With a mobile phone you can easily transfer money to someone's bank account - whether you're in a café in Melbourne or a taxi in New York.
But can you send money instantly via your mobile to someone who does not have a bank account? In Kenya you can, via your mobile with M-PESA instant money.
"I went to Kenya to find out what has made M-PESA such an astounding success in moving nearly 20 million people to formal payment systems," says Professor Supriya Singh, who heads up the Smart Services Cooperative Research Centre in RMIT's College of Business.
M-PESA is the world's most successful mobile money, enabling people to save, send, and receive money via their mobile phone.
Singh found that everyone in Kenya - from the taxi driver to senior government and banking officials - uses M-PESA, to send money to family for bereavements or weddings, to pay school fees and to pay electricity bills.
This is money as a medium of relationship and money for payments.
The story of M-PESA illustrates one of the main themes of Singh's new book Globalization and Money - A Global South Perspective - that money is personal and intimate, as well as belonging to the market.
"It is extraordinary how Kenya, a low-income East African country with a population of 43.2 million (2012), has become the capital of mobile money," she said.
With M-PESA, money can be stored in your mobile, sent to someone instantly, or cashed in through a network of agents.
This is possible even without a bank account and is now used by two-thirds of Kenyan households.
"It's one of the most successful stories of poor unbanked men and women using flexible, convenient and cheaper financial services - an example of the way innovation, technology, and enabling regulation have come together."
It was one of the things that surprised Singh when she was researching her book.
"In the western world, globalisation, money and markets are portrayed as large amounts of money whizzing around the world via global cities and banking systems.
"In reality it is not like this for everyone - there are currently 2.5 billion people in the world who are unbanked. That's half the world's adult population with no access to banking or credit facilities."
Singh's book examines globalisation and money from the perspective of the Global South - Latin America, Africa, South Asia, Southeast Asia and the Middle East.
"The unbanked don't figure in the west's view of globalisation and money, and women are even more unbanked than men," she says.
In India, 60 per cent of the population do not have access to formal banking and only one quarter of women have bank accounts.
Singh argues that the perspective from the Global South changes perceptions of globalisation and money.
"It's not just the poor in developing countries or emerging national economies who are unbanked.
"In Australia three fifths of the population do not have access to a complete range of banking services - banking, credit cards and insurance.
"This would come as a complete surprise to many, but it explains the proliferation of pay-day loans, quick cash companies, and alternative finance options that advertise on Australian television."
But how do you design accessible and effective financial services for the unbanked?
In the Thanjavur district of Tamil Nadu in south-eastern India, Kshetriya Gramin Financial Services (KGFS) - which means Regional Rural Financial Services - offers an innovative and unique branch-based model.
With branches in villages of 5,000 people, KGFS doesn't have tellers but wealth management managers, with managers' performance being measured by how effectively they serve customers and help them reach goals.
"The managers know their customers, have full profiles of them and are aware of where they want to go and what they want to do.
"This novel type of micro-finance can teach world banking some very valuable lessons."
Another example from the Global South is in Brazil, where the government provides conditional cash transfers to its poorest citizens, usually women.
These are provided on condition that the children attend school and are inoculated, with participants having three chances to comply.
"There have been some teething problems but great successes as well; so much so, that India and the Philippines are now implementing similar programs," Singh says.
Financial inclusion and empowerment of the poor have become central subjects of concern for regulators and policy makers in Asia, Africa and Latin America.
"The Global South is having a South-South conversation about how to tackle these issues.
"Combining innovation and technology, and by learning from each other, the Global South is offering financial inclusion for more and more people around the world," she says.
Story: Kate Jones
Photos: Carla Gottgens, iStock
This story was first published in RMIT's Making Connections magazine.