Scaling Up Without Falling Short: Leveraging Mobile Tech for the Base of the Pyramid

Posted by EKStallings on Oct 19, 2011

Despite possibilities of scaling projects with technology, many technology-based initiatives in social and economic development have failed to make it past early pilot stages or grow to scale. This study by Hystra, in collaboration with Ashoka and TNO, examines what successful ventures within four sectors can teach us about models for scaling Information and Communications Technology (ICT) -based applications and projects aimed at reaching bottom-of-the-pyramid customers (referred to as Base of the Pyramid in the report). The researchers focused specifically on these sectors: education, health, agricultural services, and financial services.

What Did the Study Review?

Initially considering 280 projects as promising models, researchers found that over half were not worth researching because projects lacked sustainability or replicatibility. Many of the projects were dead pilot projects or were small with no sign of the possibility or intent of scaling in size or reach.

From there, researchers homed in on 16 groundbreaking cases. These projects had reached scale (defined as having 10,000 clients or more) or had the potential to do so. All projects were assessed against three criteria: Is the solution solving the (specified) problem? Is the project economically viable? Is the project scalable and replicable? The researchers grouped projects into specific clusters based on business model type. All projects researched were value-added or market-based, because of the researchers’ belief that such models increase project sustainability and client investment in the project.

The models that the researchers looked at varied. For instance, researchers asked whether end-users accessed the technology themselves as opposed to being delivered trough an intermediary.

Financial Education: A Bridge Between Branchless Banking and Low-Income Clients

Posted by Juliel on Jun 27, 2011
Financial Education: A Bridge Between Branchless Banking and Low-Income Clients data sheet 1019 Views
Cohen, Monique, Danielle Hopkins and Julie Lee
Publication Date: 
Aug 2008

This paper examines the rapid evolution of branchless banking technologies and development of financial education as a tool to help low-income households better manage their money.

While focusing on getting delivery systems right, promoters of branchless banking often lose sight of the consumer. Despite recent enthusiasm regarding these new banking services, uptake and usage has been limited, and often does not include many of the poor. Reasons for lower usage rates among low-income populations include:

  • Lack of familiarity with banking services;
  • Limited trust in new financial delivery systems;
  • Lack of understanding and experience using the technologies.

However, low-income households are willing to cross the digital divide and conduct their financial transactions through branchless banking. Higher usage is possible, but will require financial education to facilitate this process. This can be delivered through a variety of channels, such as radio, print media and class room training.

Finally, the paper presents a case study from Malawi which demonstrates the viability of branchless banking when potential clients have proper knowledge of how to use it and stresses that well-conceived financial education programs will achieve this aim.

Running Out of Credit : The Limitations of Mobile Telephony in a Tanzanian Agricultural Marketing System

Posted by MohiniBhavsar on Aug 24, 2010
Running Out of Credit : The Limitations of Mobile Telephony in a Tanzanian Agricultural Marketing System data sheet 2021 Views
Thomas Molony
Publication Date: 
Jan 2008
Publication Type: 
Journal article

Poor farmers often lack credit to purchase agricultural inputs, and rely on their buyers to provide it. This paper considers the effects of mobile phones on traders of perishable foodstuffs operating between Tanzania’s Southern Highlands and Dar es Salaam’s wholesale market, with a particular focus on the importance of credit in the relationship between potato and tomato farmers and their wholesale buyers.

It argues that the ability to communicate using these new information and communication technologies (ICTs) does not significantly alter the trust relationship between the two groups. It also suggests that farmers, in effect, often have to accept the price they are told their crops are sold for – irrespective of the method of communication used to convey this message – because their buyers are also their creditors. In this situation, many farmers are unable to exploit new mobile phone-based services to seek information on market prices, and potential buyers in other markets. Doing so runs the risk of breaking a long-term relationship with a buyer who is willing to supply credit because of their established business interaction.

It is suggested that, under a more open system than currently exists in Tanzania, mobile-payment (‘m-payment’) applications should target these creditor-buyers as key agents in connecting farmers to the credit they so often require.

Banking the Poor via G2P Payments

Posted by MohiniBhavsar on Aug 10, 2010
Banking the Poor via G2P Payments data sheet 2345 Views
Mark Pickens, David Porteous, Sarah Rotman
Publication Date: 
Dec 2009
Publication Type: 
Report/White paper

Governments make regular payments to at least 170 million poor people worldwide—far more
than the 99 million or so who have active microloans. In this Focus Note, we look at government-to-person (G2P) payments, which include social transfers as well as wage and pension payments. With appropriate experimentation, these payments have the potential to become a vehicle for extending financial inclusion and improving the welfare of poor people. Yet in most countries, far fewer than one-quarter of G2P payments to the poor land in a financially inclusive account—i.e., one that enables recipients to store G2P payments and other funds until they wish to access them and make or receive payments from other people in the financial system, and one that is accessible, in terms of cost and distance.

The first section of this Focus Note reviews the state of G2P payments today, including how we arrived at a figure of at least 170 million poor G2P recipients and a country example (Colombia) showing that several types of G2P payments reach the poor. The second section looks at the early experience with providing financial services to poor G2P recipients. We find that 45 percent of G2P programs launched in the past 10 years use an electronic payment mechanism that creates a foundation on which a financially inclusive account can be offered. Examples where this is already being done (Brazil, India, and South Africa) are discussed. The third section deals with five common concerns of policy makers and social development program managers. Recommendations to government, the financial industry, and donors are
summarized in the conclusion.

Mobile Minute: Blackberry Ban Updates, a Mobile Youth Survey, and a Financial mServices Risk Matrix

Posted by admin on Aug 10, 2010

We've got news on Saudi Arabia's and the United Arab Emirates' moves to ban BlackBerry, the release of the TakingITMobile mobile youth activism survey, a review of livestreaming services for mobiles, USAID's mobile financial services risk matrix, and a report that reveals the niche uses for location-based mobile services.

Today: CGAP Webcast on Mobile Banking for Poor People

Posted by KatrinVerclas on Dec 11, 2008

CGAP, one of the leading organizations conducting research and providing leadership in the mobile banking space in the developing world, is holding a live webcast today from 2-5 pm Eastern Time (-5 GMT). Here are the details:

Mobile Banking for Poor People: Pioneer Perspectives
a CGAP roundtable and webinar

Dec. 11, 2008 | 2:00pm – 5:00pm
World Bank Headquarters, Washington DC | online at

By the end of 2008, the UN says there will be four billion mobile phone connections globally. Millions of air-time resellers and retail agents in developing countries make it possible to distribute financial services at far lower cost than through traditional channels.