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					appropriate technology
for east africa:
people driven solutions
for online microlending

cale thompson
(in collaboration with Jon r odr iguez)
appropriate technology
for east africa:
people driven solutions
for online microlending

A graduation project completed within the Design for Sustainability group of the Delft
University of Technology to obtain the MSc degree of Industrial Ecology from the Faculty of
Applied Sciences.

Cale Thompson

Dr. Ir. Han Brezet
Ir. J.C. Diehl Msc.
Dr. Marcel Crul

   This report details the process and results of work done during a gradution project the Masters degree of
Industrial Ecology. The project was carried out in the Design for Sustainability group at the Delft University of
Technology, East Africa, and California. The project is a collaboration between TUDelft,, and its East
African partner organizations. It was made possible through a generous grant from Microsoft Research under
their Digital Inclusion Initiative.
   The report is divided into eight chapters. The first chapter provides necessary background for understanding
the larger context of this project. The problem, scope and goal of the graduation project are also introduced in
this chapter. The following five chapters trace the project phases chronologically from research preparation to
testing. These chapters concentrate on clearly communicating the logic behind the choice of methods and tools
chosen to accomplish the goals of the project. Chapters 2 and 3 describe the analysis phases completed both
inside and outside of East Africa. Translation of the results of the context research is explained in Chapter 4.
Chapter 5 describes the design development phase as a reflection of the results of translation. Both the approach
and results of testing are featured in Chapter 6 followed by an elaboration of the use of systems level thinking
including the identification of opportunities and threats in Chapter 7. Finally chapter 8 evaluates the result of the
project and the methodology used as well as providing brief recommendations for project partners.
   I’d like to extend a sincere thank you to Microsoft Research for choosing this project and recognizing the merit
of a people centered approach to creating technology solutions. This project was a truly collaborative effort whose
success is the result of a high level of commitment from Kiva and it’s partners. Staff were very quick to understand
our goals and facilitate our work throughout several phases. It was a pleasure to witness the change that you are
making and the joy you take in doing so. I hope that we are not finished. I’m proud to have contributed.
   A sincere thank you to my mentors and Susan Sasson for their flexibility and support throughout the process:
Jan Carel Diehl for his consistent clear communication and commitment to ensuring that the project was a
success, Han Brezet for his faith in the project and help with navigation and Marcel Crul for his early contribu-
   Thanks to all of those who contributed to the project: Paul Ripee, Joakin Vincze, Kin Kalisa Ibrahim, Mulo
Emanuel, Martin O’Reily, Staff at Celtel, Constantine Bitwayiki, Eddy Wamushya, David Baguma, Veronique Van
der Varst, Paul Althuis and anyone that I forgot. I hope that the following report will be able to provide some
degree of reciprocation.
   Lastly, Jon it was a pleasure from beginning to end. Long live intocontext.

Stay tuned @

Cale Thompson
Delft, September 14, 2006
executive summary

    In early 2005 an organization, then loosely known as Kiva, began with an experiment. It was an attempt to
prove that the stories of entrepreneurs in developing countries working to bring themselves out of poverty were
so compelling that they could attract direct funding from individual lenders viewing them over the internet. Inter-
est from lenders was quickly demonstrated and Kiva, now only one year old, is mobilizing loan capital around
the world. Through the use of ICTs Kiva is delivering new opportunities to access capital for microloans by part-
nering with existing microfinance institutions (MFI). Kiva has created a channel through which those MFIs can
market their borrower’s stories via the internet to access inexpensive capital from individual lenders. The hope
is to reduce the operational costs of the MFIs allowing them to do their work more successfully, leading to more
change through microfinancing.
    In late 2005 Microsoft research began with a question. What role can information & communications technol-
ogy (ICT) play in creating solutions for the myriad barriers facing the developing world in overcoming access
to resources crucial to all sectors such as education, agriculture, finance, governance, and health? To generate
insights on this topic money was allocated through their “Digital Inclusion Initiative” to projects involving collabo-
rations between universities and organizations around the world investigating ICT across a range of fields.
    The project is a collaboration between TUDelft and based on Kiva’s goal to continue to scale and
improve their offer. Interest and capital flowing from online lenders was not the limiting factor, instead the bottle-
neck was the ability of the partners to post borrower information on the web. Kiva partners must have access to
the internet and become familiar with web navigation and content management, however many environmental
factors can limit their ability to do so easily. Located in Uganda and Kenya, the project centered around four MFIs
who are actively partnered with Kiva. The principle concern of the project was to research which technology forms
are most appropriate for integration into the operational context of MFIs to facilitate entrepreneurs accessing
micro credit through Kiva.
    Guided by a design approach, the project entered East Africa asking a question rather than arriving with an
answer. In order to reflect that technology should fit people rather than the other way around the project went
on the assumption that the East African context, specifically the user, would reveal details necessary to create an
appropriate solution. The methodology is defined by a people centered approach, consistent collaboration with
the user and producer, and a systems orientation.
    This six month project resulted in the collaborative development of the Miracle Mobile Solution (MiMoSo),
a piece of software that allows Multi Media Service (MMS) messages sent from a mobile phone to be sent to an
individual Kiva email address where the text and image are parsed and uploaded to the Kiva website where they
can be seen by lenders. The solution effectively eliminated the numerous barriers identified as limiting the ability
of partner organizations to work with Kiva.
    Ultimately the MiMoSo was tested on site and has since been implemented by Kiva. This project has demon-
strated the strength of a people centered approach to technology and the potential of the cellphone to serve as a
legitimate platform to facilitate web based activities in East Africa.

table of contents

1. intocontext                                    9
1.1 project background                            10
1.2 assignment                                    14

2. research preparation                           19
2.1 introduction                                  20
2.2 definition of ‘areas’                         20
2.3 benchmark                                     20
2.4 research preparation results                  22
2.5 conclusions                                   22

3. context research                               25
3.1 background                                    26
3.2 research structure                            26
3.3 tools                                         27
3.4 results                                       28
3.5 insights and evaluation of research methods   31

4. translation                                    33
4.1 background                                    34
4.2 structure                                     34
4.3 tools                                         34
4.4 conclusions                                   46

5. design                                         49
5.1 background                                    50
5.2 collaboration                                 50
5.3 design results                                51
5.4 conclusions                                   53

6. test                                           55
6.1 background                                    56
6.2 structure                                     56
6.3 test results                                  57
6.4 conclusions                                   61

7. system level                                   63
7.1 background                                    64
7.2 sustainable perspective                       64
7.3 opportunities                                 65
7.4 threats                                       66

8. evaluation & recommendations                   69
8.1 project evaluation                            70
8.2 recommendations                               72

index of abbreviations   74

references               75

appendix 1               77

appendix 2               77

appendix 3               83

appendix 4               87

appendix 5               94

appendix 6               96

appendix 7               98

opposite: Loan disbursal at Life in Africa, Uganda.

1. intocontext
In this chapter a complete introduction to the project is
provided including the larger context from into which it
belongs. A complete explanation of the project’s intentions are
provided including the method chosen to accomplish its
specified goals. A six month timeline features the dates,
location and the particular focus of each phase.

1.1 introduction
1.2 project background
1.2.1 Developing Divide
1.2.2 Development Projects
1.2.3 ICT
1.2.4 Microfinance
1.2.5 Kiva
1.3 assignment
1.3.1 Problem Definition
1.3.2 Goal
1.3.3 Scope
1.3.4 Methodology
1.3.5 Project Structure

1 . 1 p roJ ect b ackground                                                     (McLean 2006). This pattern is reflected by several
                                                                                high profile foundations with well known goals to aid
   Positive economic growth in developing countries                             the developing world.1
has been directly linked with those countries gaining                              Clearly concern about the growing gap has become
increased access to credit. Microfinancing has demon-                           a front page issue reflected by the activities of inter-
strated a significant capacity for facilitating economic                        national governing bodies and both the cultural and
and social development in countries around the world.                           business elite. Closing the gap has been linked with the
According to the World Bank, currently 30 - 50 million                          potential to effect the following change for develop-
people access and use microfinance programs in the                              ing regions; greater economic equality, social mobility,
world. Yet, by removing barriers such as poor infrastruc-                       social equality, democracy and economic growth (Wiki,
ture, limited access to funding, and operational inef-                          2006). These larger headings encompass innumerable
ficiencies, as many as 500 million people could enrich                          subheadings that are present on the ground.
their lives and communities through access to microfi-                             Although the divide can be seen in small pockets
nance programs (HP, 2006).                                                      of the developed world, the concentration of need
   Relevant work in the field has demonstrated that                             is largely found in the developing world. Developing
the use of technology can improve the efficiency of the                         countries are defined by their aspirations to support
lending system. In order to extend the reach of micro-                          their populations through efforts associated with more
finance services to rural areas, and thus increase client                       affluent countries such as higher levels of education,
outreach, some microfinance institutions are consider-                          personal incomes, health standards (UCR, 2004). As
ing the integration of new forms of information and                             involvement in these regions increases so does the
communication technology (ICT), particularly those                              need to gain an understanding of their unique cultural,
which have proved beneficial operationally by decreas-                          economic, political and social contexts in order to work
ing time and increasing efficiency of loan activities                           effectively within them towards solutions.
(Womens, 2005).
     These issues reflect both the need to scale micro-                         1 . 1 . 2 d e v e l o p m e n t pro Je c t s
finance and the potential aid that ICT can offer. The
following sections help to further detail the larger                                Development projects, those concerned with inves-
context within which the project has emerged and                                tigating and creating opportunities for growth in
explain key features of microfinance, development and                           developing regions, are often concerned with provid-
ICT.                                                                            ing greater access to resources and services. Typically
                                                                                projects take one of two forms. There are those done
1 . 1 . 1 developing divide                                                     in the vein of donations, whereby money is given away
                                                                                often to local units in situ. This first type is done with
The exaggerated divide between the rich and poor of                             the hope that benefits are created on the ground, while
the world has attracted considerable attention from                             the donor concurrently achieves some soft forms of
the media, governments and Wall Street. From general                            return such as improved image. Alternatively there are
poverty alleviation to the creation of greater access to                        those projects that are considered as an investment with
information, there is a general call to arms. Private,                          return. The first category has been largely the domain
public and academic investments are being made                                  of governments and aid organizations. The second
to close the gap through projects, partnerships and                             category has been sparsely populated by a few intrepid
contributions.                                                                  companies who have endeavored to look for opportu-
   Recent evidence of this mobilization has been                                nities to provide for these regions. As a counterpoint
impressive. Live 8, the world’s largest concert event, was                      to the existing logic that has suggested that there was
underpinned by a call for poverty reduction in Africa.                          little opportunity in these regions for long term return
TIME magazine recognized Bill and Melinda Gates as                              recent insights have suggested that there is an enor-
persons of the year for their efforts in responding to                          mous potential yet to be realized.
the gap. The UN established Millennium Goals with the                               C. K. Prahalad is widely recognized as the man who
shared challenge of managing globalization to provide                           turned the eyes of the multi-national executive towards
benefits for all the world’s people. In doing so the                            the significant “untapped opportunity,” that lay waiting
resolution acknowledged that “at present its benefits                           at the bottom of the economic pyramid (Prahalad,
are very unevenly shared, while its costs are unevenly                          2002). His book The Fortune at the Bottom of the
distributed.” (United, 2000). Particularly impressive is                        Pyramid spelled out clearly through case studies from
a new turn in philanthropy, “in which the lines between                         around the world that profits were available for those
not for profits, politics, and business tend to blur.”                          who looked into these emerging markets.2 Looking

    See McLean 2006, Hafner 2006, Economist 2006
    BOP referred to 4 billion people with an annual per capita income, based on purchasing power parity in U.S. dollars, of less than $1,500.

