Social Innovation Lab

BRAC’s Innovation Fund for Mobile Money



Check out the new Innovation Fund Challenge where you can submit an idea!

In Bangladesh, nearly half of the adult population is unbanked.

This includes thousands of garment workers, rickshaw pullers and domestic workers who stay in Dhaka for work and need to send money to their families in the villages, sometimes for urgent emergencies. They live in crowded quarters, where finding a safe place to save money can be difficult.

Outside the capital, there are pockets of the country where the formal financial system is still quite weak. Entrepreneurs in the chars (riverine islands created and destroyed by floods and erosion) and haors (wetlands), for example, may have to travel for hours to reach the closest bank.  Many would like to take loans to expand their businesses, but lack access.

Yet modern communication and increasing infrastructure is making the world smaller, and Bangladeshis are increasingly on the move.  Many travel back and forth, shuttling goods, produce or livestock from the rural areas to the rapidly growing urban areas.  After a good day at the market, they travel with large amounts of cash and have little recourse if they encounter theft on the road.

 

Why mobile money, why now?

Access to secure savings options, credit and the ability to send money quickly aren’t everywhere or available to everyone—but mobile phones are reaching universal coverage for adults. As governments, banks, and telecoms embrace and invest in mobile money, the hope is that poor households gain a new financial tool that is often safer, more reliable, and more mobile than cash. Yet the growing body of experiences shows that the road to financial inclusion is anything but straightforward.  Building a healthy ecosystem for digital financial services requires many stakeholders to get on board.  BRAC, with a strong presence in communities and expansive networks, is exploring the best ways to incorporate mobile money into its work with the poor.

 

Test bed for innovations

Through the newly launched BRAC Innovation Fund for Digital Financial Services, we will explore ways that mobile money may be able to solve some of the financial problems of the poor. Submit an idea now to the Innovation Fund Challenge!

 

BRAC’s social innovation lab has received support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to create an innovation fund for digital financial services. The fund will officially launch at the Frugal Innovation Forum: Scaling Digitally in Savar, Bangladesh. Through a portfolio of diverse pilots, BRAC will experiment with mobile money to improve its existing programmes and establish new ones. Following an internal competition, the first wave of pilots will begin in June 2014. Key lessons from the pilots will be shared via the web site and other dissemination channels. The programme runs from September 2013 to September 2016.