Designing a new way to alleviate poverty through mobile banking

To support their mission of improving the lives of the poor, Grameen Foundation wanted to create mobile banking products for rural people in Uganda living on less than $2 a day. 


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 innovation lab 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.

Personal Contribution
+ User research: lead ethnographic, generative, & evaluative
+ Synthesis: personas, guiding principles & design implications
+ Iterative design: concepts, prototypes, user flows & wireframes
+ Workshop facilitation
+ Mentorship & training of emerging designers

Research & Synthesis: findings and recommendations including personas, guiding principles & design implications.
Design: concept, prototypes, wireframes, user flows, service blueprint.


Grameen Foundation's Innovation Lab

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

My Role

Product Design Lead 

The Team
+ Product Design Lead (myself)
+ Relationship Manager
+ Researchers
+ Financial Analyst
+ Software Engineer
+ Coordinator
+ Risk Assessment Specialist


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



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

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.


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

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

• User flows & wireframes
• User Testing
• Pilot Testing


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



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


Depositing Money


Tracking Progress


Savings details


Friendly messaging: first, second and third notifications

The Outcome

While my team's role has ended, the channels and products we developed live on as a sustainable digital financial solution that truly serves the rural poor. It is attracting new rural customers every day. As of October 2016, the system serves more than 170,000 rural customers, and is growing by an additional 10,000 clients each month.