meant much more than peering from a distance, it                               “have nots”. What began as a concern over poverty
meant understanding that “the key, as with convention-                         and basic access to food and shelter grew to include
al markets, is to provide a product that meets customer                        concerns for access to services; financial, health, educa-
needs.”(Prahalad, 2002). From Columbia to India he                             tion, governance etc. Finally the potential of access to
presented companies who invested in understanding                              digital information has become so widely recognized
the unmet needs of these large populations and, as a                           that measures were taken to ensure universal access. A
result, were benefiting from huge new markets. Praha-                          series of reports investigating access in the US titled,
lad stated quite clearly in his book that the road was                         “Falling through the Net” was produced by the govern-
often rough but the rewards were numerous. It was                              ment, which identified the emergence of the “digital
enough to set many companies down the path towards                             divide.” This term reflected more than a gap in access.
the bottom of the pyramid from fast moving goods                               In separating those with effective access to ICTs and
companies to internet services providers.                                      those without, the “digital divide” limits one’s oppor-
                                                                               tunity and ability to participate. A final installment of
1.1.3 i nformation and communicat i o n                                        the series concluded that, “We are approaching the
t echnology                                                                    point where not having access to these tools is likely
                                                                               to put an individual at a competitive disadvantage and
   One particular toolbox that has been celebrated as                          in a position of being a less-than-full participant in the
indispensable in a number of development projects                              digital economy.”(Mineta, 2000). While all signs in the
across several different fields including e-governance,                        developed world point to the further digitization of the
agriculture, health, education, finance, etc. have been                        economy and society, those left across the divide are
information and communications technologies (ICTs).                            “effectively invisible in an electronic world.” (Amoako,
The term is broadly acknowleged as a “catch-all phrase                         1998). If the gap is widening within the globe’s wealthi-
used to describe a range of technologies for gathering,                        est nations then the repercussions for the rest of the
storing, receiving, processing, analyzing and transmit-                        world seem clear.
ting information.” (Smart, 2005) Technologies grouped                             The likely consequence of exclusion from those
under this heading have been associated with the “tech                         capacities proving to drive the economies of the devel-
boom” of the 90’s that led to many innovations. ICTs                           oped world, has encouraged many reactions. Robert
are acknowledged to have contributed to reductions in                          Davison’s comments in The Electronic Journal of Infor-
the cost of managing information in addition to creat-                         mation Systems in Developing Countries reflect growing
ing greater efficiencies in handling information related                       concern that “there is a clear need for developing
tasks. Convinced by the economic growth that has been                          countries to ensure that they are neither isolated from
associated with the implementation of these technolo-                          world trends nor disenfranchised from active and
gies in the developed world, and the persuasive writings                       autonomous participation in developments.” (Davison,
of some key agitators many organizations have placed                           2000) Compounding the issue even further is the cost
these technologies at the core of their approach to                            of access once it has been established. Costs vary by as
creating positive change through greater access to basic                       much as 90 times from developed countries to develop-
and secondary needs in the developing world.3                                  ing countries (Next, 2006). A very public response to
   ICT at every stage of its development has transformed                       the issue which solidified its importance was the estab-
society by providing new capacities for communicating.                         lishment of the “G8 Digital Opportunities Task Force”
As it quickly became an integrated part of both leisure                        and the “UN ICT task force” which are both focused on
and business landscapes, it demonstrated an equally                            bringing about digital opportunity for all.
impressive effect on both in terms of efficiency and                              The hope espoused by many advocates of spreading
access. Education, travel, warfare, entertainment, and                         the benefits of ICT to all has included an inextricable
dating have all been impacted by developments in ICT.                          link between the power of ICT and human empower-
From the telegraph to the satellite, radio to the inter-                       ment. Efforts to realize this proliferation of technology
net, each new platform has provided broader channels                           whether by a non governmental organization (NGO)
by which to communicate and greater ease in doing                              or a multi-national corporation (MNC) often reflect
so.                                                                            this notion that ICTs amongst other things have the
   The success of the internet amongst other digital                           potential to become a real driver for the economy and
technologies and the power that they provide individu-                         society. Creating an opportunity to gain access provides
als to access endless amounts of current and frequent-                         the means by which to participate. Through the intro-
ly updated information created a disparity that came                           duction and use of these technologies it is posited that
to the attention of those concerned with the growing                           communication and pubic engagement will grow and
chasm between those identified as the “haves” and the                          take on new forms (Fleming, 2002).
3 In What Works: Serving the Poor, Profitably co-authored by Prahalad, the author well known for elaborating the case for focusing attention on emerging
markets asserts that “Technology, it is already apparent, can be as powerful a tool for addressing barriers and inefficiencies at the bottom of the pyramid
as in more established markets.”

   Although the internet is just one of the many tech-                          transformed by the creation of the credit card. With a
nologies gathered under the heading of ICT it has                               relatively limited set of requirements for ownership the
captured the most attention from development efforts.                           credit card created an everyman’s platform for access to
Even in the early stages of the internet’s growth senti-                        small loans, built to suit many unique needs.4
ments were quite strong regarding its potential. Early                             At the bottom of the market for financial services in
on proponents of closing the digital divide argued that                         the developed world there is a group whose demands
the internet represented a channel by which to ensure                           are not being met by the existing service options but
that developing countries would be integrated into the                          that sector represents a very small fraction of the total
global information infrastructure. The second benefit of                        population. By contrast that fraction of the popula-
implementing these technologies is something known                              tion in the developing world who are lacking access to
as ‘leapfrogging’. This occurs with the “implementation                         financial services is estimated to be more than 1 billion
of a new and up-to-date technology in an application                            (CGAP, 2006). The response developed to suit their
area in which at least the previous version of that tech-                       needs is known as microfinance, roughly defined as
nology has not been deployed.” (Davison, 2000). In an                           “The activity of provision of financial services to clients
effort to accelerate development, the intermediate step                         who are excluded from the traditional financial system
will be eliminated. This has sometimes been the case                            on account of their lower economic status.” (Wiki,
when an area goes from zero internet connectivity to                            2006).
wireless connectivity completely sidestepping dial up.                             Beginning as early as a half century ago, develop-
Leapfrogging saves time and money spent on the devel-                           ment projects began investigating the provision of
opment of intermediary technology infrastructures.                              financial services in the form of subsidized loans. The
   The introduction of ICTs as a solution to the prob-                          approach evolved becoming more successful through a
lems that are present in developing countries is typical-                       model of group lending whereby the group backs the
ly not done without considerable effort. What works in                          loans of the individuals (CGAP, 2006). Still commonly
the developed world is not ensured success in the devel-                        used, the model continues to be refined to meet the
oping world. ICT represents great potential but without                         specific needs of both the people and their environ-
the correct introduction within these new contexts it                           ment. A second evolution within the microfinance
can represent wasted potential. Efforts to introduce                            industry emerged with even more conviction that the
new technologies are often made under the assump-                               poor were indeed credit worthy and demonstrated this
tion that the country into which they are introduced                            point with high repayment rates that were even higher
will recognize their benefits and support their develop-                        than those of developed countries (CGAP, 2006).
ment growth. As Robert Davison keenly explains in his                              As awareness of the unmet needs of this large
article Technology leapfrogging in developing countries                         market has grown, so too has the number of microfi-
– an inevitable luxury, there is great need for invest-                         nance providers that have developed services. Across
ment in this area but there must be awareness of how                            the globe public and private organizations with varied
ICT should be reconsidered for these new contexts. He                           missions, methodologies, sizes, and degrees of sustain-
argues that “technologies have, to a large extent, been                         ability have devoted their efforts to providing loans,
developed in, and for the cultural and social norms                             savings, insurance and payment services. These micro-
of, a small number of developed countries.” (Davison,                           finance institutions (MFIs), a broad term that includes
2000). It is clear here, as with many other fields, that                        all those offering services to the underserved. Their
tailored approaches are necessary for each individual                           offerings vary considerably as they respond to differ-
context in order to ensure success.                                             ent regulatory environments and user needs. From self
                                                                                initiated member based groups known as Savings and
1 . 1 . 4 m icrofinance                                                         Credit Co-operative Societies (SACCOs) to financial
                                                                                NGOs and other initiatives, the sector represents many
   In the developed world when an individual goes                               approaches and goals.
seeking credit there are many solutions to fit their                               From operating at a small scale independent of any
needs. Large and small sums can be accessed at inter-                           formal financial system to scaling across continents and
est rates in proportion to the lender’s capacity to pay.                        establishing a significant presence within the financial
But only a century ago, access to loans in developed                            sector, microfinance providers have rooted themselves
countries like the United States was limited to the very                        firmly within the financial landscape. Nothing exempli-
wealthy until maverick lenders extended credit services                         fies the mission and potential of microfinance to scale
to the average man and woman. Payback rates were                                better than the now famous Grameen bank. It is the
very high and encouraged the proliferation of these                             poster child for microfinance and rightfully so as its
services that evolved to meet borrower needs. Services                          varied lending models have been widely copied and
in finance continued to develop and were ultimately                             achieved massive success in delivering services seeming-
    Janine Firpo speaking at the ICTD 2006 conference recounted a short history of finance in the US noting that “The credit card infrastructure is micro-

                          Lender        Online Marketplace        Microfinance Institution      Entrepreneur


    Money                                                                                                                   Information

figure 1. How Kiva works.

ly against all logic. As of May, 2006 6.39 million individ-            existing in impoverished communities.” (Year, 2005).
uals were currently lending from Grameen (Grameen,                     Spurred by the opportunity associated with microfi-
2006).                                                                 nance growth of the sector continues. Yet where there
   Dr. Mohammed Yunas has extended the reach of                        is opportunity there are challenges.
Grameen’s offering to include even the penniless.                         Meeting the unique needs of this underserved popu-
With the launch of ‘beggar’s banking’ Grameen has                      lation required an investment of resources to under-
reinforced the bank’s commitment to credit being                       stand their users as well as to develop, test and modify
accepted as a human right. Grameen supports a model                    services to meet their needs. Additionally, a commit-
of group lending whereby a group of individuals create                 ment of time is required to allow the market to grow
a rotating fund that serves the financial needs of the                 and evolve. What emerged was a smattering of services
members. The method allows small quantities of money                   with varying degrees of success. The problems facing
to be aggregated into larger sums that become avail-                   service providers are numerous and have created barri-
able capital designated by the groups towards support-                 ers against effective service delivery. Amongst other
ing entrepreneurship. Unlike other cases, these groups                 difficulties in attracting investment in these areas is an
are not organized by a third party organization that                   almost non-existent infrastructure, scattered popula-
provides services to the group.                                        tion, economic activity limited to semi-subsistence agri-
   MFI’s demonstrated that this market sector, previous-               culture and high operating costs (Afraca, 2003).
ly considered to be a waste of resources, could be tamed
and held responsible for repayment at a profit. Larger                 1 . 1 . 5 ki va
financial institutions such as central banks, large and
small commercial banks and non bank financial insti-                      Amongst the most pressing concerns for micro-
tutions started to get interested in the huge number                   finance institutions is the need to access necessary
of potential clients. Although the margins on these                    capital to make loans available to their clients. The
loans of a few hundred dollars are small, the volume                   ease with which MFIs are able to access capital varies
that could be achieved was encouraging. Adding these                   while the rates at which they borrow the capital tend to
numbers to their roster and fostering their economic                   be consistently high, around 10%.5 In response to this
growth would lead to long term benefits. Potential                     issue a concept was developed to provide capital at 0%
client bases were found from the urban centers to the                  interest. By leveraging the strength of ICT, to connect
rural extremes.                                                        individuals, Kiva is democratizing lending and “facili-
   A second development that occurred concurrently                     tating one-to-one connections that were previously
was an attempt to link microfinance definitively with                  prohibitively expensive.” (Kiva, 06).
“larger goals such as economic growth, declining levels                   Kiva’s innovative lending concept (figure 1) is oper-
of poverty and diversifying rural enterprises.” (Afraca,               ating with existing MFI’s to connect individual entre-
2003). The result was an investment of resources                       preneurs in developing countries, through a direct
from development agencies interested in promoting                      p2p network online. Individual lenders are providing
advances in the areas now being linked with microfi-                   funding for their business development proposals.
nance. Attention focused on the potential of providing                 With a mission to help small businesses move towards
microfinance services culminated in the designation                    economic independence, Kiva allows MFI’s to post
of 2005 as the ‘International year of Microcredit.’ The                profiles of their borrowers needs online whereby they
UN Development Program called for the creation of                      can be funded by socially-minded individuals who
inclusive financial sectors and efforts to “strengthen the             receive updates regarding the impact and progress of
powerful, but often untapped, entrepreneurial spirit                   the loan. Once the loan has been repaid to the MFI it
 Based on a survey of 18 MFIs and averages reported by CASHPOR (Network of Asian MFIs) and 5 leading S. American MFIs, published in
“Microcredit Interest Rates in Bangladesh: Capping v Competition.” D.L. Wright.

