If knowledge is power, then learning how to avoid infection by one of the most deadly viruses of modern times surely ranks among the most precious of educations. The announcement on January 16 of an ambitious European drive to test and deploy a vaccine against the scourge of Ebola places Grameen Foundation mobile health programs at the center of delivering that life-saving education to the most vulnerable people on earth. It is a challenge we are honored to accept.
Grameen Foundation Insights
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At Grameen Foundation, our goal is to spur innovation in the global movement to eliminate extreme poverty. Part of that work is to develop better solutions and share them with people like you.
On GF Insights, we share lessons learned from our leaders in the field, news about efforts to expand access to financial and information services for the poor, and how poverty-focused organizations are using data to improve the way they work.
Alex Counts meets with a microfinance client in Banda Aceh in May 2007 to learn how she is recovering from the tsunami
Ten years ago this month, I was smarting from the death of my father while basking in the glow of some significant professional triumphs. Grameen Foundation, the global humanitarian organization I had founded in 1997 with the support of Muhammad Yunus, had just secured $10 million in new financing including the two largest private donations to support microfinance up to that point. We had recently completed a merger with Digital Partners, a technology savvy NGO, and were well positioned to provide leadership in harnessing the information revolution to benefit the world’s poor. We were also gearing up to accelerate the growth and development of micro-financial services as a force for reducing poverty on a global level, and would benefit greatly when Yunus and the Grameen Bank that he founded would receive the Nobel Peace Prize in a surprise announcement months later.
As the largest among the fast-growing economies of Africa, Nigeria is a promising market for mobile financial services. More than 80 percent of adults have access to a mobile phone and a sizeable number (64 percent) own their phones. In addition, there are now more than 20 licensed operators providing services across the country. Yet, mobile money has not taken off as expected, though almost 57 percent of Nigerian adults (50 million people) have no access to formal financial services. According to a Financial Inclusion Insights study conducted in July 2014, only 0.1 percent of Nigerian adults actively use mobile money.
The term “digital financial services” automatically implies high levels of automation and limited human interaction and physical cash handling. This is how most of us expect it to be. We would much rather walk up to an ATM machine and withdraw cash, than queue up to see a teller. We would much rather use our credit card to make a purchase, than carry cash around.
Participants at the GSMA conference experimented with paper protoypes of mobile services they would offer to low-income users
When mobile money launched several years ago, most services, no matter the market or operator, looked strikingly similar – they focused on safe, fast, and secure payments. It was an undifferentiated product for an un-segmented market; being first to launch was an advantage. However, the market that’s easiest to attract (the urban and peri-urban upper and middle class) is nearly saturated. The new frontier is more rural, less educated, and less technologically literate. Today we need nuanced products to address a segmented market that represents a different set of user needs.