An estimated 80% of people living in extreme poverty live in rural regions, primarily in sub-Saharan Africa and parts of Asia where low population density and poor infrastructure make it difficult to serve rural clients through a traditional brick-and-mortar model. Technology-enabled solutions are vital to reaching and serving these populations sustainably and bringing the most marginalized groups—primarily women—into financial inclusion.
Local financial institutions, however, often lack the expertise and infrastructure to develop effective digital financial services, products, channels, and processes that can sustainably reach and serve the most marginalized groups. Opportunity International's Digital Financial Services team partners with financial institutions to blend high-tech solutions, like tablet-based banking, with high-touch approaches, like training and equipping local agents, to achieve the highest possible impact for clients around the world.
Mobile Banking Services
Opportunity International works with financial institutions to develop digital solutions, such as mobile phone banking services, automated loan renewals, and digital micro top-up loans. These services help reduce costs, expedite loan turnaround time, and meet the needs of mothers who want to quickly access small amounts of capital to pay bills or send their kids to school.
Agent Banker Networks
By helping financial institutions build women-focused agent networks, more women are able to connect digitally to their bank accounts. Agents operate in rural communities and are trained and supported by financial institutions to accept cash deposits and withdrawals on behalf of the bank. With a trusted local woman as the agent, female clients are often much more at ease conducting digital transactions.
In order to help people feel confident using their phones for banking, Opportunity International supports financial institution partners with client engagement. We are able to answer clients' questions, train them on digital tools, and help them feel comfortable with technological solutions by leveraging call centers and Interactive Voice Response, which is designed explicitly with low-income women in mind.
Opportunity recently completed a successful pilot of Interactive Voice Response technology in Ghana and Uganda, during which clients were sent automated audio messages about upcoming loan repayments or reminding them to save. Overall, the pilot saw greater engagement rates with female clients, and it encouraged positive savings behavior. As Interactive Voice Response is further developed, women will gain access to digital tools that allow them to ask questions and follow up. They will be able to send and receive messages in their local dialect, which will help increase women's confidence and capabilities in using mobile phones to improve their livelihoods.
In addition, because women are much more likely to be digitally excluded than men, Opportunity has conducted in-depth research on the specific needs and hesitancies of women, and we provide specific trainings that directly address technological barriers for women. Trainings often include videos of women who speak the local language, and they cover topics including account security and how to confirm transactions in the event of connectivity problems.
Opportunity Interntional also works with financial institutions to build data-informed business practices. Data from digital transactions, mobile phone usage, and savings behavior can help direct changes to digital products and strategies to further improve digital services for clients.