is wired back to lenders account. Funding can then be         1 . 2 . 2 g oa l
withdrawn or reinvested in another business. The result
is the creation of a “data-rich, transparent lending plat-       Responding to the problem identified by Kiva, the
form for the poor.” (Kiva, 06).                               principle concern of the project is to research which
    Presently Kiva is partnered with 11 MFIs in 10 coun-      technology forms are most appropriate for integration
tries and has funded close to 500 small businesses in a       into the operational context of MFIs to facilitate entre-
variety of sectors including; agriculture, retail, housing,   preneurs accessing micro credit through Kiva.
manufacture, service etc. Partnering with Kiva demands
that MFIs become familiar with the several technologies       1 . 2 . 3 sc o p e
so that they can provide and manage content that is
created for the Kiva website, including digital photogra-        There are broader questions about the adequacy
phy and the internet. The borrower profiles, include a        and appropriateness of technologies currently used in
photograph, representative organization, loan descrip-        the East African context, but this project is investigating
tion, loan amount requested, and repayment term.              only those technology interaction forms that are rele-
Borrower profiles allow lenders to assess individual loan     vant to the processes necessary for an MFI to partner
proposals and make a personal choice as to where their        with Kiva.
money has its effect, whether it be for a brick maker            Although Kiva is currently partnered with 11 MFI’s
in Uganda or a hide tanner in Honduras. Although              on several continents, this project is concerned with
profiles of varying depth were being created by the           only those four partners working with Kiva presently
MFIs, Kiva requires that profiles including a photo must      in Uganda and Kenya: Life in Africa (LiA) and Kiva
be uploaded to the internet. MFIs are being presented         Fund Uganda (KFU) based in Uganda, and Women’s
with a unique proposition: eliminate the interest they        Economic Empowerment Consort (WEEC) and Kiva
pay for capital but add additional procedures to their        Office Kenya (KOK) based in Kenya. (see figure 2)
current loan process.                                            Within the Kiva system, elaborated in figure 1, this
    At just one year old Kiva has already faced a number      project is principally focused on the MFI. For the
of obstacles in introducing their concept globally. It        purposes of this research the investigation begins with a
faces many more as it continues to scale and encourage        broader investigation of the MFI, to identify those indi-
the use of the internet as a tool to market the stories of    vidual users who are closely involved with Kiva opera-
individual lenders in the developing world.                   tions.

1 . 2 a ssignment                                             1 . 2 . 4 me t h o d o l o g y

   In order for Kiva’s system to work the technology and         As a central tenet the project entered East Africa
services being provided have to be relevant to the specif-    asking a question rather than arriving with an answer.
ic context where they are used. The integration of tech-      In order to reflect that technology should fit people
nology into the economic, social and cultural context         rather than the other way around the project went on
is essential to allow more efficient use of resources. In     the assumption that the unique context, specifically
addition technology presents the potential to improve         the user would reveal details necessary to create an
the experience and engagement between the money               appropriate solution. The methodology is defined by
lender and the entrepreneur, as well as the scalability       a people centered approach, consistent collaboration,
of the system.                                                and a systems orientation.
                                                                 Rather than initially focusing on particular tech-
1 . 2 . 1 problem definition                                  nologies, the project began with an approach that put
                                                              the user at the center of the process, within the larger
    One of the principle problems that Kiva is facing is      context of the system surrounding them. This bottom
the challenge of scaling their offer. Kiva’s founders high-   up tactic necessitated the commitment and participa-
lighted that interest and capital from online lenders was     tion of the user for best results.
growing. The real bottleneck that they identified is the         Continuous collaboration was reflected through an
number of borrower profiles that are being added to the       iterative process of identifying systemic problems and
website as candidates for funding. The available money        considering appropriate responses. Working directly
is simply not being absorbed. Therefore, research into        with the user and producer during the design process
the improvement of the interface between the technol-         involved using methods drawn from co-creation which
ogy and the MFI is necessary.                                 “stands back from problems as well as proposed solu-
                                                              tions, with a view to reformulating them.” (Murray,
                                                              2006). By directly involving both the user and producer
                                                              throughout the process, to identify needs and capacity,

the goal is to provide a solution that most successfully
meets both of their needs in the long term.
   Secondly, through a particular method that involved
designing some solutions at different stages continuity
was maintained. Confirmation through testing along
the way was done in order to gather early feedback for
ensuring a strong result.
   The project begins as a search for a solution within
an existing system. Through an elaboration of the
system that includes users the investigation avoids a
limited focus. Both macro and micro level issues are
considered in parallel in order to produce a result that
will be consistent with the characteristics of that partic-
ular system.
   figure 3 illustrates the approach used to accomplish
project goals highlighting the results of each phase of
the project and representing the back and forth nature
of the use of tools and the type of results they provide.     figure 2. Map of Uganda and Kenya, showing the locations of
The tools and results of each phase are dealt with indi-      Kiva’s partners.
vidually in subsequent chapters.
                                                              design development.
1.2.5 p roJ ect structure
                                                              Design Development > 02/07/06 – 01/08/06 < USA
                                                                 An intensive one month period of design and devel-
   The six month plan was carried out through five main
                                                              opment with Kiva will accommodate the full devel-
development stages: research preparation, context
                                                              opment cycle of one concept for testing with users.
research, translation, design development and testing.
                                                              Selection of concepts, development and prototyping
   Half of the total duration of the project was spent
                                                              will be completed for testing in East Africa.
in East Africa during two separate phases, emphasiz-
ing the need for direct contact with users. The dura-
                                                              Testing > 02/0806 – 01/09/06 < Uganda, Kenya
tion, location and particular activities of each stage are
                                                                  Prototypes will be tested with Kiva partners in the
detailed below.
                                                              field to gather quantitative and qualitative results neces-
                                                              sary to determine the appropriateness of the concept.
Research Preparation > 01/04/06 – 01/05/06 < Nether-
                                                              Observations and personal feedback will be used in
                                                              order to evaluate the new concepts. Based on this analy-
   Benchmarking of successful aspects of existing
                                                              sis guidelines for implementation will be developed.
development projects utilizing ICT will be conducted
in order to generate a knowledge base. This research
                                                              Dissemination > 02/09/06 – 01/10/06 < Netherlands
will analyze best practices and will create insights for
                                                                 Upon finalization of the project the general research
the development of the approach and requirements of
                                                              question of the project will be answered. Results will be
the solution.
                                                              gathered and presented in a final report and through
   Context research materials for analysis of the specif-
                                                              other channels.
ic context of four Kiva partner MFIs in East Africa are
developed. The benchmark and materials survey will
aid in defining ‘areas’ for investigation during the
following phases.

Context research > 02/05/06 – 21/06/06 < Uganda, Kenya
   Research in the field will analyze those ‘areas’ speci-
fied in Phase 1. Additionally, the research will attempt
to understand the user’s attitudes towards the different
technologies present in their personal and professional

Translation > 22/06/06 – 01/07/06 < Netherlands
Insights drawn from user research will be communi-
cated to Kiva through translation materials to initiate

figure 3. Methodology.

opposite: The project calendar, in the DfS department at TUDelft, Holland.

2. research
Those early steps necessary to define research focus and
gain early insights are explained in this section. Particular
features of each activity chosen specifically for this project are
described. Conclusions from the use of benchmarking
follow a complete elaboration of the goal and methodology
used to deliver insights. Context ‘areas’ are also specified for
use in the following phase.

2.1 introduction
2.2 defininition of ‘areas’
2.3 benchmark
2.3.1 Methodology
2.3.2 Benchmark Elements
2.4 research preparation results
2.5 conclusions

2 . 1 i ntroduction                                            ture, particularly online, were examined. The urgency
                                                               of some projects as well as their remoteness means that
   Preparation activities had the dual aim of develop-         many development projects, both those in progress and
ing research materials and answering the research              completed, will not be available through this channel.
questions as far as could be done through a review of          Many projects done out of necessity go unreported
existing information. Because of the unique needs of           until discovered much later making a comprehensive
the project, modifications to traditional practices were       listing very difficult.
   Materials for use during the context research phase
were developed based on a review of existing practices
and adapted to suit the project’s need for flexibility.
Interviews with practitioners helped to further refine
the research methodology. Comprehensive surveys with
innumerable questions related to understanding the
user through contextual characteristics were distilled
into a manageable set of context headings, or ‘areas,’         figure 4. Benchmark Research preparation results.

that became the basis for developing customized exer-
cises for use in East Africa.
                                                                         Organization/Project         Product
   Due to a lack of available literature capable of contrib-             title & Sector
uting insights to the specific project goal the literature
                                                                         ACCION                       PortaCredit
study took the shape of a benchmark. Adopted because                                                  MIS software
of its flexibility a benchmark of development projects
involving ICT was used to provide an initial set of
insights.                                                                PRODEM FFP                   Multilingual smart ATMs

2 . 2 d efining ‘ areas’

                                                                         FERLO                        Kalpe
   During the development of context research mate-                      finance                      Electronic payment system
rials a list of ‘areas’ determined to be essential for
capturing the complete context were identified. Those
areas were elaborated as a body of overlapping spheres                   Globe Telecom                G-Cash
                                                                         finance                      Payment platform
that reflected the interrelated condition in which the
human technology interactions are occurring. Each
                                                                                                      Banking services
‘area’ was concerned with a particular slice of the total                WIZZIT
pie initially without regard for the relative importance
of each. The research structure was adapted to ensure
that each ‘area’ was given specific attention in one or                  Sevak Solutions              The Remote Transaction
several research phases using tools chosen to uncover                    finance                      System (RTS)

important details to effectively map each ‘area.’

2 . 3 b enchmark                                                         COW                          Internet access
   The purpose of conducting the benchmark during
the preparation phase was to investigate and highlight
                                                                         Vijayawada municipal corp.   Real time municipal services
those aspects of development projects, from all over
the globe, that have successfully leveraged ICT in order
to increase client outreach in terms of efficiency or
scalability. As a tool the benchmark provides a format                   Partners Telemedicine        High level medical knowledge
for analyzing individual projects against each other to                  health/medicine

discover valuable areas for further exploration. Insights
from this process help to define important aspects of
                                                                         SATELLIFE                    Hand held device for Africa
project approaches and particular technology solutions                   health/medicine
that may be incorporated into the project.
   As the development sector continues to expand (best                                                Information services: voice
exemplified by the pace of growth in microfinance) so                    EHAS                         communication and e-mail
too does the coverage of interesting and innovative
projects. Those projects that were represented by litera-

2.3.1 meth odology                                                                  economic and social growth in developing countries.
                                                                                    Those challenges include limited or nonexistent infra-
    Benchmarking analyses typically involve the identi-                             structure, cost, training, interfaces, literacy, distance,
fication of one ‘best in class’ example by which other                              scale, outreach, transparency, operational efficiency
models or solutions are then compared. However an                                   etc. Benchmark elements were developed with the
investigation of projects that cross many disciplines                               intention of reflecting characteristics that are broadly
and regions discourages such a direct comparative                                   shared by the projects that have been reviewed.
approach. Differences in scale, distance, infrastructure,                              Because the situation in developing countries often
literacy, technology familiarity, and cultural distinctions                         represents a blank canvas for new thinking about the
make this particularly difficult.                                                   delivery of services, projects demonstrate a high degree
    To achieve the goal of creating a benchmark docu-                               of innovation and cross-disciplinary thinking. This
ment that is valuable for the context in which the                                  allows technology to be applied in new ways that would
project will be carried out the benchmark concentrated                              be unheard of in developed regions. The goal here is
only on those projects that reflected the challenges of                             to identify those characteristics of these projects that

 Challenges                                            ICT solution                                      Achievements

 Synchronization of data                               PDA with custom software application              Efficiency gains through direct input of client information,
 interface between the hardware and database                                                             loan calculations, loan pre-approval, in the field, client
 Familiarize staff and adapt existing infrastructure                                                     payment status tracking and easy upload of field data to
 to accommodate new technology platform                                                                  the central database.

 Providing services for illiterate customers           Voice driven smart ATM's with a multilingual Provides high level of inclusion by eliminating language
 Providing services in local languages                 color-coded touch screen interface, smartcard barriers and literacy concerns. Eliminates the need for
 Providing services in the most remote areas           reader and digital finger recognition         paper based measures, a plus for illiterate users.

