DFS4Women

DFS4Women

A Digital Dream Coming True in Nepal

DFS4Women

A Digital Dream Coming True in Nepal

How going cash-less is making life easier
September 15 , 2017

Subhadra Dahal, mother, entrepreneur and mobile money beneficiary.

Kathmandu, NEPAL - 

“My day starts at 5 am. I wake up, wash and then get on with my house chores. I have a 10 year old son who I get ready and then drop off to school. Around 10 am I open my store. We live in a small community with about 150 people, our village is far from developed but we have access to television, electricity (about 5 hours a day), fresh drinking water from our community reserve and internet. It’s not much but we are happy here.” Subhadra Dahal is a 33-year-old women from a small village in Nepal, 35 km away from Kathmandu. I met her as we were in Panauti shooting a short documentary. Subhadra lives alone in a two-flour house with her son, her husband has been in Qatar for the past 6 year, common practice for men in Nepal to travel abroad for employment.

She is the owner of a small store where I stopped to buy a bottle of water. I couldn’t help but notice her using a ‘smartphone’. With a smile she said it was a gift sent by her husband. A small courtesy chat turned into an hour long talk when she mentioned that she was just about to pay her electricity bill with an App on her phone. She went on to explain that it enabled her to do everything from paying her utility bills, to top-up to checking her accounts online. The name of the App: IME Pay.

The United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF) programme MM4P has been providing technical assistance to IME Ltd to develop their digital finance project. Best foreign practices have been brought in to create an enabling environment for IME team to develop their mobile wallet system.  The mobile money products, namely the mobile wallet is offered through the existing 7000 remittance agent network of IME Ltd.  Reports show that 23 million people in Nepal are registered mobile phone users. The growing rates of internet banking services shows Nepalese people’s genuine interest in moving away from cash to a more cash-less arrangement.

In 2015, the department for payments systems of the central bank of Nepal, released its by-laws on payment and settlements. Since then, IME together with many other institutions that did not belong to the banking sector applied for a license. On June 21st 2017, IME became the first non-bank payment service provider to receive this license for operations in Nepal. This is an excellent news for people like Subhadra who can now reap the benefits of mobile money. “I don’t have to wait for hours in line to pay my utility bills now as I did over a year ago. I remember my customers complained that I closed my store on peak business hours and that was very inconvenient for them. I have also lost many customers who thought I didn’t take my job seriously. Now, those days are behind me and I can truly focus on my work and family.” says Subhadra with a bright smile.

Subhadra’s case is not an exception but a norm in context of sub-rural regions of Nepal. The majority of people who do not have access to personal computers or laptops have access to smartphones, which are their most valued asset. My encounter with Subhadra reminded me of an old saying, “A lack of knowledge creates fear. Seeking knowledge creates courage.” She is a true example of a new generation Nepalese women. Having to take care of her family, she has broken the age-old dogma of women being confined to kitchens and house chores. She has set an example that with the right knowledge and access to digital finance she can very well take on new endeavors to sustain the economic development of her family.

By Aliska Bajracharya, KM Consultant in Nepal

For more information, please contact
Aliska Bajracharya
KM Consultant, Nepal
Additional Information
Aliska Bajracharya
KM Consultant, Nepal

DFS4Women Day 3

DFS4Women

Thu, 02/16/2017 - 10:30 -- anna.ferracuti

Ideation session #1 - Digging deeper into bulk payments transactions for uptake and usage by women

Ideation session #2 - Improving agent networks with and for women

Ideation session #3 - Creating or improving financial services for women acquisition

Inspiring session - Digital solutions for a better life

DFS4Women Day 1

DFS4Women

Thu, 02/16/2017 - 10:10 -- anna.ferracuti

Opening Session

Break-out session #1 – Tapping into the 51%: Understanding the barriers and serving the needs of women

Break-out session #2 – Women as agents: What is special about them?

