The problem is the high cost of secure and reliable financial services, particularly in inaccessible rural areas. The solution is already out there argued Bill Gates at the Alliance for Financial Inclusion Forum this September, "Digital can lower the cost of a range of transactions by as much as 90%, providing nearly universal access to innovative financial products and services”.
But, then why have these digital solutions not reached the world’s population who earn less than $2 a day and have the greatest need for efficient tools for managing the little money they have?
Some countries have pioneered this solution. Kenya’s M-PESA mobile money product has demonstrated its utility subscribing 75% adults, and similar services in Tanzania and Bangladesh are also showing great promise. However, the majority of digital finance providers have failed to emulate this success. The secret seems to be the ability to copycat selected best practices, while listening intently to local market demands.
The Helix Institute of Digital Finance (www.helix-institute.com), a training and information institution for digital financial services, will launch next month in Nairobi to address these and other issues through training courses, operational, and other technical support. As a partnership between the Gates Foundation, the World Bank’s International Finance Corporation, the UN Capital Development Fund (UNCDF) and MicroSave, Helix’s mission is to help digital finance practitioners increase efficiency, improve profits, and extend financial services to low-income and rural communities globally.
The Helix Institute of Digital Finance was launched as one pillar of MicroSave and the Gates Foundations’ Agent Network Accelerator project, with the overarching goal of increasing global understanding of how to build sustainable cash-in/cash-out mobile money and mobile banking agents across a broad geography.
The first pillar of the project is research where they will carry out around 20,000 detailed assessments of more than 25 mobile money and mobile banking agent networks, in eight countries (Uganda, Tanzania, Kenya, Nigeria, India, Indonesia, Bangladesh and Pakistan), twice, over a period of 4 years. This level of research has never been done before. They have just completed data collection from 7,000 agents operating in Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda and will be going into Pakistan at the beginning of next year where they will be carrying out around 2,000 assessment.
The second pillar is the launch of The Helix Institute of Digital Finance where the cutting-edge operational insights and best practices acquired and learnt from its research will be disseminated. However, the institute has evolved beyond Agent Network’s, as they saw the huge benefit and demand of offering operational training courses beyond Agent Network Management. They will therefore go on to offer courses on different subjects such as Risk and Fraud Management and Digital Financial Services for MFI’s.
Their course is open to global participants, so they hope to receive some visionary mobile money and mobile banking practitioners from Pakistan in due course. Due to an overwhelming demand, the first course in November is already fully booked. Helix’s first training course is on agent network management, 18th-22nd November 2013 in Nairobi, Kenya.