MAKING A SOCIAL IMPACT & IMPROVING LIVELIHOODS USING MOBILE MONEY

Blog Article Contributed By: Jeff FANG (PhD Candidate at RMIT University Australia)

Introduction:
About 80% of the world’s population has annual local purchasing power incomes below USD3,000, hence living in relative poverty. Furthermore, 2.5 billion people still remain unbanked or do not use formal financial services to save, borrow or transact. However, global mobile phone subscriptions accelerated from 1.8 billion in 2004 to 5.1 billion in 2010. Offering financial services using mobile phone technology (mobile money services or Beep Banking) has been a significant innovation in helping banks and microfinance institutions reach the unbanked in rural regions in developing countries.

Project Background:
Between March to September 2011, RMIT University Australia collaborated with WING Money Cambodia (WING), a leading mobile money services provider in Cambodia, on a PhD research project to evaluate the social impacts of mobile money services in Cambodia.

Currently, WING allows any customers (individuals and businesses) to transfer, deposit (cash-in) and withdraw (cash-out) money between each other and with anyone in Cambodia as well as top up their pre-paid mobile phone credits with their SMS-enabled mobile phones at low cost. Payment transactions like sending/receiving money, phone top-up can be done from any mobile phone, and secured by a personal 4-digits pin code. There is no monthly fee charged for holding a mobile wallet with WING and all the money are safely stored in a regulated bank.

Project Objectives and Expected Outcomes:
This PhD research aims to (1) Increase the understanding of the social impacts of mobile money services on the lives of people living in a Cambodian rural community; (2) Investigate the impacts of financial services, made available through mobile phones, on rural economic and entrepreneurial activities as well as on the rural community. Research into the effects of mobile money services in rural communities will provide valuable knowledge to microfinance institutions, banks, technology providers and developers.

It is hoped that this PhD research will provide outcomes for (1) Researchers to deepen insights and provide stepping stones for their academic research work to further identify social and cultural attributes critical to mobile money services; and (2) Assisting industry professionals or practitioners in developing suitable mobile money services solutions to improve the livelihoods of the unbanked and poor.


Project Progress Updates:
The PhD research team travelled to different rural towns in Cambodia to interact with different mobile money community sales representatives, customers and merchants/agents to find out first-hand how mobile money services has really made significant (and hopefully positive) changes to their:
1. Small business activities
2. Local cultural norms
3. Social well-being
4. financial management habits

Posted below are 2 customer profile stories which are mini versions of more detailed interview sessions conducted as part of the current PhD research project collaboration between RMIT University Australia and WING. The names have been left out for privacy concerns.

It is our hope that the final research report can contribute effectively to identifying a global response for social and societal transformation to improve the livelihoods of the unbanked and poor.

We are happy to hear any thoughts from any like-minded researchers and industry practitioners. Please contact Jeff FANG at jeff.fang@rmit.edu.au or the LinkedIn profile at http://www.linkedin.com/in/jfang07


WING Customer Profile Story #1 – WING Pilot (Mobile Money Community Sales Representative)

Mr D. is a 23 year old Mobile Money Community Sales Representative (WING pilot) from a small rural town area of Kampot Province along Cambodia’s coastline (about 6 hours’ drive from Phnom Penh, Cambodia’s capital city). Before becoming a WING pilot, Mr D mixed around with bad company, always giving trouble to his parents and showing no concern and responsibility towards his family.

With a Grade 12 high school education and knowing very little English, Mr D. was unable to find a good paying job to fully support himself and had to always rely on his parents by helping out in their small business to rent motorbikes.

Now after becoming a WING pilot for almost 6 months, Mr D. is grateful that WING gave him a second chance in life that provided him an opportunity to gain work experience, earn a sustainable monthly income as well as improved his English communications skills.

When first starting out as a WING pilot, Mr D. was very nervous and afraid to talk to people. However, with good support from his team leader and teammates Mr D. is now more articulate and able to speak confidently, hence improving his self-esteem. Since joining WING, Mr D.’s quality of life improved tremendously and his parents are
now very proud of the positive change in their son.

“WING made me a more responsible person that helped me realise the importance of saving and spending wisely. I want to be more financially independent and earn more income to support my two brothers’ university studies and use WING to transfer money to them.

I also used WING to top up my brothers’ mobile phone credits. My brothers were very thankful to me and this made me feel very proud as a family member.”

Social impact made through mobile money services:
- Higher self-esteem and self-confidence
- Improved communication skills
- Gained work experience
- Sustainable income to support self and family
- Acquired the importance of personal financial management
- Taking ownership in family responsibilities
- Improved relationship between the family members

WING Customer Profile Story #2 – Small Business Owner

Mr T. is a 22 year old business entrepreneur from a rural district town in Kampong Speu Province. With a low education, he currently runs his small business as a locksmith. With both parents now passed away, he is the sole financial provider to his family and his younger brother who is now studying in a university in Phnom Penh.
Before having a WING account, Mr T. had to close his business and spend at least 2 hours travelling to Phnom Penh (Cambodia’s capital city) to buy locks and another 2 hours to return back to his hometown. This became physically exhausting and wasted valuable business time.

Mr T. previously used the district bank branch to transfer money to his brother. But his brother finds bringing along his identification card for verification troublesome and the bank service fee is expensive. Sometimes Mr T. also had to use a taxi service for money transfers but this created inconvenience and frustration for him and his brother who often needed to wait and had difficulty locating the taxi driver to collect the money.

Presently, Mr T. uses the WING service to transfer money to his brother in Phnom Penh more efficiently and cheaply. This helps to support his brother’s studies. As an innovative solution for his small business, Mr T. also transfers money to his brother’s WING account, enabling his brother to buy locks from the nearby business supply partner in Phnom Penh. The locks are then transported to Kampong Speu province via taxi service.

Mr T.:
“WING has helped me to reduce costs on money transfer service fee as well as transportation and meals for my trip to Phnom Penh to collect my locks. With reduced time in travelling, I can now save more time and do not require to close my small business so that I can effectively earn more money.

I do not need to spend time to go out to the shop to buy scratch cards to top up my mobile phone credit as I now use WING to top up my mobile phone credit.
Before using WING, the relationship between my brother and I seemed quite distant apart. But now after using WING, I find that our relationship has become much closer and I feel as if we are living together in the same house.”

Brother of Mr T.:
“In the past, I was angry and often complained to my brother on the inconvenience and frustration to wait for taxi driver in hot and wet weather to collect money for buying the locks supply. But using WING makes it easier to cash out my brother’s money from my WING account to pay for the locks supply. As a result, my relationship and communications with my brother has also improved. Because of WING, my brother now sends me money more often than before and I feel his family warmth and love to support my university studies and living expenses in Phnom Penh."

Social impact made through mobile money services:
- Reduced small business operations cost (hence increased business profitability)
- Less frustration and more convenient in transaction payments
- More income to support self and family
- Increased safety and security in money transfers
- Improved relationship between the family members

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