Break-out session #3 – Exploring the potential of high-volume payments for women

Data for better services - #DFS4Women

DFS4Women

Thu, 12/08/2016 - 09:42 -- anna.ferracuti
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Description: 

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, participants set out on a casual survey of DFS customers and agents.

What is the business case for women in DFS? - #DFS4Women

DFS4Women

Thu, 12/08/2016 - 09:35 -- anna.ferracuti
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This year MM4P learning event #DFS4Women gathered over 100 stakeholders from 9 countries to demonstrate that providing women in Africa and Asia with better, more affordable and more useful digital financial products and services makes good business sense and is an essential step towards inclusive growth.

Walking in the shoes of digital financial service customers

DFS4Women

Walking in the shoes of digital financial service customers

October 26 , 2016
Kampala, UGANDA - 

On Day 3 of the #DFS4Women event, important insights started emerging about how to leverage the digitization of high volume payments to build a digital ecosystem in which people feel at ease using mobile money and second generation financial products. Significant emphasis was placed on behavioural changes and on what drives individuals to reassess their saving and spending practices and adopt new ones.

In one session, ‘DFS and High Volume Payments,' Innate Motion and PHB Development led a discussion focusing on the emotional and structural factors that help induce this change in the session ‘DFS and High Volume Payments.' The first category of factors includes the identification of people’s needs; the creation of a value proposition, keeping in mind that each stakeholder (whether mobile network operator, client, agent or aggregator) needs a specific business case; and especially the cultivation of confidence in the reliability of the system through recourse mechanisms that allow customers to address concerns, doubts and questions. The second category includes phone penetration, network coverage and telecommunication infrastructure, agent networks, cash float distribution, and availability of rebalancing options and favourable regulation/interoperability. The combination of these factors provides the background against which potential customers would ask themselves, do I really want to shift to digital means of payment? And, if so, can I do it?

The two questions are interwoven. As Innate Motion and PHB Development suggested, the role of digital financial service (DFS) providers and local financial institutions is to set the stage for this behavioural change to happen through a roadmap that includes these steps:

  • Building an ECOSYSTEM involving all players;
  • Creating an EDUCATION path for clients;
  • Creating TRUST through ambassadors chosen from local leaders;
  • Providing MULTIPLE CHOICES, eschewing binary contraposition between cash and mobile and, instead, granting the user the possibility to choose on a case-by-case basis;
  • Creating STAGED introduction of digitization;
  • Making technology that is as inclusive as possible for people with low-literacy skills and particularly that involves the vernacular;
  • Relying on specialists; and
  • Aligning commercial and public interests due to the involvement of donors, state institutions and private partners.

The core message laid out by Innate Motion and PHB Development was, ‘If you want change to happen, focus on driving behaviours—not on the next hi-tech gadget.’ To this end, they started by identifying the main streams of bulk payments: government to person, or G2P (civil servant payments, social protection payments); government to business, or G2B (loans to businesses, subsidies to farmer organizations/cooperatives); person to government, or P2G (tax and fine payments, utility bill payments); and development organization to person, or D2P (cash transfers, cash for work [C4W], emergency transfers).

Then, they invited participants to play a game: different small groups, divided by country, had to craft a fictitious identity of a prospective female DFS user. Participants were asked to bring to life a character, to imagine her life trajectory needs, dreams and aspirations. In creating the profiles, group members had to ask themselves these questions:

  • Who are they?
  • What really matters to them?
  • What drives them in everyday life?
  • What are their aspirations and goals?
  • What are the obstacles they face?
  • What are their fears?
  • What would be their motto?

Different scenarios were played out, such as a widowed pensioner from rural Senegal who made a living through small commerce and sometimes received money from her son who had migrated abroad, and a single mother of three who made ends meet by combining income from street hawking with small contributions from the state. Discussion of financial services was left in the background while participants fleshed out the biographies of their characters, and yet dreams and fears appeared clearly entangled with financial practices as key instruments to achieve the former and rein in the latter.

