Irish businessman Denis O’Brien cited by Bill Clinton in Time magazine cover story for “changing the world”

Denis O'Brien founder of Digicel

Former president Bill Clinton has written in a Time Magazine cover story that Irish businessman Denis O’Brien’s move to make cash transactions available for the poorest in the world via cell phones was the number one idea in changing the world.

The Time cover story featuring Clinton holding a globe is entitled “5 Ideas that are changing the World” and O’Brien’s idea is rated number one.

Clinton writes, “Phones mean freedom” citing a 2010 U.N. report which found that cell phones are one of the most effective advancements in history to lift people out of poverty.

Thanks to O’Brien’s company, Digicell, 80 percent of Haitians now have access to a cell phone, Clinton wrote.

The chairman of Digicell,Irish businessman Denis O’Brien, “worked with a Canadian bank, Scotiabank, to provide a service that lets Haitians withdraw cash and make deposits and person to person transfers using their mobile phones” Clinton wrote. “By the end of 2011 this service had processed over 6 million transactions.”

Previous to this, only 10 percent of Haitians had a bank account, Clinton notes, and now African countries are starting to follow Haiti’s example.

“Smart phones help re-start the lives of many individuals but they also help millions of individuals help re-start the lives of others,” Clinton wrote.

O’Brien, 54, was recently rated Number 205 on the Forbes 400 list with a personal wealth of $5 billion built through Digicell. He is also known for his extensive philanthropy.

Forbes notes that, “O'Brien received the National Order of Honor and Merit from the Haitian president for his work helping Haiti recover from the 2010 earthquake. He funded the restoration of Haiti's century-old Iron Market with his own money, and has built 50 primary and secondary schools in the last 18 months.”