer a new way of thinking about how to build services for an inclusive economy and society.

Why is the Mojaloop Foundation’s mission of financial inclusion important to your organization?

KO: It’s easy to think about financial inclusion as being only about savings, credit, and economic opportunity, but in reality, inclusive digital payments are the basic infrastructure for all of The Rockefeller Foundation’s missions. For example, the solar microgrid operators working with us to end energy poverty generally need to charge their customers to remain sustainable. These companies can offer services to more people if their customers can easily and affordably pay in small amounts that fit their budget. Low-cost digital payments give people more options for earning a livelihood, making their newfound access to energy even more impactful and stabilizing energy demand.

What excites you about most about the Mojaloop Foundation formation? What can the Mojaloop Foundation achieve as an organization?

KO: The formation of The Mojaloop Foundation marks the moment when a broader community of supporters begins to take responsibility for the project, contributing their own ingenuity and expertise. Creating a new organization to guide that community is a bold and visionary step on the part of those who have worked so hard to build Mojaloop so far. The first large-scale system based on Mojaloop will go into operation in Tanzania later this year, serving a market of about 35 million adults. Seeing impact from live implementations, combined with the launch of this new foundation, will supercharge the growth of this community. It’s that community that turns software into a catalyst for impact in the lives of women and men, families and communities.

By expanding financial inclusion, The Mojaloop Foundation demonstrates that there’s a better way to build the infrastructure for our digital economies. Openness, interoperability, modularity, transparency, and data protection aren’t just good principles for software and for payment systems, they should underpin any system our lives and livelihoods depend on.

What other types of companies might benefit from joining the Mojaloop Foundation?

KO: For companies, startups and non-profits working on financial inclusion, joining The Mojaloop Foundation offers them a chance to learn about how Mojaloop can shape and transform their business. Digital payments are a powerful tool for a variety of missions. However, there’s also a broader set of companies and non-profits with other missions, from healthcare to energy access to humanitarian relief, that could benefit by joining the Mojaloop Foundation. Being a member allows us to learn about how all of our work and partners will benefit from having open, inclusive, inexpensive payments systems, and from ensuring Mojaloop fulfills that potential. I’m also excited at the prospect of more central banks, governments, and international organizations engaging with the Mojaloop community — as this project offers an immense amount of potential value for the public good.