What is hidding behind such a savant word? Driving new behaviors into designing products or solutions starting with the consumer in mind. I was fortunate enough to have experienced the human-centered design (HCD) approach from start to end with Innate Motion, PHB Development and the national Treasury of Senegal. So what was the issue we wanted to solve?
About 30.000 retired civil servants collect their pension in cash every month at the Treasury agencies in Senegal. Typically this means for five days towards the end of the month, long lines for thousands of pensioners coming from all areas to make it to the payment centers distant by all means (walk, taxi, bus) to collect their pensions. Are there other ways for these people to receive their pension payments? Certainly, but this is not the right question. The right question is whether the retired civil servants would like to be paid differently for their pension.
In an effort to provide an HCD response to the question, Innate Motion and PHB Development organised immersion sessions in the home of select retired pensioners for MM4P and Treasury teams. The objective of the immersions sessions was to better understand the pensioners' lives and the current pensions payments process - walk a mile in my shoes and you will understand a glimpse of my reality!
The key insights that came out of the immersion process were the desire and need of the pensioners for recognition and dignity throughout the transition from being active contributors to the society to being in a position of dependency with retirement.
The second step in the process was co-creation: bringing select pensioners to focus group discussions with MM4P and the Treasury to create with them the payment process that would work for them. This new step led to one of the biggest learning from the HCD approach: the power of smart segmenting.
In the pensions project, the team came up with four different profiles of pensioners and looked at the different payment options and the capacity and appetite of each type of pensioners against the proposed medium. This exercise was very useful to understand: (1) that not all pensioners are the same, (2) which group would most likely consist of first adopters and (3) the importance of smart communication/campaigns and training of pensioners during the pilot phase to improve adoption of the different payments mechanism that will be offered. So are the pensioners for the digitisation of the pension payments? Yes. Is it true for all pensionners? No, not for everybody.
The digitisation options range from receiving payments over-the-counter through agent network to getting them directly in their own mobile wallet or a card. However there will still be a subset that will prefer to go to the Treasury to receive their payments. And that is OK.
We are currently at the stage of planning a pilot for the different payment options. The strategy being to invest up-front in communication and training of the different payment options, and offer pensioners the opportunity to opt in for their selected payment mechanism.
Working with the first adopters and ensuring their transition to the new payment options should be smooth, and it should facilitate them becoming the embassadors of change within the retired civil servant community in Senegal.
How will this participatory approach impact the ecosystem of digital finance? To be continued...
Zambia at the tipping point
Looking back at 2016
I have had the privilege of working with UNCDF for more than a year as the Regional Technical Specialist for one of its seminal programmes, MM4P.
In Zambia, UNCDF MM4P has joined hands with Financial Sector Deepening Zambia to launch a programme that is focused on accelerating the uptake and usage of digital financial services (DFS). When it launched in May 2015 only 2% of the adult Zambian population were active registered users of DFS[i] and there were a total of 1,656 active agents in the country. By the end of 2015 we had seen those numbers grow to about 4% of the adult Zambian population using DFS and a total of 3,225 active agents. As we look back to 2016, we are happy to report that 18% of the adult Zambian population are active registered DFS users and there are a total of 11,025 active agents.
People ask me what is so special about working in Zambia – there are many reasons, but if I had to name one, I would say it is the Zambian openness to new ideas and innovation. I have observed a real openness on the part of the regulators, providers and customers. In my previous incarnations, I’ve worked in many other markets – across Asia, Africa and Eastern Europe. But what I love about working in Zambia is the openness of the people here—they are open to having real conversations, not just about the challenges, but about the opportunities that exist. Not just about the problems, but how to solve them. I am inspired by our regulator colleagues at the Bank of Zambia and the Zambia Information and Communication Technology Authority. Every day, I smile thinking about the insights, dynamism, force and positivity that emanate from our DFS providers – Airtel, MTN, Zoona, and others. Working in this market is probably the most fun I’ve ever had in my professional career.
Zambia- Small but mighty
When it comes to DFS, what many do not realize is that Zambia was the earliest adopter of DFS in Africa. Way before Safaricom launched M-Pesa in Kenya in 2006, Celpay had launched Zap in Zambia in 2002. Fast forward to 14 years later and the Zambian DFS market is competitive and has a diverse group of providers catering to the digital financial needs of the Zambian population. Zambia may be small, but it is mighty when it comes to DFS. The potential for growth in this market is one of the most remarkable things I have witnessed in my career in the sector. When I asked our current DFS Expert, Zerubabel Kwebiiha why he wanted to come work for us – he said “from everything I hear – and I’ve asked many people – Zambia is at a tipping point – and I want to be part of that”.
