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US Treasury supports mobile financial tools with contest

Of all the potential benefits of the growing mobile payment market, providing financial inclusion to underserved consumers worldwide may be the most important. For the first time, many consumers in developing economies have access to safe, reliable financial services through their mobile devices.

Recently, the U.S. Department of the Treasury launched a contest aimed at bringing the power of mobile devices to bear on the issue of financial inclusion and literacy in the U.S. An estimated 60 million consumers in the United States are considered unbanked.

The contest, called MyMoneyAppUp Challenge, was launched in conjunction with the D2D Fund and Center for Financial Services, organizations dedicated to opening up financial services to underserved consumers. Winners can receive cash prizes for their financial apps.

The Challenge is separated into two components, one for the general public and one for serious app designers. The IdeaBank is a call for submissions from anyone with a good idea for a mobile financial tool. Entrants are limited to 140 characters or less to describe their app-based mobile solution.

The IdeaBank is searchable by site visitors who can vote on the ideas. The ten apps that garner the most votes from the public will be judged by a panel of experts from D2D and CFSI to pick the final winners. Winners of the IdeaBank challenge will receive prizes ranging from $250 to $1,000.

More comprehensive mobile application designs can be entered in the App Design Challenge portion of the contest. It's a call for actual design proposals for mobile financial apps. Companies, individuals or teams can enter and must complete an online submission form that details not only the design of the app, but also how it will improve financial access or capabilities.

Judges will evaluate and score submissions. Judges for the App Design Challenge include personal finance author Jean Chatzky and mobile payment innovator Carol Realini. Winners of this portion of the contest can win prizes from $2,500 to $10,000. 

"Mobile technology has become an increasingly important part of many Americans' lives, creating new opportunities to help consumers make smart financial decisions in user-friendly ways," said Deputy Treasury Secretary Neal Wolin.

"The MyMoneyAppUp Challenge is designed to tap into the ingenuity and creativity of the American public to generate ideas for mobile applications that can help families be smarter financial consumers," Wolin said.

The Challenge  comes out of the Treasury's Smart Disclosure program, which is aimed at expanding access to data that can be used to create new products and services for financial consumers in the U.S.

The Treasury said no government funds are going to the MyMoneyAppUp challenge. The cash prizes, as well as administration of the contest by D2D and CFSI, are being paid for by the Ford Foundation, Omidyar Network, and Citi Foundation. 

The contest runs through August 12, 2012; submissions can be made through that date at MyMoneyAppUp.challenge.gov. To qualify, applicants must be 18 years or older, and must be U.S. citizens or permanent residents. 

For more stories like this, visit the Regulatory Issues research center.

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