In another session specifically focused on clients, 17 Triggers took a different tack on the same challenge—through an exercise of rapid ideation. In the process of rapid ideation, they used NAPS 100+, a technique based on non-judgment of ideas and piggybacking or iterating of each other. The room of a few participants was able to generate 100+ ideas for ways to empathize with customers in just a few minutes.

With rapid ideation and the elaboration of distinct customer personas, the work of developing these services becomes much more intimate. However, in a 90-minute session, it is compressed if not contrived and that had been and has to be acknowledged.

  • Research is fundamental: Developing a persona based on character attributes that are assumed from past experience rather than from direct research associated with a specific product may well lead to a product that is as much of a fiction as the persona.
  • All ideas are not equal: In the process of rapid ideation, it is essential to not judge (in particular to not judge one’s own ideas or to self-censor), but while all ideas are good, that does not mean there are no bad ideas. The goal is to then identify and develop those ideas that are best suited to the local context.

The introduction of these techniques and methodologies is nonetheless valuable and it is hopeful that the participants will be able to devote the time needed to integrate these lessons into their own product designs.

The bottom line of all of these exercises was this: only by walking in DFS users’ shoes—to have a glimpse of their lives and to put at the centre not the technology but real human beings with their complex mix of feelings and logic—can DFS providers make a value case for different types of customers and drive the change that may have a real impact on people’s livelihoods.

 

October 2016. Copyright © UN Capital Development Fund. All rights reserved.             

The views expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the views of UNCDF, the United Nations or any of its affiliated organizations or its Member States.

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Addressing classic agent network challenges with and for women

DFS4Women

Addressing classic agent network challenges with and for women

October 26 , 2016
Kampala, UGANDA - 

As agents represent the first and most tangible touch point for most digital financial service (DFS) customers, there is little doubt that having an effective agent network is key to the success of any DFS provider’s operations. Research published by The Helix Institute of Digital Finance in 2015 suggests that agent networks are also probably the most operationally burdensome and costly element of the DFS value chain, and have been shown to cost between 40% and 80% of the revenue generated from the business. This finding means that, if providers are not diligent, their agent networks can end up costing them more than they are worth.

On Day 3 of the #DFS4Women event, Nandini Harihareswara, Regional Technical Specialist for Mobile Money for the Poor (MM4P) programmes in Malawi and Zambia, moderated a session on ‘Improving classic agent network challenges with and for women.’ The session was facilitated by Junior Kwebiiha, DFS Expert for MM4P Zambia, Melissa Rousset from Helix Institute and Venkata Atluri from MicroSave.

Ms. Harihareswara opened the session by inviting participants to share some of the key challenges they are facing in their markets in terms of growing and sustaining their agent networks. Some of the recurring challenges they reported included the following: managing liquidity and rebalancing, especially in rural areas and also pertaining to agents diverting capital for other purposes than their mobile money businesses; literacy levels of agents and tellers; the gender gap that still exists between male and female agents; connectivity issues that hinder the provision of quality services in areas where the network is bad; agent training with regards to cost, content and methodology of the training approaches used; and lastly, agent profitability.

At this point, Ms. Harihareswara asked participants to reflect on some of the lessons they learned on Days 1 and 2 of the event. On Day 1, some of the participants had the chance to attend the session ‘Agents: Why focus on women?’ There, they received information on women agents and women customers backed by research and experience from providers and agents in different markets. Research and implementation suggest that, compared to male agents, women agents are more profitable, focused and fiscally responsible, provide better quality services to their customers, and are perceived to be more trustworthy and loyal. On Day 2, all participants joined a field exercise in which they were able to use an innovative data collection tool developed by Optimetriks to capture pertinent information on agents and customers, including women.

