#DSF4Women Day 2: In the field
Day 2 of the #DFS4Women event saw participants go out into local communities to meet the real digital financial service (DFS) experts: mobile money customers and agents. Using a mobile-based Android app developed by Optimetriks, a provider of technological solutions to collect, process and visualize data, participants set out on a casual survey of DFS customers and agents. The goal was for #DFS4Women participants to collect data capturing perceptions and preferences related to transferring money, saving and borrowing and to understand what role gender plays in shaping financial behaviours. At the same time, the survey allowed participants to experience a digital data collection technique and offered participants, coming from different countries at various stages of ecosystem development, an opportunity to speak to real users and agents in Uganda.
Data was collected around Entebbe, along the shore of Lake Victoria, amongst fishing communities where the main livelihoods, besides fishing, consisted of subsistence farming and small trade. The mobile-based questionnaires targeted either customers or agents and covered issues related to metrics of digital transactions, preference for specific DFS and suggestions for further improvements. Though all data could be disaggregated by gender, the survey also included specific focus questions: is there a preference to deal with a male rather than a female agent? would the owner of a mobile money agency hire a male teller instead of a woman, and why?
Participants looked at the local mobile money landscape through the lens of their own experience, which yielded a few surprises. Notably, the research team from South and Southeast Asia, where agent networks are less developed, remarked that—in quite a small area—there was a large number of agents to transact and willing to share their views on DFS. Surprises also emerged during the debriefing session, when the entire team convened and analysed the collected data through a highly interactive dashboard.
Although sampling for the survey was casual, the findings of the sample size of approximately 500 agents and 600 customers offered some interesting insights on the impact of gender on both agent and customer mobile money usage. Interestingly, one of the female agents reported that she prefers serving men since she said they know better what kind of service they are looking for. The owner of an agency confessed that he preferred women over men because ‘they are more reliable.’ In general, though, the gender of the agent did not seem to have much impact on the choices of the customers. However, men and women appeared to have different levels of overall satisfaction and needs. Age and education also played a role. For instance, male customers over 36 years old and with a higher education level reported greater satisfaction than female customers of the same cohort. Also, women favoured agent-assisted transactions rather than those through their own mobile wallet, unlike men who still preferred to complete transactions from their own device. This finding elicited a discussion on how providers are trying to eradicate direct deposits to third-party wallets—a prevalent challenge in the market. This tendency of a customer to perform a cash-in transaction to a third party, rather than cashing in to his/her own wallet and then performing a transfer, has two negative impacts on the operator: 1) commission is paid on the cash-in and 2) users do not gain understanding and confidence with using the services themselves. The net result is a negative revenue impact and a significant challenge for operators, which has been met by mitigation measures that include not paying commission on transactions deemed to be direct deposits. Curtailing direct deposits can have a direct negative impact on female clients. There are gender-specific usage tendencies: unmarried women use savings primarily for school fees while married men use loans for emergencies. And there are gender-driven perceptions: most women in the sample were likely to use a product to save better while most men showed a keen interest in borrowing. The group identified the challenges faced by operators but also voiced the expectation that there should be a mechanism to ensure women are not disenfranchised from these services any further.
Although based on a causal sampling, the exercise carried out around Entebbe offered some interesting insights on the different ways men and women perceive DFS and the value they can draw from them. Further assessments should go to a more granular level, and strive to grasp the complex dynamics at play (for instance, related to family commitments) that prevent women from exploring the full range of opportunities offered by DFS.
October 2016. Copyright © UN Capital Development Fund. All rights reserved.
Photo © UNCDF Uganda/2016.
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