One trait that sets Zambia apart is the level of innovation and the speed at which it is willing to embrace DFS. For example, in just a couple of weeks the Bank of Zambia responded positively to providers requesting authorization to use Refugee IDs or Alien IDs as part of the Know Your Customer requirements for mobile money accounts. Both the speed of the request from the private sector and the speed of the response by the Bank of Zambia are a great sign and hope for the 57,000 persons of concern in the country. This first success is part of a new initiative UNCDF launched in partnership with UNHCR and with the support of the government through the Office of the Commissioner for Refugees. The objective is to digitize cash based interventions for persons of concern and vulnerable populations including refugees, former refugees and asylum seekers, coming mostly from the DRC, Angola and Somalia.
Facing the challenges head on
While we are driven by optimism and positive energy, the DFS ecosystem in Zambia faces many challenges as it works towards greater heights. As UNCDF MM4P takes on the role of the honest and neutral broker, we realize that it takes time to develop the trust that is required to get the relevant stakeholders to share their needs. As a reflection of exhaustive analysis of research, data, and interviews with stakeholders, our work is centered around the key challenges to the growth of DFS, described in our learning agenda below:
· Enabling Customer Acquisition & Active Wallet use. First and foremost – a constant drumbeat from providers and regulators is the “meaningful awareness problem”. Zambians don’t know what DFS services are, what they can do for them, and how to sign up for them. We are working with providers to address this issue and ensure that products are created and marketed with the Zambian customer at the center. What strategies can DFS providers take to more effectively drive the adoption and usage of wallets?
· Fixing the Agent Profitability Problem. Despite being on par with East African countries on transaction volumes, research and interviews consistently show Zambia to have the lowest agent revenue and profitability, which has resulted in the slow growth of agent networks. We are working with providers on trying to answer their question -- Why are agent profits so low in Zambia and what changes can operators make to improve profit levels?
· Fixing the Agent Liquidity & Cash Availability Problem. Like most markets, 43% of agents “bounce” customers because they don’t have enough cash or e-float at the right time. This is related to the issue of agent profitability, but also one that is systemic and the responsibility of the provider. Most providers struggle with this issue and we are trying to help them answer the question -- How do we improve agent liquidity and cash availability that serves the needs of the client as well as the agent in a sustainable manner?
· Modeling Sustainable High Volume Payments. Driving demand for digital finance is a very important “other side of the coin”. If there isn’t enough demand for DFS, they cannot be sustainable. We are working with UNHCR to digitize Cash Based Intervention to Refugees and private sector to develop bulk payment strategies. We’ve also helped the GRZ, of the largest payers and payees in the country, understand how much of their payments are in cash and digital – the first step to digitizing payments. Through these activities we hope to gain insights to help us answer the question -- How can high volume payments be digitized in a way that meets the needs of payer and payee?
· Enabling Wallets through the OTC bridge. Over-the-Counter (OTC) products are very popular in Zambia – but doesn’t provide a larger suite of services to the customer. Our work with Zoona to help launch the Sunga product helps to answer the questions-- Why do some customers prefer OTC over digital wallet usage? What profile of users are least and most likely to transition from OTC to wallet usage?
Looking to the future: MM4P’s strategy for this year
In 2017 UNCDF MM4P’s key priorities will reflect the key challenges facing the Zambian DFS market. We are working with DFS providers to devise strategies that effectively drive the adoption and usage of wallets. We are also looking at how high-volume payments e.g. government-to-person payments such as social cash transfers and salaries can be digitized in a way that meets the needs of the payer and the payee. MM4P Zambia is working with DFS providers to test innovative models that address the issues of agent profitability and agent liquidity,
UNCDF MM4P’s vision for Zambia is to put the needs, wants and aspirations of Zambians at the center of DFS product design, agent liquidity and the policy and regulatory environment. Through digital financial services, we want to see all Zambians have improved access to their basic needs, including power, water, education and quality agricultural inputs- all at an affordable cost. We want to help the DFS Ecosystem crack the nut on providing sustainable, affordable services to those underserved -- especially women and those in rural areas.