After reflecting on Days 1 and 2, Ms. Harihareswara invited audience members to engage in an intensive thought exercise about how they could leverage the assets of women—as agents and customers—to solve some of the agent network challenges they had identified at the beginning of the session. The facilitators were on hand to steer the discussion of participants, who were separated into small groups, and help them think through their ideas in a logical manner. At the end of the exercise, participants from each small group shared their results with the whole group.

The first group presented savings groups as one solution to the agent liquidity issue, including in rural areas were savings groups are common and heavily populated by female members. The reasoning behind this approach is that savings group members have accounts at banks and could translate their balances into e-value and keep their cash equivalent in banks. The banks could then potentially support any member of the savings group who wanted to become an agent. A representative from Catholic Relief Services (CRS) who was in the audience invited any other participants that were interested in linking savings groups to formal financial institutions to consult with CRS, as it has done some studies on mapping savings group locations and characteristics in different regions.

The second group tackled the issue of training and suggested ways to make trainings more cost efficient and effective. One idea was to conduct trainings via videos shared through mobile phones. Another was to identify key agents within different communities who could take on the responsibility of training a set of agents. One provider brought up the key point that providers should explore ways of providing trainings in local languages to make them easier to understand and remember. Building off the lessons from Day 1 and the fact that women are considered trustworthy and also more patient and empathetic, providers could use this solution as a means of recruiting and training women ‘super agents’ who in turn could recruit and train more women agents and tellers. The group also suggested using fraud teams to help women agents who have been identified as being high risk and easy targets for fraud. Agent forums were also suggested as a means of disseminating important information throughout agent networks, since information is more likely to be well received from a peer than from a provider in a suit. Lastly, the group suggested that agent networks could be made more inclusive by inviting men to come with the women in their networks and providing incentives for women to become agents.

The last group focused on how to be more deliberate in the agent recruitment process so as to capture and retain more women agents. The group suggested that one approach could be to develop a more complete understanding of the life cycle of a woman to identify at what points she is most likely to be receptive to the idea of becoming an agent, the reasons why her agency business could become dormant and what could be done to help address these pain points. One suggestion to involve more women was to make the on-boarding process a bit less intense and also more incentivized. Another suggestion was to identify women influencers in the community and use them to target potential women agents through churches, savings groups, etc. It all boiled down to developing a value proposition for women and why they should become agents.

After this exercise, the group from Helix Institute briefly shared some of their knowledge on innovative agent models currently being tested in various markets. In the first model, the shared agent network model, the same set of agents serves a group of providers through the technology platform of the shared agent network provider. The providers’ role is limited to signing up and managing the performance of the agent network. This model is currently being used by MobiCash in Bangladesh, where the network has over 30,000 agents and partners with six different banks. In the second model, the roving agent model, agents provide doorstep service to customers. The group pointed out that most of the activities of roving agents seem to be focused on gaining new customers and educating them on the use of the services offered. A successful implementation of this model is in Pakistan where Telenor uses roving agents to market its mobile money product, Easypaisa.

The third and probably the most innovative agent distribution model in the market at the moment is the Uber-type model for cash-in/cash-out agents. What’s interesting about this model is that it enables customers to act as liquidity merchants, mimicking what Uber has done for transportation. In India, Eko is currently trying out this model by using its Fundu app to match customers who want to cash out with customers who can enable such transactions. The jury is still out on how much traction this model is likely to gain over time.

By the end of the session, participants left with the following key take-aways: they had identified the key challenges facing their agent networks and brainstormed a number of ways in which women might help solve some of these problems; and, they left with an idea of some of the innovative ways in which other DFS markets are structuring their agent networks. The challenge remaining is to see what they will they choose to do with all this information and what steps will they take towards incorporating women agents when it comes to restructuring their agent networks to increase customer acquisition and profitability.

 

October 2016. Copyright © UN Capital Development Fund. All rights reserved.             

The views expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the views of UNCDF, the United Nations or any of its affiliated organizations or its Member States.

For more information, please contact
Additional Information

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