Ushahidi for Mobile Banking

I just participated in a high-level mobile banking (mBanking) conference in Nairobi, which I co-organized with colleagues from The Fletcher School.

Participants included the Governor of Kenya’s Central Bank, Kenya’s Finance Minister, the directors/CEO’s of Safaricom, Equity Bank, Bankable Frontier Associates, Iris Wireless, etc, and senior representatives from the Central Banks of Tanzania, Rwanda and Burundi as well as CGAP, Google, DAI, etc.


The conference blog is available here and the Twitter feed I set up is here. The extensive work that went into organizing this international conference explains my relative absence from iRevolution; that and my three days off the grid in Lamu with Fletcher colleagues and Erik Hersman.

I have already blogged about mBanking here so thought I’d combine  my interest in the subject with my ongoing work with Ushahidi.

One of the issues that keeps cropping up when discussing mBanking (and branchless banking) is the challenge of agent reliability and customer service. How does one ensure the trustworthiness of a growing network of agents and simultaneously handle customer complaints?

A number of speakers at Fletcher’s recent conference highlighted these challenges and warned they would become more pressing with time. So this got me thinking about an Ushahidi-for-mBanking platform.

Since mBanking customers by definition own a mobile phone, a service like M-Pesa or Zap could provide customers with a dedicated short code which they could use to text in concerns or report complaints along with location information. These messages could then be mapped in quasi real-time on an Ushahidi platform. This would provide companies like Safaricom and Zain with a crowdsourced approach to monitoring their growing agent network.

A basic spatial analysis of these customer reports over time would enable Safaricom and Zain to identify trends in customer complaints. The geo-referenced data could also provide the companies with a way to monitor agent-reliability by location. Safaricom could then offer incentives to M-Pesa agents to improve agent compliance and reward them accordingly.

In other words, the “balance of power” would shift from the agent to the customer since the latter would now be in position to report on quality of service.

But why wait for Safaricom and Zain to kick this off? Why not simply launch two public parallel platforms, one for M-Pesa and the other for Zap to determine which of the two companies receive more complaints and how quickly they respond to them?

To make the sites sustainable, one could easily come up with a number of business plan models. One idea might be to provide advertising space on the Ushahidi-mBanking site. In addition, the platform would provide a way to collect the mobile phone numbers of individual clients; this information could then be used to broadcast ads-by-SMS on a weekly basis, for example.

If successful, this approach could be replicated with Wizzit and MTN in South Africa and gCash in the Philippines. I wish I had several more weeks in Nairobi to spearhead this but I’m heading back to the Sudan to continue my consulting work with the UN’s Threat and Risk Mapping Analysis (TRMA).

Patrick Philippe Meier

5 responses to “Ushahidi for Mobile Banking

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