Nandini is a Regional Technical Specialist, responsible for the implementation of the United Nations Capital Development Fund Mobile Money for the Poor (MM4P) Digital Finance country strategy in Zambia. Partnering with Financial Sector Deepening Zambia (FSDZ), she is leading a team focused on increasing financial inclusion through digital finance. She is also leading MM4P’s efforts in Malawi.
[i] Based on Bank of Zambia data
10 bougies et un monde de possibilités
En 2007, Le principal opérateur de téléphonie mobile kenyan SAFARICOM lançait M-Pesa, son portemonnaie électronique, marquant l’avènement des services financiers numériques / mobiles en Afrique, le premier pas du continent en direction de M-Dorado, ce paradis des services financiers digitaux. Dix ans après, quel chemin parcouru ?
M-Pesa a littéralement bouleversé le quotidien des kenyans. On peut quasiment tout faire avec : payer ses factures courantes (eau, électricité, abonnement au câble…) ou encore payer pour ses courses dans pratiquement tous les magasins au Kenya (du méga centre commercial au kiosque au coin de la rue) ; on peut aussi épargner sur M-Pesa, faire fructifier cette épargne, bâtir son historique de crédit, demander un prêt et l’obtenir en moins d’une minute… Depuis peu, il y a M-Akiba, qui permet maintenant aux Kenyans d’acheter des obligations de l’Etat à travers leur téléphone portable, une première au monde. Et la liste est encore longue…
En bref, la saga M-Pesa fait du Kenya le leader mondial en matière d’intégration des services financiers numériques au quotidien des citoyens. Bonus fierté : c’est une invention africaine, pensée pour les africains, mais qui est idéale pour le monde entier.
M-Dorado serait-il donc proche?
Pas si sûr. L’hirondelle M-Pesa n’annonce – malheureusement – pas encore le printemps des services financiers mobiles en Afrique. Pour autant les choses bougent, et dans la bonne direction.
De plus en plus de pays africains adoptent les services financiers digitaux – et de plus en plus rapidement- et réforment leurs législations pour favoriser l’expansion des innovations financières digitales. L’objectif est d’assurer l’inclusion financière des non bancarisés – la majorité de la population – une condition sine qua non pour réaliser le développement de l’Afrique. Et ainsi, de plus en plus de success stories dans la finance digitale bourgeonnent à travers la région, notamment sur le crédit digital : M-Pawa en Tanzanie, MoKash en Ouganda...
Et sur les marchés qui sont entrés moins vite que l’Afrique de l’Est dans l’ère des services financiers mobiles, le vent du changement souffle indiscutablement. Prenons l’Afrique de l’Ouest : selon les statistiques de la BCEAO de septembre 2015, sur les neuf premiers mois de l’année, les usagers de l’Union Economique et Monétaire Ouest Africaine (UEMOA) avaient réalisé 346,9 millions de paiements mobiles d’une valeur de 5.121 milliards FCFA et 1.260.575 opérations ont été traitées en moyenne par l’ensemble des plateformes de paiement mobile existantes dans l’UEMOA. Ces données parlent d’elles-mêmes.
Alors, la question demeure : comment faire du Kenya la norme et non l’exception en Afrique en matière d’intégration des services financiers mobiles ? Quelques suggestions :
Tout d’abord, il faut créer des marchés régionaux inclusifs et interopérables. La taille ici sera critique pour pérenniser l’expansion de l’industrie des services financiers mobiles.
Ensuite, il faut que les Etats jouent un rôle de catalyseur pour assurer l’adoption des services financiers digitaux en investissant dans la digitalisation des paiements et en créant des incitations législatives en faveur des paiements digitaux.
La réglementation doit anticiper le potentiel des services financiers digitaux et ouvrir un cadre qui permet aux innovations financières digitales d’émerger et ainsi inciter les partenariats gagnant-gagnants entres les banques, les institutions de microfinance, les fintechs, les agrégateurs et les opérateurs mobiles. Cela fait beaucoup d’acteurs et d’intérêts à rapprocher certes , mais il n’en faudra pas moins que cela si les services financiers mobiles doivent pleinement contribuer à l’expansion de l’Afrique.
