IT For Microfinance Workshop Series & Upcoming Virtual Webinar

Charlene Balick is a Technical Program Officer for Grameen Foundation based in Seattle, Washington. She spent the last 6 months working with CGAP to organize a series of regional IT workshops. Next week on July 7 and 8 there will be a virtual webinar hosted on the CGAP blog.

Group discussing MFI Technology costs in Hyderabad, India

Group discussing MFI Technology costs in Hyderabad, India

I work in the group of Grameen Foundation called Technology Readiness which strives to strengthen the capacity of MFIs to plan for and work with technology – especially their back-end systems to manage client and product data.  We received grant funds provided by the MasterCard Foundation (as well as additional support from the European Union) to organize and host a series of regional workshops to discuss usage of back-end technologies.  We partnered with CGAP to invite the thought leaders in technology in three regions:  East Africa, South Asia and Latin America to hold small workshops in:
  • October: Washington D.C.
  • February: Nairobi, Kenya
  • April: Hyderabad, India
  • June: Lima, Peru
We convened a mix of stakeholders in each region who have extensive experience working with back-end technology platforms – and who understand the learnings challenges that have come with that work. This included leaders from:  MFIs, software vendors, donors and investors, government agencies, Technical Assistance Providers, and networks & associations both local and international.

Lunch meeting with the participants in Lima, Peru

Lunch meeting with the participants in Lima, Peru

We know the key to growth and to lowered interest rates in MFIs throughout the world is the ability to employ and maintain a strong back-end system.  This not only helps MFIs  to manage client and product data (such as the micro-loans, savings and insurance), but to better understand clients and track how they move out of poverty once they are empowered with financial services.  MFIs and vendors face many issues when trying to successfully use technology and there are many differing points of view on the matter.  Our objective was to gather them all into one room so that we could first talk about the challenges but then, more importantly, come up with the ideas for actions that each player can take.  We want for investors to know how they can better support technology usage which in the end will provide better reporting and data as well as the efficiencies to put the investments to good use.

For me, it was quite exciting to travel to each location and get the chance to meet the people who are out there day-to-day working hard to provide and better use a good MIS to manage the business.  All of these professionals in each and every region were very experienced and had so many valuable lessons and opinions to share.  At each regional workshop, we spent the day completing an “Action Matrix” to capture all of the creative ideas and thinking about how each player can do their part to better use technology in operations and marketing – all aspects of the business.

You can find the proceedings, action matrices and other key information related to our workshops on the CGAP technology website here.

Finally, we invite anyone who is interested to join us in our final two-day event:  a virtual webinar next week on July 7 and 8, 2010. Questions that explore some issues raised in the workshops will posed in the morning and we encourage anyone to write in to the conversation and share their experiences, opinions and ideas.  We will be discussing:
  • Skills development on the parts of both MFIs (i.e. technology management skills) and the vendor (i.e. microfinance operations) to better understand each other and work together more effectively on projects and on an ongoing basis
  • Explore a paradigm shift in the information system conversation.

Those interested, please mark your calendars and visit the CGAP technology blog for the discussion.

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