Blog Posts By: Camilla Nestor


You know mobile money for the unbanked is getting hot when there’s a standing-room-only crowd at the Mobile World Congress.

For the past five years, most of the conversation about using mobile phones to provide financial services to the poor has revolved around the success of M-PESA in Kenya. As more players enter this space, that discussion is now shifting to two inter-related issues that were recurring themes at this year’s conference: usability and user-centered design.

The concept of human-centered design in international development began taking root about five years ago and has only recently gained wider adoption in the financial services space. This was underscored in the Global Financial Development Report 2014, which pointed to the limited use of human-centered design processes as one of the reasons for the dearth of products and services that are “more conducive to financial inclusion.”


Financial service providers see great potential in using mobile money to drive outreach and scale.  Mobile operators have aggressive strategies to increase market share by capturing new subscribers, which requires deeply penetrating the three billion people who live on less than $2.50 a day.  Yet, many of the services on offer are not designed around the needs, behaviors and capabilities of the poor.  We see the effects of this in low usage rates, preventing services from reaching scale and commercial viability.  In particular, services do not appear to be designed around the needs of poor women, excluding them from participating fully in the mobile revolution.