La volonté y est, en tous cas, et les initiatives entreprises sur le contient le prouvent. Au Sénégal par exemple, un groupe de travail sur la Finance Digitale a été récemment mis en place et s’est réuni le 9 mars passé. Cette rencontre a généré d’intéressantes discussions sur les différents modèles de partenariats pour les services financiers digitaux, particulièrement sur les produits dits de deuxième génération tels que le crédit digital (soumettre une demande de crédit, recevoir le crédit et le rembourser via son téléphone mobile), l’épargne digitale (avoir un compte d’épargne rémunéré sur son téléphone mobile) et la micro-assurance digitale.
Sur la route de M-Dorado, la région ouest africaine devra faire face à deux principaux challenges pour faciliter l’évolution de l’écosystème des services financiers : la nécessite d’adapter les réglementations pour favoriser les innovations financières mobiles, ainsi que le besoin de renforcement des capacités des fournisseurs de services en finance digitale. Ce dernier point est un axe majeur des interventions du programme MM4P. Le programme a facilité la formation de plus de 100 professionnels en l’espace de deux ans au Sénégal et au Bénin, à travers des formations sur la gestion des réseaux d’agents, des ateliers sur la finance digitale pour les institutions financières, des formations en ligne sur les produits financiers digitaux.
Tous ces efforts sont en phase avec les tendances. 10 ans après le lancement de M-Pesa, selon GSMA, l'industrie des services financiers mobiles a franchi une étape majeure : plus d'un demi-milliard de comptes d'argent mobile ont été enregistrés à la fin de 2016, dont plus de la moitié en Afrique sub-Saharienne ! D’aucun dirait que le taux d’utilisation actif n’est pas aussi parlant mais sur la route de M-Dorado, chaque pas compte. Et même s’il y a des efforts à fournir pour développer l’écosystème d’acceptation de la monnaie électronique autour des besoins des clients, nous savons que M-Dorado n’est plus très loin. Nous avançons sans cesse dans la bonne direction, et ça, c’est essentiel !
Par Sabine Mensah, Technical Specialist au Sénégal.
10 candles and a world of opportunities
In 2007, Kenya’s main telephone operator, SAFARICOM, launched Mpesa, its mobile wallet. This marked in a way the advent of digital finance services in Africa, and the continent’s first steps towards M-Dorado, DFS’ heaven. Ten years after, where is Africa on the road to M-Dorado?
There are several answers to this question …
M-Pesa literally shattered the lives of Kenyans – in a good way. You can do almost everything with it: pay your utility bills, (water, power, cable TV …) shop in practically any stores in Kenya (from the mega mall to the kiosk around the corner); you can also have a savings account on Mpesa, earn interest on your savings, build your credit history and score, apply for credit and get approval in a minute … As of recently, M-Akiba allows Kenyans to buy state bonds with their mobile phones, yet another global first. And the list goes on and on …
In a nutshell, M-Pesa has turned Kenya into the world leader in the integration of DFS in people’s everyday lives. Hashtag chest thump: it is and African invention, designed for Africans but ideal for the whole world.
So would M-Dorado be just around the corner? Maybe not. Mpesa’s success - unfortunately - does not equate to DFS spring in Africa. Yet, things are moving in the right direction.
More and more African countries are adopting DFS – and doing so faster by the day- and are reforming their legal and regulatory frameworks to encourage the expansion of innovation and DFS. The goal being to enable financial inclusion of the unbanked – most the population- which is a pre-requisite to achieve Africa’s development. And so, success stories are springing from across the region particularly in digital credit: M-Pawa in Tanzania, MoKash in Uganda ...
Even in the countries which have not embraced the DFS era like East Africa, the winds of change are undeniably blowing. Take West Africa for instance: In September 2015, statistics from the Central Bank of West African States showed that in the first three quarters of the year, in the West African Economic and Monetary Union (WAEMU) space, 346.9 million transactions worth 5.121 Billion CFA Francs were processed using DFS…The daily total amount transacted via mobile money increased to reach 18,96 billion CFA Francs on average by the end of 2015… By September 2015, every day, an average of 1.260.575 transactions were processed in total by all mobile payment platforms operating in the WAEMU…. This data speaks for itself.
So I ask: how do we turn Kenya into standard and not the exception in the integration of DFS in our economies? Here are a few suggestions:
First, there needs to be inclusive and inter-operable regional markets. Size is critical here to sustain the expansion of the DFS industry.
Then, governments throughout Africa need to play a catalytic role to enable the adoption of DFS by digitizing payment and setting up policy incentives in favor of DFS. Regulators need to anticipate the potential of DFS and create adapted frameworks conducive for innovation and partnerships between banks, microfinance institutions, fintechs, aggregators and mobile operators. A lot of rings to tune, but that’s what it will take for DFS to fully contribute to Africa’s emergence.
