How can we encourage more people, especially women, to sign up for and use the new technology, mobile money? And how can we help mobile money agents overcome the hassles involved in managing their cash flow effectively?
Mobile money holds great promise in the developing world but adoption has been slow, especially in rural areas.
A critical first order constraint is that many people, especially women, who live in rural Africa do not own phones. While most people can afford the small costs of phone ownership (a few cents for talk time and phone charging each month) many cannot afford the large one time cost of the handset ($12-$15).
Successful mobile money campaigns depend on large and reliable data sets that tell mobile operators and mobile money agents when and where people want to use mobile money. But good data can be difficult to generate and analyze.
Finally, mobile money depends to some degree on trust. Customers must trust that the mobile money agent will be at her shop, with cash (or “float”) ready and able to make a transaction. Mobile agents are often unable or unmotivated to have the cash and float available for customers. Maintaining float requires potentially long trips to a bank, and cognitive effort and hassle in calculating and predicting how much money they might need.
Along with Margaret McConnell (Harvard University) and Vodafone/mPesa with funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Our goal is to 1) make managing cash easier for mPesa agents and 2) make using mPesa easier and more reliable for mPesa clients. Our intervention will do the following:
- Increase phone sales and mobile money sign-up by recruiting more women phone sellers who, evidence suggests, are more trusted by other women
- Train phone sellers to offer mPesa sign up at the point of phone sale. This bundles the services, decreasing hassles by making signing up for mPesa seem easier to new clients.
- Opt-in new mPesa clients into a data sharing agreement that allows us to gather data and survey users on their mPesa needs and desires.
- Send timed text messages to mPesa users about agents’ availability
- Send timed messages to mPesa agents about predicted cash flow needs.
This is randomized control trial with some new phone users and mPesa agents assigned to the treatment and others in a control group who will go through the usual sales and sign up processes.
Implementation underway. Results forthcoming.