We are conducting primary research on understanding the ways in which rural and urban low-income households access and use financial services from formal and informal providers, including microfinance providers.
Our work involves investigating ways in which the use of
technological solutions to enable various aspects of financial service delivery
can result in more cost-effective and scalable operations for providers, and
cheaper, better quality finance for the poor. To this end, we are working
on understanding the financial, social and usability factors involved in
effectively deploying technologies to improve financial service delivery to
To this end, we are working on understanding the financial, social and usability factors involved in effectively deploying technologies to improve financial service delivery to poor clients.
Image credits: PRADAN, CCD/ Ekgaon
Image credits: PRADAN, CCD/ Ekgaon, Sunandan Chakraborty
People involved: Aishwarya Ratan, Sunandan Chakraborty, Pushkar V. Chitnis, Kentaro Toyama, Indrani Medhi, Mahesh Gogineni, Shabnam Aggarwal, Angelin Baskaran, U. Vasudha, Carol Savia Peters, Sean Blagsvedt, Rajesh Veeraraghavan
>> Managing microfinance with Paper, Pen and a Digital Slate!
We are experimenting with a novel microfinance record management application that runs on a low-cost digital slate prototype device. The solution combines handwritten pen-and-paper input on ordinary paper forms, with immediate electronic feedback. Over a nine-month period, we designed and tested a solution that targets issues of data incompleteness, inaccuracy, and delays in updating the microfinance records of Self-Help Groups in rural West Bengal, India. Preliminary results indicate that the use of the digital slate application to accept and process handwritten paper-based entries corresponds with shorter data recording time, fewer incorrect entries, and more complete records compared to the baseline. The digital slate solution performs as well as, and is strongly preferred over, either a purely electronic system or a purely paper-based system for record management in such resource-constrained settings. Our solution is able to achieve efficiency and quality gains, while also catering to the preferences and budgets of low-literate, low-income clients.
>> Costing tool to evaluate the financial viability of front-end technologies for microfinance data collection/management
This Excel-based costing tool allows microfinance institutions to perform quick, yet accurate, cost-benefit analyses when evaluating different technology options to enhance their front-end data collection and management processes, prior to/during pilot implementation.
De, Rahul and Aishwarya L. Ratan (2009, September). “Whose gain is it anyway? Structurational perspectives on deploying ICTs for development in India’s microfinance sector.” Journal of Information Technology for Development, 15(4), pp. 259-282.
Ratan, Aishwarya. L. (2009, August). “An assessment of Pradan’s ‘Computer Munshi’ intervention to improve microfinance accounting operations.” in ‘Microfinance: Exploring the Role of Technology’, ed. S. Rajagopalan, ICFAI University Press. (Case study written Sept 2006, revised Sept 2007).
Ratan, Aishwarya. L. and Mahesh Gogineni. (2008, May). “Cost Realism in Deploying Technologies for Development.” Paper presented at the Conference on “Confronting the Challenge of Technology for Development: Experiences from the BRICS”, Department of International Development, University of Oxford, 29-30 May 2008. :: presentation
Ratan, Aishwarya. (2006, December). “Deconstructing 4 Microfinance Myths.” Microsoft Research Technical Report MSR-TR-2006-194, PP. 1-12.
Towards gains in (contextual) efficiency and user experience. Presentation at the 'Innovations in Information Technology for the Client and the MFI' session of the Asia-Pacific Regional Microcredit Summit, July 28-30, 2008, Bali, Indonesia.
Costs, Contacts and Convenience: Leapfrogging Access to Finance with Mobile Phone Technology. (2007, September 18). Presentation at the CGAP/ IFC/ VISA conference on "Next Generation Access to Finance: Gaining Scale and Reducing Costs with Technology and Credit Scoring", Washington D.C.
On microfinance (and technology), Techfest 2007.
Ratan, Aishwarya, Mahesh Gogineni and Shabnam Aggarwal. “Designing and assessing the viability of a potential mobile-phone based remote data collection solution for Ujjivan's new client acquisition process.” December 2006 - May 2007.
Ratan, Aishwarya. “A preliminary assessment of CCD and Ekgaon's MIS pilot intervention to improve microfinance operations.” December 2006.
Pichai, Hariprasad and Srikrishnan Ganesan. “Study of Delivery of Financial Services in Rural Areas through ICT: An assessment of the NBFC Sanghamithra's Simputer pilot.” August 2006.
Medhi, Indrani and Aishwarya Ratan. “Learnings from a usability test of Citibank's biometric-ATM prototype.” June 2006.