The will is there in any case, and the actions already taken in Africa are a sign. In Senegal, for example, a working group on Digital Finance was recently set up and held its first meeting on 9 March. This meeting generated interesting discussions on the different types of partnerships for digital financial services, particularly on second generation products such as digital credit (applying for instant credit, getting it and paying it back on your mobile phone), digital savings (have a savings account and earn interests on it over your mobile phone) and digital micro-insurance.)
On the road to M-Dorado, the West African region will face two main challenges to facilitate the evolution of the financial services ecosystem: the need to adapt regulations to encourage mobile financial innovations, and to strengthen the capacity of service providers in digital finance. This last point is a major focus of the interventions of the MM4P program, which facilitated the training of more than 100 professionals in Senegal and Benin over the past two years. The training included agent network management, DFS for microfinance institutions, as well as online training on Digital Money.
All these efforts are in tune with trends. 10 years after the launch of M-Pesa, according to GSMA, the mobile financial services industry has taken a major step: more than half a billion mobile money accounts were registered at the end of 2016, Of half in sub-Saharan Africa! Some would say that active usage is still low, but on the road to M-Dorado, every step counts. And even if there is still work to be done to develop the ecosystem of acceptance of mobile money around the needs of customers, we know that M-Dorado is no longer far away. And we are heading faster by the day in the right direction. And that is what counts!
Written by Sabine Mensah, Technical Specialist in Senegal.
A five-year plan to digitize Government payments in Malawi.
The Data Effects of Mobile Money in Uganda
As you leave Kampala and its busy streets, you head into rural Uganda where you exchange small shops and boda-bodas for coffee, maize, goats and chickens. More than 80% of the population lives here, and agriculture and its large cohort of smallholder farmers account for 23% of Uganda’s GDP.
Gimei Robert is one of these smallholder farmers in the Northern Region of Uganda, farming coffee on his one-hectare plot. Like most coffee farmers in Uganda, his income is erratic. Despite his collateral (his plot of land) and his knowledge of cashflow management, he doesn't have access to tools that could smooth his income over the year and open up investment opportunities. Only 10% of smallholder farmers have a bank account.
Banks are far away for farmers like Gimei and expensive to access. Not only in terms of transportation costs, but also loss of potential income whilst travelling. Furthermore, banks rarely offer farmers like Gimei additional services such as loans as they rarely meet their requirements. In the unlikely occasion they do, repayments are difficult to make as there are very few products designed with coffee farmers in Uganda in mind.
But this seems to be changing. From 2009 to 2013, access to formal financial services increased from 28% to 54%, largely attributed to mobile money services. Nearly three quarters of the population in Uganda has access to a mobile phone and this number is growing. Products like MoKash, a mobile savings and loan service offered by MTN Uganda, are targeting rural farmers to help them smooth consumption and use their money more productively by offering quick loans to adults like Gimei.
Mobile money in Uganda is showing its potential to reach new consumers and is having important knock-on effects for the financial services industry as a whole. The data captured through the mobile phone and mobile money is generating information on consumers that can be used to design and deliver financial services that both meet consumer needs and are viable for providers.
Mobile network operators (MNOs) can identify and verify customer information such as their name, gender and where they live, circumventing rigid know-your-customers (KYC) requirements and challenges with their national ID system. Financial information, such as the frequency of mobile data and airtime purchases, as well as mobile money transaction history, can be used by data experts to design features for savings and insurance products with consumers in mind, as well as credit scoring models for the many consumers not covered by the credit bureau. In Uganda, the current credit bureau coverage is only 6.6% and there is no credit registry, whereas the average coverage in sub-Saharan Africa is 7.6% for credit bureaus and 6.9% for credit registries.
But using this data effectively for financial inclusion is no easy task. It requires buy-in from different players and new skillsets to come together: those that can collect the data, those that can analyse the data and those that can translate it into financial services.
This week, i2i, UNCDF MM4P, Laboremus and FSD Uganda are coming together to take aim at this challenge through the DataHack4FI innovation competition in Uganda. The DataHack4FI competition brings together data enthusiasts, FinTech, FSPs and development organisations to crowdsource data-driven solutions for financial inclusion.