 Reduce congestion at cash points                      Network of linked ATMs and POS devices            Increased client outreach and operational efficiency gains
 Reduce processing costs                                                                                 through comprehensive regional network of service points
 Increase the scale of their services                                                                    capable of providing core financial services
 Create secure access to funds

 Provide services for MF clients in rural areas        Cellphone based text application                  The world's first SMS application to make loan payments
 Reduce operational time                                                                                 possible
 Create a simple and secure system ...

 Provide affordable banking to clients without a   Flexible cellphone based text application             Made financial services available to clients without bank
 bank account. Creating an appropriate channel for                                                       accounts. Very low technology requirement
 these clients                                                                                           accommodates the older model cellphones of its target

 Managing and tracking loan info in remote areas       Software application for POS devices,             Capitalized on the infrastructure of existing servers and
 Affordable and efficient data collection + storage    smartcards and backend system (PC)                databases in MFI's backoffice to allow their clients to use a
 Scaling and replicating                                                                                 smart card in combination with the POS device to make
 Achieve quick adoption and easy use                                                                     transactions. Feeless flexible software.
 Easy integration with partners existing software

 Operating in the most remote areas                    Solar powered portable laptop with wireless       Individually owned mobile internet kiosk provides
 Creating an economically appropriate solution         internet connectivity, printer, digital camera,   affordable phone services and internet content relevant to
 Achieving quick growth and a sustainable model        mobile phone, solar powered battery charger       the needs of 10,000 people, often provided by users.
                                                       (panel mounted on a motorcycle)

 Offer services to poor and middle class families      Interactive television using telephone line, By establishing a forward (telephone) and return path
 Provide real time services                            cable TV technology and software application (cable TV) for information transfer televisions are enabled
 An appropriate user interface                                                                      to operate as virtual monitors whereby users can navigate
                                                                                                    real time content with their telephone keypad.

 Provide data services in remote areas                 Telemedicine provided through a                   Allows Harvard affiliated physicians' services to reach
 Efficient information transfer over great distances   combination of a digital camera, solar            remote areas in Cambodia bimonthly, through efficient
 (text and images)                                     powered computer and a satellite.                 information transfer (text and image files) leading to very
                                                                                                         responsive medical attention.

 Efficiently collecting health information in rural    PDA software application used for data            Test project: 30 volunteers were able to complete 2.400
 Africa                                                collection                                        surveys over three days. The speed and ease of the task
 Creating an easily adaptable technology platform                                                        were unprecedented in addition to the ease of adoption of
                                                                                                         the technology by the volunteers.

 Extend information services to remote medical         Voice communication and e-mail provided           Use of the established radio system in these remote areas
 outposts                                              through very high frequency (VHF) and high        allowed for the extension of cheap information services to
 Provide those services very cheaply and with low      frequency (HF) radio transceivers                 remote medical outposts with low power requirements.
 power requirements

present real potential for improving client outreach.          Context research ‘areas’ for concentration based on
Further details regarding the methodology used and             benchmarking and investigation of context research
potential limitations of the document can be found in          materials were identified as:
Appendix 1.
2 . 3 . 2 benchmark elements                                   Organization
   Criteria were selected based on Kiva’s goal of              Infrastructure
expanding their operations. Operational efficiency of          Office environment
the MFI’s partnered with Kiva in collecting, processing,       Field environment
posting information and servicing clients is a core for        Technology (hardware/software)
Kiva as it continues to grow. Access to additional low         Values
interest capital comes at the cost of creating individual
entrepreneur content for Kiva’s website. This addition-        2.5 conclusions
al work must be effectively integrated into the existing
operations of the MFI’s to allow them to continue effec-          Benchmarking is a flexible process chosen to help
tively responding to their clients.                            understand the existing landscape of initiatives, and
   Scalability of the Kiva system is also essential for        collaborations in developing countries. It was success-
expansion of the system, not only to increase the              fully catered to support the goals of the project helping
number of entrepreneurs handled by each MFI but also           to identify successful elements of technology applica-
into new areas. With this specified goal scalability crite-    tions in development projects.
ria has been established to critically assess the other           With an interest in investigating the role of technol-
development projects for their ability to accomplish           ogy in improving Kiva’s client outreach, the benchmark
these targets.                                                 functioned as a tool to help gain insights. The bench-
                                                               mark is the beginning of a larger effort to understand
Scalability Criteria measure the ease of growth                what technology combinations present potential for
– Scalability is concerned with the capacity to handle         use by Kiva.
  a larger clientele within one region or expand to               The benchmark investigated projects that fell under
  other areas.                                                 the broad heading of development to gain familiarity
– Horizontal scalability is the ability to transfer the in-    with the variety of different technologies being applied
  novation from one context to another.                        in these contexts where impediments to development
– Vertical scalability is the ability to provide the service   are often similar. Secondly, investigating only those
  to the greatest number of clients.                           projects that are working with microfinance or web
                                                               content creation would have been ineffective to capture
Efficiency Criteria measure the effort necessary to            the scope of issues that Kiva is managing in the develop-
  meet outreach goals                                          ment of their system.
– Efficiency refers to an increase in the speed of service        During the successive phases of the project success-
  delivery and internal operations of the MFI.                 ful and transferable aspects of existing development
– Reduction in the number of hours necessary to com-           projects, identified through benchmarking, contribut-
  plete day to day activities.                                 ed to the formulation of questions to investigate further
                                                               during the research phases and the approach taken to
2 . 4 r esearch preparation results                            achieve project goals. The following 9 points reflect
                                                               those aspects that were established as characteristics to
   This report presents the results of the benchmarking        encourage during the development of potential solu-
exercise based on 11 development projects from 3 sepa-         tions for Kiva and its partners.
rate continents. An effort was made to draw from the
experiences of projects in many locations to capture a          – A user centered approach has been shown to have the
strong representation of the overall picture of activities       potential to generate solutions that meet the needs
in these areas.                                                  of the target user and create innovation.
   The projects investigated in the benchmark have             – Flexibility is an important characteristic of those solu-
been summarized in figure 4. under the following head-           tions meant to accommodate various users (types of
ings; Product: What did they create?, Challenges: What           hardware, software). This aspect also encourages
challenges did they face in achieving their goal?, ICT           scalability and responding to inconsistency.
solution: Technologies employed to achieve their goal?,        – Investigation of existing infrastructure should be done
Achievement: What is their unique innovation? (Full              thoroughly in order to capitalize on opportunities.
benchmarking results can be found in Appendix 2.)                Investing in infrastructure is costly!

– Take advantage of those types of technology (hard-
  ware, software) that are ubiquitous and easily main-
  tained. Adoption may be quicker and easier for users.
– Appropriate interfaces, those that are either extremely
  simple or draw from interfaces already recognized by
  users, can contribute significantly to the success of
  the project.
– Cost has been demonstrated to be a key feature in
those projects that were able to achieve scale quickly.
– Models that support entrepreneurship have the poten-
  tial to encourage scale and sustainability.
– Electricity should be drawn from the most consistently
  available source in order to prove reliable.
– Transferability (moving from one context to another
  successfully) becomes more likely when the core of
  the system is not affected by variations in environ-
  mental conditions.

opposite: Shadowing a credit officer at work in the ‘bush.’

3. context research
This part of the report explains the methodology behind the
context research phase, first by explaining why it was used,
how it was done and concluding with a reflection on the
strength of the approach. A detailed explanation of the
research tools and structure chosen for the 7 week period of
investigation is presented as well as a clarification of the
benefit of early definition of research ‘areas’.

3.1 background
3.2 research structure
3.3 tools
3.4 results
3.4.1 Organization
3.4.2 People
3.4.3 Processes
3.4.4 Infrastructure
3.4.5 Field Environment
3.4.6 Office Environment
3.4.7 Technology - Hardware / Software
3.4.8 Attitudes / Values
3.5 insights and evaluation of research methods

    3 . 1 b ackground                                                           first day – focus group
                                                                                Goal – Get a wide understanding of the context of the
   In order to investigate which technologies are most                          MFI and its members. Understand the organizational
appropriate for supporting Kiva activities a deep under-                        environment surrounding the MFI
standing of the reality of where and how the user works                         Process – All MFI members are gathered to discuss
is necessary. This demands a method for identifying                             a short list of topics. All members are encouraged to
the most important issues related to those operations.                          give their opinion and point of view on the topics.
Context research uses tools specifically designed to                            Broad topics
elaborate the context surrounding the users in order                            – MFI tasks
to identify characteristics of their environment that are                       – Use of ICT
important to consider in the development of an appro-                           – Kiva operations
priate solution.
   The primary aim of this phase was to capture behav-                          generative session
iors and occurrences, as they occurred in real time,                            Goal – Uncover attitude towards technology of MFI
which reveal information about people, their activi-                            members. Uncover values of MFI members.
ties and their environment. Particular elements of                              Process – Due to the difficulty of uncovering the at-
the context that reflect the most important issues to                           titude towards technology several different participa-
consider in delivering appropriate solutions will be                            tory exercises were prepared that asked the participa-
documented as observations. These details (found                                tion of the different members into the process.
in Section 3.4) are used to clearly communicate facts                           Exercises
about the user and the context in which their activities                        – Biggest problem/threat that MFI faces (and faced
occur during the translation phase.                                             last week)
   A toolbox was created for use during this phase. Tools                       – The single most valuable thing from their office and
were developed based on a review of existing practices                          house
both in the design practice and usability testing field.                        – Different ways to communicate and save informa-
The comprehensiveness of analysis defined by usability                          tion
documents helped to define the scope of investigation.6                         – Where would you invest in the community and the
Design methods helped to personalize the approach                               MFI
and to elaborate the context.7
                                                                                second day – in depth inter views
    3 . 2 research structure                                                    Goal – Get a deep understanding of the MFI members
                                                                                responsible for Kiva processes.
   The research structure used during this project is                           Process – Individual interviews are held after the iden-
based on an approach that descends from broader                                 tification of MFI members roles.
macro topics towards more specific micro issues. This                           Interview topics
approach to gathering contextual details was used                               – Physical attributes
during the 7 week research phase. Beginning with                                – Skills & Knowledge
efforts to determine unifying themes broader concepts                           – Qualifications
were investigated such as more outwardly facing char-                           – Relevant input skills (mouse, keyboard, mobile
acteristics of the organization; roles, mission. During                         phone keyboard, touch screen…)
later stages the research focus closed in on obtaining                          – Linguistic ability
more detailed personal information on issues such as                            – Background knowledge (schedules of entrepre-
individual values.                                                              neurs, protocol, etc.)
   Each organization was observed during five working                           – Job characteristics
days in order to have sufficient time to capture infor-
mation about their daily activities. A stepwise research                        third day – obser vation
process was prepared in advance that included initial                           Technical environment
contact and the use of several tools.8 Each day was                             Goal – Understand technical environment of the MFI
planned to achieve certain goals explained below                                Process – pictures and list of hardware and software
regarding the tool and process used for achieving that                          used in the office.
goal. (For more detail about each activity see Appendix
3) The five day plan was adapted to each situation by                           Physical environment
making flexible use of the research tools.                                      Goal – Understand physical environment

  See Bevan (1997) and Maguire (1998).
  See IDEO method cards.
  Before arriving in East Africa contact was made with each organization to discuss planning, research goals, other issues. Kiva contacted the organizations
to provide an introduction: a Microsoft funded project to be completed by two Microsoft fellows working with Kiva.

Process – Photograph and document workplace envi-            of information that the session helps to generate but
ronment both in the office and in the field.                 rather its success is limited by the effectiveness of the
                                                             activities and environment. A high level of participa-
fourth day – review current processes                        tion is advocated in order to achieve the best results.
Goal – Get a deep understanding of the process of a             The generative session was chosen as a format to
Kiva operation within the MFI.                               uncover attitudes and values of the MFI members
Process – Shadow the MFI member along all the proc-          through a series of active question response exercises
esses necessary for a complete Kiva operation.               designed specifically to relate to the context of each
fifth day – brainstorm with mfi
Goal – Identify opportunities for facilitation of MFI        brainstorm
processes together with the user.                               An activity done in the presence of several members,
Process – Based on the issues detected during the pre-       that may include users, designers, clients or other
vious days opportunities for appropriate technology          participants, for the purpose of idea generation in
solutions were brainstormed with the MFI representa-         response to an identified problem. The problem may
tives.                                                       be defined within the brainstorm or emerge during
                                                             earlier stages of a longer process that includes problem
3.3 tools                                                    identification.

