Design Expo 2014: Online Discussion - ICT and Social Impact

Hi Paolo, nice to e-meet you.

I've seen incredible adoption of mpesa in Kenya, and I'm curious what you all think about how mobile money can spread to other countries. In our work in Nigeria we've experimented with using Paga but I don't think anywhere has caught up to Kenya yet.

Hi Lewis, it's a good question. There are a few considerations here. Once smartphones become cheap enough (handsets) for BoP populations, the costs of services may still be prohibitive for a while. It is not uncommon now for most low-tech mobile phone us

If you think of the energy sector, the mobile enabled Pay As You Go model (Mobisol, M-KOPA, Off Grid Electric,..) where low income customers can afford to buy a home solar system and prepay for clean energy using their mobile phone is a revolution in many electricity deprived neighborhoods

So cost will be a barrier for quite a while. But where I do see the impact coming from smartphones has more to do with the apps created on smartphones as a baseline for how to reach BoP populations with lower-cost alternatives that can plug into these digital platforms.

Hi Lewis and Anna,

Sorry to butt in but I would definitely say that smart phones will change the way rural communities will use their phones.

I have already observed villages and towns where 1 or 2 people already have them and they are centre of information. Computers will be bypassed!

Hie everyone I think I am very late.

I work for DAI ( in Mozambique and we have been implementing a data collection system that uses Android and an app designed for our activities. Lots of farmers will also have access to information that is useful to them, we are currently using this at the level of extension officers.

My opinion on the current topics:

  1. What are some of the ways in which the huge growth in mobile phones is benefitting people at the BoP?
  • Assists the traditional dissemination of information among rural populations (traditional dissemination of information is a force to be reckoned with and not taken lightly)
  • Mobile money has enabled farmers who have little or no access to banking to save and transact, one example we have soya bean farmers that are paid gross of 500 - 2000 dollars for a season's harvest. then have to travel by road (using truck, pickups and lorries) for 50 km with this money in cash.
  1. What are some of key challenges and success factors in rolling out ICT innovations among low-income consumers?
  • There are costs involved in setting up the equipment and training required to make use of mobile devices.

  • Success factor: Affordability of services
  • Accessibility - Increased Rural network coverage (case of Movitel)

For example, in Kenya, Social Impact Lab just launched a program called Payment View, that mimics some apps made for smartphones, and allows micro-, small-, and medium-sized enterprises manage incoming and outgoing payments through low-tech systems and mobile payments.

Here's some pictures of the distributor to give everyone a visual. Note the garbage bag full of cash!

200-20140610_095353.jpg (468 KB) 201-20140610_095435.jpg (665 KB)

In terms of challenges, and again from the health arena, we see a lot of activity and success stories at the pilot stage, but very rarely examples of scaled, sustainable success. A number of reasons for this, but a key piece of this we think is the lack of a long term sustainable business model involving the mobile sector. There is also a challenge with true integration with the health sector in terms of financing.

Hi Doug

I think it will inevitably roll out more across more countries but it seems to have take longer elsewhere.

I find it really interesting that despite the technology is there some countries are still struggling. The key to mpesa was the rapid increase of agents, making it easy for people to reach them.

When a company decided to invest in the infrastructure of agents then it will catch on.

That said, there's also lots of opportunities. The mobile sector, in Africa at least, is beginning to make a strong play to reach out to the rural poor as part of an effort to leverage their infrastructure to the fullest, and various applications involving mobile including mobile agriculture, mobile health and of course mobile money play an important part of this strategy. From the consumer side, prices are coming down (not as quickly as some would hope!) and familiarity and ubiquity of mobile means that adoption of services is less problematic.

Another challenge that we're seeing is around informed consent, particularly when mobile is used in development or humanitarian projects for larger research objectives. Along the same lines, data integrity questions and awareness differ from country to country and privacy concerns perhaps get less attention than they should when overall project goals are related to benefiting BoP populations

When you think about the mobile operators success in emerging markets, they capitalized on three ingredients: ubiquity of mobile coverage and mobile devices, affordability of prepaid airtime and extensive distribution channels. Challenges are often in the quality of the product/service you're providing and trust of the customers.

Hi Crispim - your project sounds fascinating. Do the farmers have to pay for the services? it would be great to learn about the business model, it seems a particular challenge to create business models around transfer of knowledge to smallholder farmers using mobile phones and otherwise, so I am eager to learn more.

Very true and I would add timeliness too, people have access to needed information on time.

Thanks for sharing, Mike!

Access to electricity can be a major limitation. Products designed for a western market may not handle power outages well. That was the motivation for our work on solar chargers and motorcycle-to-phone chargers.

The main challenge we face is building a business that can scale. There are so many opportunities and it's really easy to come up with new ideas and new products, but it takes a tremendous amount of work to scale them - especially when you start from scratch like we did 5 years ago. We have had to learn to say no more than we say yes, focus on what is getting traction, and iterate repeatedly to develop solutions for our customers that we can also make money from.

There is also the challenge of financing but if you have a good organization with a good product in the market the money will come.

Hey Lewis

We are going into the market with the hope that farmers will be able to pay for the services IF they see the value in them, we went into this area and advocated that farmers are able to pay for seed in 2010 and everyone said NO but now come 2013-14 season we did not have enough seed for farmers and they are buying seed

What about payment for the phone services? Any interesting models to facilitate take-up?