At the competition, FSPs and development organisations will challenge participants to come up with solutions using different datasets in Uganda to develop financial services that can leverage technology and mobile money platforms to give adults like Gimei the tools to unlock new opportunities.
The datasets for this competition will be provided by L-IFT and FSD Uganda. Going forward, we hope that this competition will kick-start partnerships between those with important sources of data such as FSPs and Fintech providers (e.g. mobile money) and data enthusiasts who can translate this data into insights on consumer behaviour and valuable financial services.
The competition kicks-off on March 31 at the Innovation Village in Kampala, Uganda. Competitors will be given access to datasets and asked to develop a prototype or concept with guidance from data scientists and technical mentors, to win a chance to represent Uganda in the finals of the DataHack4FI in Kigali, Rwanda.
Follow the competition live on twitter at #DataHack4FI
DataHack4FI innovation competition in Uganda is hosted by Laboremus in partnership with i2i, UNCDF MM4P and FSD Uganda, with additional datasets provided by Low-Income Financial Transformation (L-IFT) and additional support from The Innovation Village Uganda and GLADfarm Uganda.
Bram Peters is Technical Specialist in digital finance at UNCDF MM4P leading their working Uganda.
Dumisani Dube is a Research Associate at i2i, leading the DataHack4FI innovation competition in eight countries in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Human Centered Market Research to Develop the First Mobile Wallet in Lao PDR
Lao PDR is a greenfield environment when it comes to mobile money. Some mobile banking initiatives have been implemented, but there are no mobile money wallets as such – yet! UNCDF has been supporting Star Telecom (Unitel), a mobile network operator in its efforts to launch the first ever mobile money wallet in the country.
Unitel is part of the Viettel Group, with operations in many countries with millions of mobile users. They have developed mobile wallets in several other markets, but always when they were entering after other providers and in some cases when the digital financial services ecosystem was well developed. In early discussions with UNITEL, UNCDF identified the common risk that Unitel or their vendor could replicate the services from these other markets without specific attention to the differences of the Lao environment.
It is important to frame the project to specifically fit the cultural context and needs of the Lao people in order to trigger service adoption and usage.
While the MNO’s team began shaping the product and processes, UNCDF and its Fund for Inclusive Finance structured a performance based grant agreement and support for a team of consultants to carry out a Human-Centered Design (HCD) research study. The objective of the research was better understanding social and financial behaviours of Lao people, their goals and aspirations in life, as well as their needs and priorities. These insights would give the MNO an overview of its potential mobile money users, and a basic segmentation of its clients.
PHB Development was selected by UNCDF and Unitel to carry out the project. Ultimately the research involved 65 participants, with 18 in-depth interviews and 6 focus groups conducted in the regions of Khammouan, Xayabouli and Vientiane Capital. The research mostly focused on ‘early adopters’, i.e. people between 18 and 45 years old, from the urban and peri-urban areas. Although the clear objective is to reach the rural population, where 2/3 of the people live, the first wave of adoption – as demonstrated by other examples around the globe- is generally led by young and technology-fit people living in (semi) urban districts.
66% of respondents in this research were women. The research clearly underscored that in most households, women are in charge of money management and are responsible for family expenses. In some cases, business management decisions are also guided by women, as indicated by this male respondent, “I used to work in the tourism sector. Then I met my wife, and she decided we had to pursue my father’s small shop business – so that is what we did"
The research’s main output has been to build personas and identify the factors that influence a certain persona’s choice to use or reject a product. Using personas nurture empathy for the specific users we are designing for, and gender awareness is a key component. The approach helps break away from the attempt to design for everyone, so the MNO can build a strong and inclusive value proposition for all of its different client types.
“Unitel is in a good position to support financial inclusion with our new services due to our network, distribution and large customer base” said Ms Latsamy Thammavong, Chief of Business Department at Unitel. “Through this HCD approach we can now understand the aspirations of our customers - which is very important when building a trusted financial service.”
Overview of the personas
Five distinct personas were identified. Each persona was characterized partly by their financial and technological habits – but more intimately by their personality, goals, challenges, values, passions and a motto which encapsulates this character.
- The Entrepreneurs: Business owners that are driven by the goal of growth. They are careful opportunists: they go forward little by little, without rushing into things. They are from different age groups, but committed to make life better through a successful business.
