In the interviews we just wrapped up with insurance thought leaders, one thing’s certain: Mobile is going to play a BIG role in the future of insurance. Alongside another topic (about which you’ll hear more later), mobile, and its role in enabling policyholders along with underwriters, agents, commercial underwriters, and the claim supply chain, animated virtually every conversation we had. One area in particular — mobile partnerships — spurred some great discussion on the outlook for new mobile products and collaborations that might be in the offing.

Alongside Tokio Marine’s intriguing mobile one-time insurance for sporting events and travel, we uncovered a unique life insurance purchasing model in South Africa. What was it that caught our attention? Econet Wireless and First Mutual Life in South Africa have teamed up to produce Ecolife, a life insurance product purchased by prepaid subscribers using mobile airtime. The customer only has to purchase US$3 to receive coverage, and the amount of coverage increases with every additional dollar (up to $10,000 coverage). First Mutual Life’s attempt to reach the sizable population of South Africans without a traditional bank account has seen rampant successthus far.

And the Econet/Ecolife offering isn’t the only one we came across. Other companies in Sub-Saharan Africa are looking into creating programs where customers can purchase through their mobile phone. For instance, MTN— a wireless company in Ghana — has created a program where customers can purchase life insurance with “mobile money” — essential mobile minutes — in an attempt at reaching the uninsured and often unbanked.

Products like Ecolife — fashioned by innovative alliances, bought and sold by mobile — are exactly what we expect to see more of in the next decade of insurance. Along with partnerships with the usual suspects in retail, could we see collaborations like this struck in the US between an insurer and a wireless telecommunications vendor like AT&T or Verizon? You bet.

Interested in learning more about what the future of insurance holds for different roles? Look for our series of reports this summer.