   Without a clear understanding of the environment          probes
in which the research would be conducted tools were              A tool intended to be completed by the user on
chosen for ease of use, ability to provide rich detail and   their own time in their own environment without
resources required. With only a week to engage each          the presence of any member of the context research
organization and a two person team to carry out the          group. Although it may take several formats involving
sequence of activities the main objective was to maxi-       different media to capture a response it is designed to
mize capacity.                                               provide further details about the user that contribute
   Equipment was also a consideration. Those mate-           to a greater understanding of how to respond to their
rials that were necessary for particular activities and      needs. It typically requires some explanation regarding
potentially difficult to find locally were brought and       its method of completion however it is encourages an
those that were expected to be available locally were        open response.
purchased on site.
   The tools can be roughly divided between those            role play
that were used with the organization exclusively and            Role playing has been recognized as “the practice of
those that were used broadly for investigating context       group physical and spatial pretend where individuals
both inside and outside of the time spent with each          deliberately assume a character role in a constructed
MFI. Those tools used only with the organization are         scene” (Simsarian, 2003). Role-playing was used as a
referred to as internal tools. Tools that were used only     tool to discover and understand processes of the organ-
externally or used in both environments are referred to      ization that would not be naturally observed such as
as external tools.                                           appraisal or registration which were not scheduled to
   Each tool is briefly explained in the following section   occur during the period we spent within the organiza-
to clarify is purpose and detail its use. Tools that are     tion.
being used in a novel way are explained in more
detail.                                                      3 . 3 . 2 ex t e r na l

3.3.1 i nternal                                              obser vation
                                                                It might be difficult to distinguish between ones
focus group                                                  simply being present and the role of being an observer.
    A group of users gathered together for the purpose of    Observation is an active process that is performed in
gathering information about their behaviors, thoughts,       order to capture details relevant to a particular ques-
routines, likes, dislikes, and other individual character-   tion or set of questions.
istics determined to be relevant for the eventual crea-
tion of a solution. A focus group can also be held to        roadmap
gather responses regarding a certain concept.                   A roadmap creates a simple platform for the discus-
                                                             sion of future developments. It aids in developing a
generative session                                           picture of what the sequence of activities leading up
   A loosely structured tool used with groups in order       to a particular event will look like. The elaboration of
to stimulate a response. This is not limited by the type

that picture can include more specific details including      3 . 4 . 1 or g a n i z at i o n
dates, cost, barriers etc.
   A technology roadmap was created for use with              Tools: Interviews, Brainstorm, Observation, Photogra-
several individuals identified by their familiarity with      phy & Video
the ICT landscape in their respective countries from
both the private and public sectors. Divided into three       – The organization has a staff of 9 people represent-
sections the template isolates hardware that are partic-        ing an executive position, finance position, technical
ularly relevant for ICT, power infrastructure necessary         position and several credit officers.
to support ICTs and lastly the specific infrastructure        – The organization has 30 clients.
necessary to provide internet and phone services.             – Has been operating for 6 years.
Rather than overlap hardware and network the time-            – Operates primarily in peri-urban and rural areas.
lines for each were looked at separately so as to identify    – Offers credit services in addition to other services
any inconsistencies.                                            including education and training.
   The goal here was to gather a rough consensus regard-      – Represented by more than one branch, often includ-
ing these three areas in order to establish an image of         ing a rural outpost.
the state of the infrastructure relevant to providing ICT     – Organization was created in response to the particu-
services, particularly in rural areas, presently as well as     lar needs of an identified community and continues
in the future.                                                  to respond to new needs as they are identified.
   The value of such an investigation is twofold. As          – Works with a network of partners consistently shar-
demonstrated by projects, such as the EHAS solution,            ing information and resources.
capitalizing on existing infrastructure can save lots on
capital investment and if the network is particularly         3 . 4 . 2 pe o p l e
pervasive it can allow for penetration at a rapid rate.
Secondly recognizing future developments that are             Tools: Probes, Interviews, Observation, Shadowing,
either proposed or currently in motion can be helpful         Photography & Video
in creating responses that avoid areas where further
investments will limit the strength of the platform.          The Director
                                                              – Is consulted on all matters and has the last word on
photography and video                                           how issues are handled.
   Photography and video are a method to capture              – Receives a great deal of respect from staff.
events more fully than with other media. In real time         – Has international experience.
videos allow for the clear communication of ideas using       – Communicates professionally with email on a regu-
irrefutable evidence. Video is an engaging media that           lar basis.
can be used to capture clear details surrounding any          – Is primarily concerned with upper level functions
events in a manner that can later be dissected for the          including relations with donors.
purpose of achieving greater emphasis.                        – Has a university degree.
                                                              – Controls the schedule of the organization very
inter views                                                     strictly including individual staff activities.
  Either formally communicated as a question and
answer session or conducted less formally the interview       The “Techie”
provides direct first hand details from one individual        – Is the source for information on ICT issues.
and is an extremely flexible tool.                            – Is not prepared to handle major technology crises in
                                                                the office.
3 . 4 r esults                                                – Responsible for staff training on the computer, cam-
                                                                era and internet related activities.
   The following sections communicate those observa-          – Handles uploading of Kiva materials to the web.
tions that were made during context research. Each            – Is typically responsible for taking photos.
section reflects those observations related to each topic
identified as an ‘area’ of context relevant to providing      The Credit Officer
information towards achieving project goals. Those            – Has completed a degree or spent some time in
tools used to gather information are specified. Results         higher education.
have been culled from large amounts of information,           – Speaks English and two other commonly spoken lo-
some of which can be found in Appendix 4.                       cal languages.
                                                              – Owns a mobile and uses it often with a high degree
                                                                of familiarity with its functions.
                                                              – Has relatively limited experience with computers.

– Enjoys interacting with the beneficiaries.                  from the office to the internet café.
– Prefers to be in the field rather than in the office.     3 . 4 . 4 in f r a s t ru c t u r e
– Has either voiced their eagerness to learn about
  technology or demonstrated it in the office by in-        Tools: Observation, Interviews, Roadmap
  vestigating new programs on their own or asked for
  training.                                                 – The mobile phone infrastructure in rural areas is
– Enjoys their job and values the contribution that           dense in terms of both coverage and services in-
  they make to the community.                                 cluding adding credit, maintenance, and charging
– Has recently opened an email account.                       points.
– Extroverted and enjoys communicating.                     – The future of the power infrastructure is the most
                                                              uncertain feature of the technology roadmap with
3.4.3 processes                                               present conditions reflecting a one day on one day
                                                              off pattern in Uganda. Kenya has consistent power
Tools: Role play, Interview, Observation, Shadowing,          but not without periods of failure.
figure 5. Sample of probe results.                          – Connectivity at the MFI level varies but is consistently
                                                              weak. There are several service providers offering a
                                                              variety of options including greater speed and con-
                                                              sistency at a cost.
                                                            – The number of handsets is expected to grow to
                                                              match that of ground lines by the year 2010.
                                                            – A mobile phone infrastructure in rural areas is ex-
                                                              pected to arrive before or at the same time as a fixed
                                                              line infrastructure.
                                                            – Large data transfer rates provided by broadband and
                                                              fiber optic cable are not expected until 2015 and will
                                                              be available mainly in urban areas.

                                                               In search of an appropriate metric by which to
                                                            measure presence in the rural areas, where Kiva is
                                                            encouraging partnerships, 1 telephone per 1000 people
                                                            was adopted. The ratio reflects a government initiative
Photography & Video                                         in Uganda to achieve this goal countrywide in the next
                                                            several years. Because the telephone has experienced
– All formal activities take place at the MFIs main of-     phenomenal growth and represents the potential to
  fice including registration, education, loan appraisal,   deliver other ICT services it served as an interesting
  loan money disbursal.                                     metric by which to measure the presence of other tech-
– Travel necessary to complete all processes can be         nologies and networks.
  considerable incurring large costs.                          The results of the roadmapping exercise are featured
– The large majority of tasks are handled by the credit     in figure 6. Individuals who provided their knowledge
  officer other than those activities related to finances   and future estimates are listed below.
  and loan appraisal.                                       – Kin Kaliisa Ibrahim, Special Presidential Assistant in
– Overall processes related to operating with Kiva            Charge of ICT for Uganda
  vary little amongst the organizations, in some cases      – Constantine Bitwayiki, National Planning Authority,
  additional steps are added by some MFIs that reflect        Dir. Research, Innovation, Monitoring & Evaluation
  their mission. (LiA: more effort to develop online        – Waweru Njorole, Communications Enterprises Ltd.
  profile, community based appraisal. WEEC: educa-
  tion and training.)                                       3 . 4 . 5 f i e l d e n v i ro n m e n t
– Those activities completed in the field are consist-
  ently recorded on paper.                                  Tools: Observation, Photography & Video
– Journal updates are uploaded by one designated
  person who may use a software program like Word           – The average distance travelled by the credit officer
  or Wordpad to check grammar and spelling.                   to visit their beneficiaries is around 20 km from the
– 50% of online activities are completed at the of-           office.
  fice, when supported by connectivity and power, the       – Access to the internet, if not found in the office, is
  other half are handled at an internet café around           within 20km.
  15km away. A flashdisk is used to transfer the data       – Beneficiaries are located in groups of 2-5 with an

figure 6. Technology Roadmap: Predictions of the presence of technology to provide for rural areas (1 telephone per 1000 people).

  average of 5 km between them.                                   – Around 50% of the hardware is not in operation for
– Credit officers visit beneficiaries primarily by public           different reasons (dust damage, power fluctuation,
  transport, sometimes in combination with a bicycle                maintenance, costs etc.)
  or motorbike in one case.                                       – The internet connectivity is mainly via 3G CDMA
– The director primarily travels by private car.                    technology which gives a slow connection speed (64
– In some cases organizations have more than one                    kb/s) and is not 100% reliable.
  branch separated by a distance greater than 200 km              – The lack of electricity is supported by a generator
  (LiA and WEEC).                                                   which doesn’t always support the energy needs of all
                                                                    the hardware in the office and creates a noisy office
3 . 4 . 6 office environment                                        environment.
                                                                  – The personal computers have an energy backup
Tools: Observation, Photography & Video                             system (UPS) which prevents data loss and hardware
                                                                    damage during power fluctuations.
– Offices mainly occupy residential spaces rather than            – A single digital photo camera is shared amongst the
  designated office spaces.                                         whole organization. The picture resolution of this
– Office space is highly divided and individualized,                camera is above what is required from the Kiva web-
  common spaces are scarce.                                         site. The camera is used at maximum resolution.
– In most of the cases the office space is combined
  with other completely different activities; pub, bed-           Software
  room, kitchen, gallery, arts & crafts production etc.           – Microsoft Office XP is the most frequently used
– Large amounts of paper files are stored around the                software package.
  office.                                                         – Photo editing programs are the second most fre-
– The office environment is spartan and the equip-                  quently used programs by staff, excluding the direc-
  ment is characterized by basic features.                          tor’s computer.
                                                                  – Photo editing programs vary significantly.
3 . 4 . 7 technology - hardware / s oftwar e                      – When additional software is not necessary only the
                                                                    basic necessary programs are installed.
Tools: Observation, Photography & Video
                                                                  3 . 4 . 8 at t i t u d e s / va l u e s
– Most of the computers are advanced personal com-                Tools: Probes, (figure 5), Generative session, Brain-
  puters (PC) with a Pentium 4 processor or above.                storm, Interviews