"Successful people are not gifted; they just work hard then succeed on purpose”
- The Tech-savvy: The youth (18-25 years old) who are growing up with technology. Tech-savvy people are well educated (students or young graduates) with a natural understanding of technology developments, but sometimes without budget for the technology they so enjoy.
“I cannot live without technology”
- The Resilient: The working-class people with low education levels. They come from poor and rural families to work in the city, and live in modest houses without many amenities. They work hard – mostly in the informal sector - to support their extended families living in the village.
“A bitter life leads on to a better life”
- The Safety-seekers: Educated people working in government offices or government related-organizations. Their life choices are predicated on a need for security and stability. They are trusted and respected people.
“One day I would like to have my own company and do something I really like. But today, security for me and my family is more important than passion”
- The Old-school: Elder people (>40 years old), born before the ‘digital revolution’ of the 2000s. They have a long-life journey and plenty of experiences to share. They have worked hard to get where they are and are now dedicating their life to their family.
"Electronic payments are not for me. Maybe my children will do it, but me, I’m too old to learn that"
With these personas clearly in mind, the consultants worked with the Unitel team and identified the key influencing factors for each group to adopt and use mobile money. This will have impact when deciding what the MNO should propose/communicate to the different customer segments. Finally, the different personas were ranked according to their adoption and usage potential (ecosystem potential, early adoption potential, outreach potential, and literacy towards digital). The Entrepreneurs and the Tech-savvy were identified as the most relevant segments to focus on in this first phase of adoption.
Integrating HCD Research into Marketing and Product Design
Integrating HCD findings into such a fast-moving environment can be challenging. UNCDF recommended this HCD approach because the leap from research findings to actionable ideas is very short and natural. For product development, the marketing and management team all received very concrete actionable recommendations on what steps to take.
Throughout all phases, the increased understanding of the importance of gender awareness became evident. Rather than a “one size fits all” approach, Unitel has acknowledged the role of women in the finances of the family and therefore the relevance of the Unitel mobile money service for women. For example, early marketing materials lacked a human element while later versions were not only more human centric - but also addressed women directly. Unitel’s integration of approaches to reach specific personas will continue to guide their marketing strategy.
With respect to product and USSD menu design, the outcomes of the HCD research informed some of the language used and elements of the menu. Notably, the Lao language menu was revised to reflect true meanings rather than simply a translation of words. This approach will be carried forward in all communications with customer facing materials and agent training.
Perhaps most significantly, Unitel management’s willingness to engage in the new level of customer awareness started from the recognition that customers - the actual users of the service - are individuals with specific aspiration and habits. Willingness to engage in direct qualitative research regarding marketing and product has been directly evidenced by Unitel’s reiterating several similar activities and focus groups as they move through the iterative process of developing materials and services.
As a next step, Unitel is considering leveraging their mobile usages data to market specific personas. The ability to identify sim cards who maintain a balance, use data, and access certain domains (I.e. Facebook) may be indicative of a Tech-savvy persona, a likely early adopter.
The challenges of research in such a greenfield environment were not what we anticipated!
Before starting the research, it could be assumed that it would be difficult to discuss something that people don’t know about – like talking about snow with someone who has always lived in the desert. But that is not the case in Lao PDR. Even though mobile wallets do not yet exist in the country, mobile banking is rising, with mobile apps like BCELOne becoming increasingly popular. Furthermore, the Lao PDR Finscope 2014 survey indicates that 25% of Lao people (even at that time) were aware of mobile banking. Hence it was easy for the people we met to imagine what mobile money could be –assimilating it to mobile banking operations. The challenge of making people understand and accept ‘virtual’ money was not as important as we thought it would be (this depends, of course, on the client segment considered). Additionally, in Lao PDR, many people travel periodically to Thailand, a close neighbour, where mobile money is available. These people could relate to what they have seen there and are interested to see that happen in their own country. Bearing this in mind, it appears that the targeted personas of the people of the Lao PDR are ready to try and use mobile money.
