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U.N. plan provides mobile numbers to poor

UNITED NATIONS, Aug. 4 (UPI) -- Millions of poor people will get mobile phone numbers under a plan between the United Nations and a private technology firm, U.N. officials said Thursday.

Three million poor people, the majority of them women, in Africa and South American will receive low-cost mobile phone numbers under the Business Call to Action initiative that enlists the private sector to help fight poverty, the United Nations said in a release.

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Instead of sharing a phone number with family or neighbors, participants provided with a Movirtu Technology cloud phone number can use any mobile phone to log in with their own number to make and receive calls and access information and services such as employment, banking or agriculture support, U.N. officials said.

"Evidence shows that access to mobile communications is a way of improving lives and expanding the earning potential of 1 billion people living on $1-$2 a day," said Amanda Gardiner, Business Call to Action acting program manager.

The Business Call to Action is a global initiative supported by the U.N. Development Program, the U.N. Global Compact and other organizations and governments, officials said.

Movirtu, based in Britain, said it plans to bring the phone technology to at least 12 markets in Africa and South Asia by early 2013, giving at least 50 million people access to the technology.

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The main beneficiaries of Movirtu's investment will be women in rural communities in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, the company and Business Call to Action said.

"By providing low-income communities with access to secure mobile accounts and identities, Movirtu is helping to bridge the divide between those that have easy access to mobile phones and those that rely on community phones or paying a borrower's premium to friends to meet their communication needs," Gardiner said.

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