Promoting Formal Financial Services Access Through Mobile Banking: The Ugandan Case

Open Access
Ghosh, Ishita
Graduate Program:
Information Sciences and Technology
Master of Science
Document Type:
Master Thesis
Date of Defense:
April 18, 2011
Committee Members:
  • John Carroll, Thesis Advisor/Co-Advisor
  • development
  • formal financial services access
  • m-banking
Mobile Banking has been touted as revolutionary in the developing world with its capacity to extend financial services access to the unbanked. However, the scope of the financial services offered on the mobile backbone has been at best optimistic and under-developed, spanning typically micro-transfer, micropayment and remittance services. As the literature continues to exhort the benefits of long-term, reliable and easy access to formal financial services (especially savings and loan instruments) in combating poverty, the Mobile Banking landscape finds itself in a state of flux. Innovative ventures are being tested around the globe to develop Mobile Banking services to include savings accrual, loan approval and insurance facilities. Whether or not the Mobile Banking infrastructure is able to accommodate more inclusive financial services and products is certainly the question of the hour. This thesis will present the findings from a three month pilot that was conducted in Uganda to test a Mobile Banking solution that targeted the dissemination of formal financial services, especially savings facilities, to unserved populations by re-appropriating an existing technological platform (mobile phones) and leveraging a non-traditional service provider (bank on wheels). To this end, a preliminary prototype was launched at eight different sites to test its viability. Through a host of qualitative and quantitative methods (semi-structured & informal interviews, demographic surveys, and participant observations), this inception design was constantly monitored and subsequently redesigned. In this manner, the design activity becomes the pivot of the study. Further, the pilot also tracked the uptake of the service and the characteristics of its users. This was especially important in determining the transformational potential of the design; that is, to measure the potential of the service to bring formal financial instruments to unbanked populations. The end goal of the pilot was to present a final transformational design to the project partners for consideration for a full-scale, commercial launch.