Working with Kiva                                           staff. In order capture candid responses from lower
– The principle problem facing the organization             tier employees about important issues within the office
  in working with Kiva is the internet. Primarily the       they were asked to sit in the director’s chair and discuss
  problem is the speed followed by consistency of the       their opinions regarding important decisions about the
  connection. The second biggest concern is establish-      organization as though they were the director.
  ing consistent power. The third is a lack of digital         The context research plan successfully provided a
  cameras. In the future the need for more computers        framework for gathering information on those spheres
  will become a pressing issue.                             determined to be of primary concern for producing
                                                            an appropriate solution. Had the activities themselves
Problems facing the community                               not been well designed to meet information needs the
– Investment in the community should be focused on          results may have been compromised.
  improving transport and power.                               Having previously defined ‘areas’ of investigation
                                                            before the beginning of context research provided a
Their job                                                   backbone, or checklist to help confirm that all details
– Staff enjoy their jobs and value the contribution that    had been gathered. A second benefit of defining ‘areas’
  they make to the community.                               was their ability to serve as a reference for maintaining a
– Staff recognize the need for steps to increase the ef-    focus on relevant issues during brainstorms, interviews
  ficiency of their day to day activities.                  and generative sessions.
                                                               Context research activities were revealed to be an
Technology                                                  important step in understanding the context into which
– Most expressive way to communicate: phone &               the solution would be introduced, which aided in the
  email.                                                    development of a plan for testing the results. Knowl-
– Most secure method to communicate: phone & SMS.           edge of the operational environment, gained during
– Most efficient way to communicate: pen & email.           this principal phase, proved beneficial for managing
– Most secure way to save information: email.               any factors that were deemed to be potentially disrup-
– Most efficient way to save information: flashdisk.        tive during the later testing phase.
– Easiest way to save information: pen and paper or            Key insights from the context research phase follow
  memory.                                                   below.
– Most indispensable office item: computer.                 – Plan for a flexible use of research tools, they may
– Favorite gadget - cellphone                                 need to be transformed, modified and used in the
                                                              most unpredictable ways
3.5 i nsights and evaluation                                – Communicate the schedule of activities clearly and
of research methods                                           insist on the research plan, if not the time required
                                                              to complete research may be prolonged or goals may
   The objective of context research is to collect infor-     not be achieved
mation. Accomplishing this goal in East Africa was a        – Be aware of the hierarchy of the organization. Hear-
learning experience which was approached with an              ing everybody’s opinion in an open environment
extremely flexible combination of the tools mentioned         may be difficult
above. Early on it became clear that in order to accom-     – Some of the most interesting insights come during
modate the East African pace and organizational struc-        unexpected times during the research process. Be
ture would require a consistently evolving method and         prepared to capture them.
tools. Each institution that was investigated added new     – The presence of outsiders, particularly white peo-
elements to the contextual mix that transformed the           ple or ‘muzungus’, can be disruptive to day to day
research process.                                             activities. The addition of recording equipment
   The same schedule of events was intended to be             can exaggerate this. Communicate consistently the
followed with each of the four MFIs but when the              value of seeing activities as they naturally happen.
schedule of activities could not proceed as planned it        Ask, “Would you do this normally?” A more detailed
was adjusted to receive certain pieces of the context         account of the week spent with each organization
puzzle as they became available. Similarly tools continu-     including situations from which insights were drawn
ally evolved to suit research needs. In the case of the       can be found in Appendix 5.
brainstorm the changes helped transform the environ-
ment to encourage more open communication and
democratic participation. The role play was also demon-
strated to be very useful to break the fixed hierarchi-
cal structure of the organization in a playful way and
facilitated more immediate and honest responses from

opposite: Sign advertising mobile phone services in Kenya.

4. translation
“I have no idea how an MFI really works.”
                        – Matt Flannery, CEO Kiva

This chapter gives an explanation of the approach and tools
used to effectively transfer significant details from context
research into useful content for the design development phase
including new tools discovered to be effective for creating
consistent communication of information amongst long
distance partners. In conclusion results of their use are
reflected upon.

4.1 background
4.2 structure
4.3 tools
4.3.1 Profiles
4.3.2 Briefs, the Redefined Problem Definition
4.3.3 Blog
4.3.4 Hotblog
4.3.5 Proposals
4.4 conclusions

4 . 1 b ackground                                                The phase concludes with a presentation of the
                                                              translation materials. Design development should
   Translation principally operates as a bridge between       commence immediately thereafter to benefit from the
the context research phase and the design development         thrust provided by the results of translation.
phase giving character to the content. Observations
and details gathered in the first phase are transformed       4 . 3 to o l s
into materials that are approachable, familiar and
useful. These materials are developed through the use           In order to permit a great deal of freedom in the
of several tools, including ones adopted specifically for     way that details were communicated regarding an unfa-
this project, and presented to the development group.         miliar context, the following tools were chosen for
These materials aid in connecting the two phases of the       their flexibility, The choice of each tool and its use is
project and can be found in the following Section 4.3.        explained below.
   The activities of this phase are concerned with candid-
ly presenting the context with an emphasis on what is,        4 . 3 . 1 pro f i l e s
rather than what might be. Here is where the process
distinguishes itself from interpretation. Interpretation         The profiles figures 7-14 are created as a result of
is necessary during context research when making              analyzing and synthesizing information captured using
decisions about those issues that are most significant to     context research tools for the purpose of communicat-
investigate, but here in this phase it is avoided.            ing observations, in this case about people and their
   The information presented through translation              roles, organizations and their environments, processes
materials is completely based on facts and observa-           and technology. The profile is a method for distilling
tions from the field. The integrity of the real situation     several sets of information into one set that commu-
is maintained as closely as possible. By using rich details   nicates those issues consistent amongst the different
the context can be communicated to the client to              cases using factual elements that provide rich, unique
clearly elaborate user, organizational and infrastructur-     content such as anecdotes, quotes and situations that
al issues of relevance. This was done through providing       have actually occurred.
specific elements such as detailed photos and quotes             User profiles or personas, are used for identifying
that reflected specific characteristics of an organization    and understanding people’s needs and values in the
or individual.                                                context of a particular activity. Each persona reflects a
   Lasting only a short time, it is during this phase that    particular user through a rich representation of facts
the most relevant content and tools for translating           and characteristics designed to signal issues of impor-
it are decided upon. It is a crucial step in the larger       tance to the design development team. Personas often
process where successful communication is very critical       use specific details such as quotes and images to create
in order to ensure that important contextual details will     a full picture via print, video or other formats.
be well understood by the design development team.
Within the full scheme of the project this process if
absolutely crucial to creating a solution that suits the
needs of users.

4 . 2 s tructure

    The translation phase is planned to commence as
soon as there are relevant project developments to
communicate to partners and continue throughout the
project. The greatest concentration of translation activ-
ities were planned to occur during a week’s time that
began immediately after the end of context research
and lasted until a presentation with Kiva.
    Translation activities were seen as a high priority
to execute as quickly after the conclusion of context
research as possible. To leave communication until the
early days of the design phase was determined to be
an inefficient use of the one month period. The large
amount of information anticipated to be communicated
during the short time frame of this project demanded
the creation of tools that permitted consistent delivery
of observations throughout the length of the project.

figure 7. Director profile.

figure 8. ‘Techie’ profile.

figure 9. Credit officer profile.

figure 10. Organizational profile.

figure 11. Field environment profile.

figure 12. Office environment profile.

figure 13. Technology profile Part 1, including infrastructure characteristics.

figure 14. Technology profile Part 2.

4.3.2 briefs, the redefined probl e m d e f i n i t i o n

   Information gathered during investigation must be communicated to the design team revealing a clear picture
of the context. In addition to the insights communicated through a presentation of profiles and other tools, a set
of new design guidelines was developed that helped to create an active reflection of context research results.
   Documenting themes that have emerged during research, briefs serve as a set of action items to be acted upon
during the design phase of the project. Similar to a program of requirements briefs identify needs, but what distin-
guishes them from a simple list of requirements is that they specify at once an identified need while also suggest-
ing a response tactic. Rather than providing a list of daunting requirements, briefs do some of the work towards
helping to direct the design process.

p ower went off                                                     th e pag e ca n n ot b e d i s p l ay e d
Electricity supply is unreliable so consider solutions that don’t   If the internet connection is unreliable and weak, seek options
rely on grid power.                                                 that limit internet operations, permit consistent content
                                                                    delivery and are lightweight.
   During the months of May and June 2006 Uganda
was experiencing a one day on one day off power situ-                  Regardless of the efforts to observe a journal update
ation. Christina, the director of LiA referred to power             while visiting the four MFI’s during context research
developments as a “backward moving electrification                  the process was seen only once. Limited by a 16kb inter-
program.” Later in August the situation had improved                net connection (KOK), inconsistency (LiA & KFU), or
to provide relatively consistent power however the                  stolen dial up cables (WEEC), connecting to the inter-
newspaper still provided daily notices announcing the               net to post new journal entries to the Kiva website was a
following day’s allocation of power within the Kampala              complicated procedure. Updating often required a visit
area.                                                               to an internet café several kilometers from the office.
    Each MFI that we visited other than WEEC in Kenya               When all other necessary requirements were met such
owned and used a generator to provide power for the                 as power, available staff and a prepared document the
office. During only a week of observation they were used            internet was the limiting factor. Complaints about the
several times. Beyond the inconvenience of the loss of              internet connection ranked highest amongst those
power the organization also suffered as a result of high            made during the generative sessions held with each
priced gasoline necessary to run the generator.                     MFI.
    The urgency of resolving this issue was also communi-               Beyond the speed of the internet connection it was
cated through complaints and observations that defined              discovered that some sites loaded much more quickly
the brief that follows regarding internet connectivity.             than others. Although the upload time was long in all
The internet even at extremely low connection speeds                cases sites such as appeared in a light format
is not possible without power to the PC.                            that responded to a slow connection speed. It’s little
                                                                    wonder that is the preferred mail provider
                                                                    in East Africa.

s h a r ed access                                                 th at ’ s mo n i ca ’ s p h o n e
Because hardware is costly, technology solutions should support   Because technology is highly coveted and organizational
a multi-user scenario.                                            structures are very hierarchical the solution may need to be
                                                                  unappealing to the unintended user.
    The relative cost of equipment for the office requires
that it be shared amongst the staff in order to justify              In an environment where technologies considered
its cost. Both for those items that are used heavily and          commonplace in the developed world are seen as
periodically it is very typical to see sharing within the         luxury items such as a car, television or new mobile
organization. Unless very frequently used, technology             phone, introducing new technology attracts consid-
is very rarely allocated to a single individual other than        erable attention. The hierarchical structure of two
the director.                                                     organizations that we visited suggested that as with
     LiA clearly illustrates this type of sharing with the        all the decisions of the organization the allocation of
use of the office digital camera. The camera stores               capacity would be decided at the top. Without regard
photos on floppy disks that are kept together in a                for the structure of the organization directors typically
common box. Each credit officer working with the                  possessed the strongest pieces of equipment.
camera has their own floppy disk where they maintain                  The purpose of creating a solution was to provide
their personal image files. The camera itself is a shared         capacity where it was necessary to produce an efficient
piece of equipment that is kept in a designated cabinet           channel for content to arrive to the Kiva website. The
with other important pieces of equipment. Although                danger in providing that capacity at a distance is that it
the content management scenario is different for other            is very difficult to ensure that the capacity arrives to its
organizations the single shared camera was very typical           intended location. Kiva in an effort to take advantage
amongst all Kiva partners.                                        of trips to Africa requested that laptops be delivered
    In one case where the camera responsibilities were            to two of their partners. In one instance the laptop was
assigned to a single individual it became clear that its use      handed over while all of the organization was present
was not particularly efficient, as it necessitated that he        to receive it. The second hand over took place with only
accompany other individuals into the field. The result            the director of the organization. From this experience
of not sharing in this case was costly for the organiza-          it became clear that the first scenario was favorable
tion as a result of redundancy.                                   because it was a more transparent method of delivery.
                                                                      Monica from LiA mentioned during her individu-
                                                                  al interview that the cellphone that she owned often
                                                                  drew laughter and jokes from her peers because it was
                                                                  an old model. She defended that it suited her needs
                                                                  just fine. This same principle proved interesting as a
                                                                  method for delivering new capacity to an organization
                                                                  without others coveting its less important aspects such
                                                                  as newness or style.

