Food for Iraqi Refugees via Mobile

While the State Department is using SMS to build social networks in Pakistan, the UN World Food Programme is using SMS to distribute food aid to Iraqi refugees in Syria. Beneficiaries will recieve vouchers via text message with codes that can be redeemed at state-run stores.  So far it's just a pilot program, serving just 1,000 of the 130,000 Iraqi refugees recieving food aid in Syria, but the hope is to scale it broadly. If it proves successful, it's win-win-win:

WFP Mobile Food VouchersIt's great for the beneficiaries, who can now spend their voucher on whatever food they like-- including perishables like milk and eggs, which are not included in the typical food aid basket. What's more, beneficiaries can now avoid the trip to the WFP headquarters and the wait on line for food.

It's a boon for local business.  Instead of the WFP importing rice, flour, chickpeas, and whatnot, they'll now be passing the cash to shopkeepers, and circulating money in the Syrian economy.

And it's good for the WFP-- if the program scales well, they'll save a bundle on food distribution costs.

I think before long we'll be seeing something similar in the United States replacing the food stamp program. The benefits aren't quite as significant as in the WFP's situation, and the functionality will be different (we don't, for example, have many government-run groceries in the States), but I imagine this will be one part of an inevitable shift of government service delivery onto web and mobile platforms.

(h/t Dolbee)