Mobile Banking to Alleviate Poverty

 

Background

Increasing poor people’s access to financial services can help them weather personal financial crises and increase their chances of climbing out of poverty. About 80 percent of the world’s poor adults do not have a bank account or use other formal financial services—not only because of poverty but also due to costs, travel distance, and other barriers. By capitalizing on rapid advances in mobile communications and digital payment systems it is becoming possible to connect poor households to affordable and reliable financial tools.

In early 2013, I joined AppLab Money, a mobile product incubator at Grameen Foundation's Uganda as Product Design Lead to research and design mobile financial products to meet the specific needs of low-income (Less than $2 per day) people living in rural areas.

Clients
Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (funder) & Pride Microfinance (Ugandan partner institution)

My Role
Product Design Lead for Grameen Foundation's AppLab in Uganda

Project Length
One year to research, design, create, and launch the platform for a family of products including this particular product

 
Left to right: product design lead (myself), relationship manager, researcher, commercial analyst, software engineer, coordinator.

Left to right: product design lead (myself), relationship manager, researcher, commercial analyst, software engineer, coordinator.

 

The Team

  • Product Design Lead (myself), Relationship Manager, Researchers, Commercial Analyst, Software Engineer, Coordinator
  • As needed: risk assessment specialist, software engineering specialists.

Personal Contribution

  • User research: ethnographic, generative, & evaluative

  • Synthesis: personas, guiding principles & design implications

  • Iterative design: concepts, prototypes, user flows & wireframes

  • Workshop facilitation

  • Mentorship & training of emerging designers

Deliverables

  • Research & Synthesis: findings and recommendations including personas, guiding principles & design implications.

  • Design: concept, prototypes, wireframes, user flows, service blueprint.

 

Left to right: 1. expert interviews, 2. first person research, 3. contextual interviews, 4. co-design & usability testing

Left to right: 1. expert interviews, 2. first person research, 3. contextual interviews, 4. co-design & usability testing

 

Research

 

Personal Contribution:

Expert Interviews
Interviewed key bank staff and mobile network agents to quickly gain insights and a qualitative understanding of current product performance gaps, and opportunity areas.

First Person Research
Registered for bank services and tried using them to gain first-person knowledge of some of the challenges.

Contextual Interviews
Interviewed target users (current account holders, lapsed account holders & the unbanked) to understand how financial products are being used, to identify pain points, unmet needs, and potential barriers.

Co-design and User Testing (photos below)
Created co-design materials, conducted co-design sessions, created paper prototypes and facilitated usability testing with paper prototypes.

 
Testing the process: A paper prototype to test participants' ability to complete tasks while using a think-aloud protocol.

Testing the process: A paper prototype to test participants' ability to complete tasks while using a think-aloud protocol.


 

Synthesis

Personal Contribution:

  1. Personas
  2. Guiding principles & design implications (see below)

Customer Journey (5 E's)

The customer journey is a framework for examining and addressing the entire user experience.

 
 

Example Findings

  1. Banks are intimidating, unsupportive, far away and charge too many fees.
  2. Saving up lump sums of money is what helps people out of poverty.
  3. Financial emergencies arise, causing shocks and impeding customer’s ability to save lump sums.
 

 

Iterative Design

Personal Contribution

Concept
• Facilitated ideation workshops
• Led concept development and validation
• Developed sustainable business models with commercial analyst
• Created documents for regulatory approval

User flows & wireframes

The Concept

A no-fee mobile, micro-savings account that helps people save up lump sums of money.

 

Wireframes: Note these specs are for non-smart (feature) phones and for low literacy users

Depositing money

Depositing money

Tracking progress

Tracking progress

Savings details

Savings details

Friendly messaging: first, second and third notifications

Friendly messaging: first, second and third notifications


 

The Outcome

As of writing, the partnering bank and the Bank of Uganda have approved this product (Save for a Target). Product pilot is planned to launch summer of 2014.