i dle capacity is expensive                                              f r e e i s a v e ry g o o d p r i c e
Products are often used beyond intended capacity. Solutions              Donations tend to encourage the purchase of unnecessarily
should be designed to be maximized.                                      powerful or multi-feature equipment. Purchases made by the
                                                                         organization reflect more sensible buying.
   From observations of product usage it became clear
that technology items spend very little time at rest. If                    From conversations with individuals working in the
benefit can be derived from them it will be. Products                    microfinance sector it became clear that many of the
are purchased based on quality and cost and intended                     organizations operating in East Africa, and in micro-
to accommodate long term use. Cellphones typically see                   finance specifically, were not self supporting. Dona-
many lives before they are ultimately retired. Addition-                 tions are frequently made to support the activities of
ally cost is seen in terms of total cost. Total cost includes            many organizations who otherwise would not be able to
the initial purchase price as well as the ongoing cost of                continue operating. The logic is that a good mission is
maintenance and use.                                                     worth supporting until it can stand on its own two feet
    The cell phone market is composed of roughly 2%                      with the disclaimer that it’s a pity if it never does.
post paid contract customers while the other 98% are                          While working with one Kiva partner in Soroti,
prepaid.9 Prepaid service allows users to easily monitor                 Kiva Fund Uganda, the impact of this type of support
their airtime and use it to its maximum potential.                       emerged. It can be assumed that organizations working
Because individuals choose not to have their money                       with limited funds should be spending wisely in order
locked up in airtime minutes and often have little                       to function well in the long term. Donations can create
disposable income for communications they are very                       a situation where an organization becomes fiscally irre-
often found ‘flashing’ their friends. Also known as a                    sponsible, allocating money to items that don’t justify
‘lost call’ the practice is used to communicate that you                 the expenditure. In order to establish operations in
want to receive a phone call from someone else at their                  Soroti Kiva funded the purchase of some necessary
expense and requires no expenditure on your part.                        equipment for the office. Those purchases were made
Here the technology is being used beyond or rather to                    by the organization in Soroti based on an assessment
the side of its intended use to serve the user.                          of their own needs, with less attention paid to the
     What best exemplifies this theme are the public                     cost as a factor in determining what was appropriate.
taxis called Matatus. Operated by two men working as                     What resulted was the purchase, of a PC powered by a
a team the vehicle is rented per day. Although the law                   Pentium IV processor. The power requirements of this
prescribes a maximum capacity of 14 passengers it is                     machine are more significant than those of the other
the conductor’s duty to fill the vehicle to capacity as                  machines in the office. As a result when the electric-
often as possible and it is not uncommon to see the van                  ity is off the generator used to supplement power for
carrying 16 up to 20 people. Before the taxi leaves the                  the office can not provide enough to run the director’s
park it must be full. Gasoline is purchased only as neces-               computer. The result is that his productivity is compro-
sary, requiring frequent stops in order to avoid leaving                 mised by inappropriately excessive technology.
extra gasoline in the tank when the vehicle is returned.                     Cameras bought for the purpose of capturing images
Surely Toyota never intended for the vehicle to func-                    to be uploaded to the website were also subsidized in a
tion as it does in East Africa. Toyota parts are widely                  few cases. These purchases echoed the same tendency.
available facilitating the easy maintenance demanded                     A 4 megapixel video enabled camera was purchased for
by frequently used products.                                             the purpose of creating still photos that must then be
  According to an employee of Celtel Uganda market segmentation varies
                                                                         formatted to a lower resolution for web quality.
from month to month. Prepaid clients sometimes represent 99% of the

s i n g le serving software & click here                      de c e n t r a l i z e
h a r dware                                                   If Kiva operations require travel to various remote locations
A limited number of operations demands a limited number of    then facilitate online processes to occur in situ.
                                                                 Shadowing of staff members revealed that a consid-
    Kiva is requiring that each MFI adopts a new platform     erable amount of travel was necessary to complete their
for soliciting capital to fund their loans. At the minimum    activities. Required distances varied amongst the four
they require that business profiles and journal updates       organizations but between visits to the beneficiaries,
are posted to the Kiva website. What this requires from       travel to internet cafes and banking, staff traveled more
the organization in terms of training and equipment           than 60km incurring considerable costs.
may seem like a lot however from analysis of the proc-           Each process has different technology requirements
esses involved the hardware and software necessary to         and takes place in a particular location. The cost and
provide content for Kiva is relatively limited. There is      time necessary to complete these tasks is burdensome,
little required beyond word processing, photograph-           particularly for the credit officers who make several
ing, photo editing (in some cases) and uploading to           visits to the beneficiaries over the course of the loan.
the Kiva website.                                             During interviews, generative sessions and brainstorms
     Technology in use by the organizations often far         these issues continuously emerged. MFIs were seeking
exceeded the necessary requirements for completing            solutions to help them decentralize their operations
Kiva based activities. Rather than providing additional       and avoid unnecessary travel. Christina, the director
benefits this extra capacity resulted in complications.       of LiA, mentioned several times her growing interest
One story told by a staff member at WEEC explained            in empowering her staff to complete all of their tasks
a day in the field lost as a result of over capacity of the   individually as well as outside of the office. Similarly
technology. A credit officer had made a visit to one of       Martha, a WEEC credit officer, directly commented on
their businesses for the purpose of taking their photo        her wish to be able to update journals from her home
for inclusion in a business profile. Rather than an image     rather than travel the long distance back to the office.
the credit officer accidentally captured video which is          Beyond the financial operations that presently must
not usable. The result was that this necessitated another     be handled at a bank branch, online operations were
trip to the field. As far as could be ascertained the video   the only element of the loan process that could not be
function of the camera was not used at all by the organi-     handled through direct p2p communication. Upload-
zation.                                                       ing to the web not only was complicated by an unreli-
    A number of staff members responsible for word            able connection at the office but also the distance and
processing mentioned their use of Wordpad software            cost to reach an internet café was often considerable.
to create text files to be uploaded to Kiva. The program         At WEEC where they had their dial up cables stolen
requires less RAM as a result of less features than other     they had two options for uploading information; travel
programs such as Microsoft Word and therefore was             a short distance from the office to an internet café close
often chosen as the default word processing applica-          by with a slow unreliable internet connection or make
tion. Photo editing sometimes necessary to scale photos       a much longer trip to downtown Nairobi (45 minutes
for the Kiva website was done on a variety of programs        away) for a faster and more reliable connection.
seen in Appendix 4, however observation revealed that
only a minimal amount of the total capability of the
software programs was utilized to suit their needs.

i s it everywhere?                                               eag e r to l e a r n
Solution need to take advantage of technologies that are ubiq-   Where the interest in learning is incredible, training should be
uitous and familiar.                                             unnecessary. Encourage autodidactic solutions.

   Context research results concurred with conclu-                  For some organizations Kiva is demanding that the
sions drawn from the earlier benchmark. Those tech-              staff adopt new skills. Although demanding that staff
nologies that already exist in larger numbers and are            familiarize themselves with new technologies can lead
well supported locally represent a strong advantage.             to resistance within an organization this was not the
Networks and user bases that are already in place                case in East Africa.
may require less capital investment and commitment                  From observations made in the office and in the field
before beginning operations. This need is supported              staff are eager to discover new technologies by diving in
by evidence from the RTS project which required the              and exploring them. Additionally they believe they can
purchase of expensive POS gadget not well supported              adopt new technologies quickly and with little instruc-
locally. In an environment where there is little capital         tion. In an environment where the computer has been
available for new investments taking advantage of exist-         stigmatized as a piece of equipment that requires a
ing capacities may be a smart option.                            university diploma to operate, Kiva’s demands are break-
   Familiarity with the chosen technologies is equally           ing down that barrier by way of mandating consistent
important and can help to reduce the time necessary              content delivery. A growing decentralization of opera-
for implementation. Training can be a costly exercise            tions is happening in response to efficiency demands
and when done at a distance is difficult to monitor.             placed on them by working with Kiva.
    Through observation during context research two                  The cellphone is the most democratic of technolo-
primary personal technologies were identified that               gies within the office and when asked about their expe-
demonstrated such a pervasive presence, the cell phone           rience and familiarity with their cellphones staff at all
and the radio. Amongst the staff of the MFIs that are            the MFIs enthusiastically communicated their high
operating with Kiva by far the most well represented             level of familiarity and usage. David, a credit officer
technology was the cellphone. Of the 17 staff inter-             at WEEC, replied, “I bought this one last year and it
viewed 16 owned a cell phone. Other communications               only took three hours to know everything.” Asked
technologies such as the internet over PC, ground line           about where she had learned how to use her cellphone
telephones and the television are limited in terms of            Monica, from LiA, responded, “I taught myself. I am a
growth by their initial cost price, networks or both.            quick learner.”
   Rapid cellphone growth in East Africa represents                  Several examples further testify to the eagerness of
a dearth of personal communications options in this              staff members to pursue their own education. During
region. Ground line networks currently are not avail-            training sessions on the Kiva website, members consist-
able in large areas of East Africa which created a large         ently stayed after to further investigate the site as well as
unmet demand for telecommunications until handset                other related programs. Although the responsibilities
costs became within the reach of average buyers.                 for taking photos at WEEC are typically left to Herbert,
   The personal radio is also equally well represented           the ‘techie’, Martha pushed to learn how the camera
in the region with coverage bringing broadcasts to very          works, “which I believe I should know,” she said. Finally,
remote areas. Its affordability has made it available to         the director of WEEC mentioned that she had learned
a large number of individuals. Both within the cities            about how to write journal entries for the Kiva website
and outside as well it is often that you will see people         by simply looking to those of other partners.
walking along with a radio by their ear.

figure 15. Blog entry at      figure 16. Hotblog entry.

4 . 3 . 3 blog                                              4 . 3 . 4 ‘h ot b l o g ’

   Blog is short for weblog and typically serves as a          The ‘hotblog’ functions similarly to the blog but
format for creating an internet based personal journal      rather than sending journal content via the internet,
for delivering information on a specific subject. The       text and other media are sent to a specific email address
blog (figure 15) was identified as a tool for use in the    via multimedia message service (MMS). The format
design process to provide project partners with relevant    is distinct from the blog in that its readership can be
content through a rich linear narrative. The blog was       limited to a particular group. Username and password
chosen as a communication format because it is engag-       details necessary to access the online content can be
ing, easily accessible and easy to use.                     provided securely to a limited number of followers or
   Located on the web the blog features regularly           made available to the general public via an existing
updated content that can include photos, audio and          blog or website.
video as well as links to other relevant web based infor-      The ‘hotblog’ provides an alternative communica-
mation. Entries are indexed and archived chronologi-        tion channel in the instance that poor internet connec-
cally and together represent a full narrative spanning      tivity does not facilitate updating. Cell coverage will
varying lengths of time, in this case more than six         continue to support the delivery of new content. figure
months.                                                     16 shows a single entry posted via MMS.

figure 17. Start top left and move clockwise, Kiva Offline, Kiva Light, Kiva on the Go, and the Kiva Manual.

4.3.5 proposals

   The effect that proposals (figure 17) have on communicating themes which have come into focus during context
research is to go one step beyond the call to action supplied by the briefs by proposing some concepts that are a
response to those needs that were specified. When working with some groups such as designers or other teams
used to actively developing solutions they may not be necessary to initiate discussion or break down the initial wall
that can stand between demands and action. The danger with a proposal is to go too far, specifying solutions that
may limit contributions from the group. For this reason proposals were presented objectively and with relatively
limited explanation. Briefs were used for critique of each proposal and an open environment was established for
discussing their merit.

kiva offline – Connectivity issues were so pronounced that this proposal suggested the creation of a piece of soft-
ware that allowed users to work entirely offline automatically uploading updated information periodically when
the connection was supportive.

kiva light – This proposal was based on observations of the appearance of websites in East Africa that were
reduced in complexity as a response to the slow internet connections common in the region. It was particularly
pronounced in the appearance of the website. A light version of the Kiva website would reduce
the time necessary to load each page saving time for Kiva partners.

kiva on the go – This proposal permitted content delivery over the mobile phone. Through the use of MMS,
supported by new mobile phone handsets, messages including text and images can be sent to an email address
whereby they are then parsed and appear on a specified website.

kiva manual – An online manual was proposed to facilitate users educating themselves on the operation of the
Kiva website. The manual was a response to the eagerness to learn detected during context research.

