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Innovations in Technology–Reaching More Clients

By Emily Riemer

Daryl Skoog, Opportunity’s SVP of technology, develops innovations that improve the lives of our clients.

Recently, I had the chance to join a conference call with the Colorado-based Skoog to learn about the exciting strategies and products he’s working on. Some highlights from the call:

  • http://www.opportunity.org/blog/cell-phone-banking-examination/Cell phone banking[/intlink] is one of the most exciting tools to bring microfinance to clients, says Skoog. In Kenya, the M-PESA product, through Vodafone and Safaricom, is reaching an estimated 13 to 14 million customers who use their phones not just for banking but to pay for fuel and food at certain vendors. An estimated 30 to 40% ofhttp://www.opportunity.org/blog/yao-kicks-off-their-chapter-in-washington-d-c-with-guest-speaker-from-kenya/Opportunity Kenya[/intlink] clients have cell phones, and with the service they can efficiently and easily make remittances on their loans, and transfer or receive funds into Opportunity http://www.opportunity.org/our-work/savings/savings accounts[/intlink].
  • Even for people who don’t have cell phones, an estimated 95% have SIM cards, and can often borrow or rent a phone in their community to use with a card.
  • One obstacle to reaching geographically remote clients with cell phone banking is unreliable access to electricity. So Opportunity is partnering with manufacturers who’ve developed a solid oxide fuel cell that’s affordable and can run on virtually any indigenous, readily available fuel, like palm oil. The cell could go on the market in the next couple years. It generates one kilowatt of power–enough to run a household’s lights and a computer–and produces no noise, heat or fumes.
  • Skoog says that one of the most technologically-advanced countries he’s seen ishttp://www.opportunity.org/blog/cell-phone-banking-malawi/Malawi[/intlink]. “They are innovative and they take advantage of programs available to them through organizations like the World Bank.”
  • “We’re working on really exciting things,” Skoog says. “Smart cards [cards with biometric technology] have really taken off in Malawi. And now we’re able to switch from smart cards to magnetic stripe cards, like ATM cards in the developed world, which are cheaper but contain the same biometric technology.”
  • Other ways to reach unreachable clients? “ATMs and mobile banking vehicles are expanding and reaching more people than ever before,” he says. ”Mobile bankshttp://www.opportunity.org/our-work/rural-outreach/access rural areas[/intlink] that don’t have bank branches, and have bank tellers with cash and ATMs on board.” Skoog estimates the return on investment (ROI) for mobile banks is less than one year.

Thinking creatively about http://www.opportunity.org/blog/top-5-posts-about-technology/technology[/intlink] and innovating is key to reaching Opportunity’s most unreachable clients. And technology is changing and expanding every day.

Learn more and explore the tech innovations that help Opportunity fight global poverty at http://www.opportunity.org/opportunity-international-conference/breakout-sessions/breakout session[/intlink] with Daryl Skoog. At Opportunity’s Fall Microfinance Conference, Oct. 8-9 in Washington, D.C., Skoog will share the latest tech news in a session on ”Innovations in Technology.”  http://www.opportunity.org/opportunity-international-conference/Click here[/intlink] to see all breakout sessions and learn how you can be a part of the conference.

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