Introduction of HCD approaches and methodology in a new environment
Lao PDR is a very diverse country, with a literacy rate of nearly 80% and with more than 80 living languages. The local language is very strong and English speakers are rare. PHB Development teamed up with a local research firm, Enterprise & Development Consultants (EDC), composed of Lao speaking consultants. This partnership has been a great experience to reinforcing local capacities in HCD approaches. Qualitative market research is not a frequent practice in Lao PDR – which was confirmed by the local consultants and by some clients’ surprise while diving into the HCD discussions. After initial reluctance, the team got comfortable with the methodology and could develop a high degree of empathy for the participants, trying to understand their aspirations and challenges as they were theirs. A debrief session was organised at the end of the two-week long field research, to share insights and start building personas. The debrief session has been a break-through for local consultants to really understand the benefits of using an HCD methodology. Ms Buakhai Phimmavong, Managing Partner and Consultant at EDC commented, “There is no doubt that bringing the remote researchers together for a debrief session was a real awakening to the power of HCD. Through the personas that we identified together, we could see the evidence of our work and the power of this HCD approach.”
The Unitel team is on an aggressive timeline to roll-out services and agent network through a six-month pilot slated to begin in Q2. With the research and personas in hand, the team will test product and marketing materials through a series of focus groups and interviews with the addressable personas to make sure they are well aligned with real customer needs and anticipated use cases. As the first mobile wallet in Lao PDR, it is sure to bring change to the financial services environment and to have an impact. Watch for future news about how digital financial services are being used for the first time by the Lao people.
ໃນຂະນະທີ່ປະເທດອື່ນໆ ໄດ້ມີການພັດທະນາເຄືອຂ່າຍຕົວແທນ ຢ່າງກວ້າງຂວາງ, ແລະ ສ້າງການຮ່ວມມືທີ່ມີຄວາມຊັບຊ້ອນ ໃນການສະໜັບສະໜູນລະບົບສາຍພົວພັນ DFS - ສປປ ລາວ ແມ່ນຍັງຄົງຄວາມເປັນພື້ນທີ່ສີຂຽວ ພ້ອມສິ່ງແວດລ້ອມທີ່ຍັງບໍ່ຖືກແຕະຕ້ອງ ສໍາລັບການບໍລິການດ້ານການເງິນດິຈິຕອລ. ບໍ່ມີຕົວແທນ, ບໍ່ມີການບໍລິການ ແລະ ບໍ່ມີລູກຄ້າທີ່ນໍາໃຊ້ບໍລິການ DFS ໃນປະເທດທີ່ມີພົນລະເມືອງ 6.5 ລ້ານ ຄົນ. ວິດີໂອນີ້ ເປັນສ່ວນໜຶ່ງຂອງກໍລະນີສຶກສາ ໂດຍຕັ້ງໃຈທີ່ຈະສະແດງໃຫ້ເຫັນການເດີນທາງສູ່ການພັດທະນາ ການທະນາຄານທີ່ບໍ່ຜ່ານສາຂາ ໃນສະພາບແວດລ້ອມທີ່ ໃນເມື່ອກ່ອນ ບໍ່ມີແຜນໂຄງສ້າງການຄຸ້ມຄອງດ້ານລະບຽບ ຫຼື ຮູບແບບທຸລະກິດທີ່ຜ່ານການທົດລອງແລ້ວ. ການນໍາສະເໜີວິດີໂອ "ຮຸ່ງອະລຸນຂອງ ການເງິນດິຈິຕອລ ໃນ ສປປ ລາວ: ການເດີນທາງສູ່ການພັດທະນາ ການທະນາຄານທີ່ບໍ່ຜ່ານສາຂາ" ໃຫ້ເຫັນໄດ້ເຖິງເສັ້ນທາງການເຂົ້າເຖິງການບໍລິການທາງການເງິນທີ່ເພີ່ມຂຶ້ນ ເຊິ່ງສາມາດປ່ຽນແປງຊີວິດການເປັນຢູ່ຂອງປະຊາຊົນ ທີ່ຢູ່ໜຶ່ງໃນແວດລ້ອມພື້ນທີ່ສີຂຽວ ສໍາລັບ DFS ໃນທະວີບອາຊີ.
While other countries have developed extensive agent networks, and complex partnerships to support DFS ecosystems - Lao PDR remains a greenfield and untouched environment for digital financial services. No agents, no services and no customers using DFS in the country of 6.5 million people. This video is part of broader case-study intended to showcase the journey to develop branchless banking in an environment with no previous regulatory framework or tested business models. This video gives a rare look at the ways in which increased access to financial services can change lives in one of the last greenfield environments for DFS in Asia.
The Government of Malawi Payments Roadmap lays out a tentative short-term, medium-term and long-term plan for digitizing government payments in Malawi and explains the background of the plan, setting the main targets for the coming years and sketching the route ahead.
This document is a summary of the original roadmap.