4 . 4 c onclusions                                                          as well as their real name ‘Monica’ indicating that the
                                                                            archetype they represented was understood in addi-
   Staff comments regarding the presentation high-                          tion to a recognition of the individual. Information
lighted the need to present contextual details candidly                     gathered from the probes and communicated through
in order to dispel existing notions of the situation in                     profiles was successful in communicating attitudes and
East Africa. Foreign contexts may require even more                         particularities of individual staff. These details helped
commitment to facts in order to hurdle stereotypes and                      to communicate several issues clearly through the user’s
assumptions that may be present. Presenting all context                     own words and photos.
research materials in one day, although intensive, was                         Each brief was given a ‘tagline’ intended to summa-
a success in that it ensured continuity. Staff comment-                     rize its basic idea for the purpose of easy reference.
ed that it was the appropriate way to run the event so                      Taglines help to facilitate discussions between different
that details were not lost between two sessions held on                     groups including context researchers, designers and
consecutive days.                                                           others by creating a memorable phrase to allude to a
   As a design tool the blog demonstrated the ability to                    larger theme. Additionally accompanying illustrations
effectively create an open well source for all stakehold-                   helped to place each issue in context. Substantiation
ers to draw updated information regarding the project                       of the briefs was communicated with evidence from
and respond as necessary. In a situation where consist-                     East Africa such as stories, photos, diagrams. Those
ent communication is difficult due to coverage, connec-                     same illustrations helped to fix the issue reflected by
tivity or cost and direct contact is scarce or broken up                    each brief. On relatively short notice staff were able to
into different phases the blog can provide a space to                       provide a rough sketch of the idea. Later during discus-
create a consistent narrative that can be followed by all                   sions amongst staff during development, the briefs were
parties from beginning to end.                                              referred to as justification for supporting or deciding
   The blog was an additional format for the exchange of                    against each concept.
project details that was easy for Kiva and others to check                     Without formally establishing Kiva’s requirements
on a daily basis. Kiva staff monitored the blog eagerly                     the project proceeded with a loose understanding of
during all stages of the project and discussed issues that                  the capacity that Kiva had to implement any final solu-
were blogged about, reporting the content that it deliv-                    tions i.e. limited staff, distance from partner, limited
ered was a real ‘eye opener’. Upon returning to Africa                      budget. Context research was conducted with a prin-
for testing staff from WEEC also mentioned that they                        ciple concern for details rather than a concern for
had visited the blog to follow the projects development                     Kiva’s ability to respond to those areas of concern that
during a month spent with Kiva in California. The more                      emerged. Those requirements that emerged during
that the space was used to communicate insights from                        discussion of solutions were combined to create a more
the research phase the more valuable it became. Early                       finite set of criteria.
exposure to some of the important concerns related to
Kiva helped to facilitate discussion and problem solving
with a shared basis for decision making.10
   Without any previous experience blogging or using
html the amount of time necessary to create and even
modify a blog page was very reasonable. Adapting the
format to suit research needs proved to be very easy.
Because updates to the project website were relatively
arduous, considering power and connectivity issues, the
blog became the primary method for content delivery.
   Because of those same issues that were identified
as creating problems for content delivery to the Kiva
website the blog became difficult to update during
periods where the access to the internet was limited or
the connection did not support the time necessary to
upload an update. To remedy the situation it was deter-
mined that MMS should be used to deliver updates to
an email address where readers of the blog could visit
for updates.
   Profiles proved effective for creating common
ground for the discussion of particular user needs. The
user was referred to both by their nickname ‘techie’
   During the presentation of context research findings with Kiva content from the blog was repeatedly referred to by staff to identify concerns that
they were not only aware of but, in some cases, had already considered solutions for.

opposite: Working with WEEC staff in Kiserian, Kenya.

5. design
In this chapter the choice of design and associated methods
are explained as a key element of a bottom-up approach for
the development of an ICT solution appropriate for the East
African context of MFIs. It includes specific coverage of those
methods used.The section concludes with insights about
how the approach performed and the strength of particular

5.1 background
5.2 collaboration
5.2.1 Part One: With the User
5.2.2 Part Two: WIth Kiva
5.3 design results
5.4 conclusions

5 . 1 b ackground

   Design is a formalized problem solving process that
can take many forms but typically stays true to a focus
on the user, beginning with gaining insight, generating
ideas, giving them shape, and testing them. The process
often involves looping back to make changes to designs
based on testing but the end result demonstrates the
“ability to embody the value and qualities of an idea in a
tangible and meaningful form,” involving “a sensitivity
to the experiential qualities of the end product (inter-
action, brand, materials).” (Winhall, 2005).
   Chosen for its ability to center an approach around
the user, design ensures a human focus, deemed essen-
tial for the project. New developments in design prac-       figure 18. Creative results of collaboration with KFU staff.
tice are bringing the process of responding to user
needs even closer to the user and other stakeholders,        tion. Beyond the insurmountable task of blending in as
whereas earlier it was limited to those with design expe-    a ‘muzungu’ (white person) in East Africa is the more
rience.                                                      legitimate possibility of establishing a level playing field
   As a formalized method for solving problems, design       for discussion and problem solving with users. Estab-
has identified several techniques for understanding the      lishing that the user has much to offer in terms of creat-
needs of the user and responding through the develop-        ing a successful solution empowers them to engage
ment of solutions. The process is flexible and accom-        in the process of development. Done consistently the
modates distances between partners as well as the back       user begins to feel comfortable contributing to a dialog
and forth exchange of ideas known as “ping pong”             that reflects an engagement between design and user
development. Design was recognized as the optimal            known as co-creation (Cottam, 2004).
method for use in developing improved technology                Users were engaged as an opportunity to take advan-
interaction forms based on the insight gained during         tage of their experience and insights regarding prob-
context research.                                            lems that they had identified in working with Kiva. A
   To maintain continuity throughout the several stages      second benefit of the engagement was to create ‘buy in’.
of the project, design was to provide the tools and          If the brainstorm was run successfully it would lead to
methods to deliver a structure with human focus as the       good insights valuable for developing a final solution. If
thread that was woven throughout.                            the final solution reflected contributions made by users
                                                             there might be an opportunity to establish a degree of
5 . 2 c ollaboration                                         ownership of the idea amongst the users. Ownership
                                                             may help to encourage adoption and longevity of the
   Still a relatively new topic in design, ‘co-creation’     solution.
demonstrates the benefits of involving the user and             To reframe the exchange with the organization and
producer as allies through direct engagement with            establish a new dialog with the individual users they
professionals to create solutions that are truly respon-     were asked to participate in a collaborative brainstorm
sive to their needs (Cottam, 2004).                          on the final day spent with them during the week. At
   Understanding users through context research can          this point themes had emerged through investigation
be difficult even in familiar environments. This diffi-      and observation that were valuable to explore further
culty can be even more pronounced in foreign settings,       with a more open and active format. figure 18 shows
such as developing countries, where socio economic           the result of an exercise to develop a technology tool
and cultural disparities can be considerable. For this       to provide the necessary functionalities to facilitate the
reason it was even more important to engage users in         activities of credit officers in the office and in the field.
the process of problem solving. With a short time to            The brainstorm varied amongst the four organiza-
understand the complex context of East Africa teaming        tions to match their distinct characteristics but consist-
up with the staff was critical in order to take advantage    ently worked to empower staff to contribute through
of their knowledge.                                          “you know better than us” and “all suggestions are
                                                             helpful” policies. Selections from the results of the
5 . 2 . 1 part o ne: with the user                           brainstorms can be found in Appendix 6.

   A focus on the user’s needs requires more than
simply asking a lot of questions and paying close atten-

5.2.2 part two: wi th k iva                                  development & prototyping
                                                                Development tasks for producing both solutions
In addition to being a service provider Kiva is also a       were evenly split between the project design team and
user of their own product. Creating a solution re-           software engineers from Kiva. This was an iterative
quired their input to ensure that the solution would         process where both sides met several times to discuss
function well for their own needs. The producer has          issues that emerged.
their own requirements in addition to those of the              MMS was already being offered in East Africa and had
user, and through their participation during the devel-      been tested in situ during context research. What was
opment phase those needs can be consistently repre-          left was to develop the software application that parses
sented and incorporated into the final solution.             the email and delivers it to the Kiva website. Kiva’s chief
   Although project members had more experience              software engineer was able to begin development using
in East Africa than Kiva staff and were more aware of        the test message sent while in East Africa. Essentially
the context in which Kiva partners are operating the         the entire development of the web based software was
proposed solutions were presented for the purpose of         handled by one member of the Kiva staff.
criticism and improvement. The intent was to capitalize         In order to secure that information submitted was
on the particular knowledge and expertise of Kiva staff      authentic content delivered by credit officers the solu-
in a process of co-development of those ideas that were      tion required security measures. A collaboratively devel-
most interesting for them.                                   oped interface prototype was developed that relied on
   During one month with Kiva, characterized by a high       personal information already in use by Kiva partners to
level of participation, the entire development cycle was     distinguish each user and business. This collaborative
completed creating the MMS based solution for later          development process combined knowledge bases to
testing in East Africa.                                      guarantee that the solution was suitable for Kiva’s devel-
   The structure opened with a session for debate and        opment resources, future plans and the ease of use of
selection of concepts followed by development plan-          the credit officers.
ning, development and prototyping. The first two                In order to confirm that both the software and inter-
occurred on the same day and development and proto-          face were functioning properly MMS messages were
typing continued up until just shortly before testing        sent from multiple handsets. Later a test message was
began. Modifications to the design continued to occur        sent immediately upon arrival in East Africa during the
during the testing phase as bugs were identified.            second visit to deliver provider details.

selection                                                    5 . 3 d e s i g n re s u lt s
   An open debate after the presentation of four
concepts provided the opportunity to discuss the merit          The result of collaboration with Kiva was the develop-
of several potential solutions. Drawing from commu-          ment of the Miracle Mobile Solution (MiMoSo) and a
nication materials and Kiva’s own experience the solu-       manual to support the activities of the credit officers of
tions were actively discussed based on their ability to      each organization. The MiMoSo is a piece of software
meet Kiva’s needs as well as their partners. The briefs      that allows Multi Media Service (MMS) messages sent
created a shared basis for critique of each concept. After   from a mobile phone to be sent to an individual Kiva
presenting each idea with a single slide and short expla-    email address where the text and image are parsed and
nation the briefs list was presented again serving as a      uploaded to the Kiva website (figure 19). The MMS is
useful piece of information to distil the larger context     like a deluxe text message that allows additional media
into easy conversation pieces useful in debating.
   After presenting ‘Kiva Offline’ a debate amongst
                                                             figure 19. MiMoSo interface.
Kiva staff began regarding the strength of the idea
based on the briefs. They went so far as to use the titles
that denoted each idea in order to refer to the impor-
tant issues relevant to the concept. During a discussion
about the merit of an offline Kiva concept the staff
actively used the briefs as the basis for argument.
   With only a month to work together towards solu-
tions it was decided that the best use of the time was
to proceed with two ideas that emerged in response to
the briefs; Kiva on the go and a Credit officer manual.
The decision was not a hurried one but was resolved
fairly quickly through busy debate amongst all staff
members. Only one or twice were additional questions
asked regarding details of the concepts or context.

                                                                    technology can make updating journals online much more effi-
                                                                    cient and facilitate your work in the field. Kiva has developed
                                                                    a solution that allows you to send journals directly from your
                                                                    phone, which will be automatically posted on the Kiva web

                                                                    How does it work?

                                                                    1) First you will need a phone with GPRS capabilities that
                                                                    allows you to send MMS messages. In addition to this you
                                                                    might have to activate the MMS function of your phone by
                                                                    contacting your service provider.
                                                                    2) Take a picture of the entrepreneur with your phone.
                                                                    3) Add your User ID number and the ID number of the
                                                                    business you are journaling about in the first line of the
                                                                    message. They should be written like this: 1234#123#

                                                                        These two numbers must be at the beginning of the first line
                                                                    of the message. Nothing else can come before this line. If they
                                                                    are not the first line of the message, your message will not be
                                                                    delivered and the journal update will not be recorded.

                                                                       Your User ID can be found on your Account page

figure 20. The Kiva Credit Officer Manual.

formats to accompany text messages. 3,000 characters
of text are permitted with each message (¾ of a page.)
The result of this piece of software is that credit officers
visiting clients in the field can take a photo and add a
full journal entry, and send the update directly to the
Kiva website, and consequently the lender.
    Done on site the security of information submitted
by MiMoSo is guaranteed through the addition of a set
of two ID numbers that precede the journal text iden-                   Business IDs can be found in the “My Businesses” section
tifying the staff member and the particular business i.e.           of the Kiva website.
2000*100*. These numbers can be found on the website
and copied for use by staff at their discretion.
    A credit officer manual was also created that intro-
duced staff of new partner organizations to details of
how to operate with Kiva. The manual, figure 20, was
largely based on a Kiva document created as a FAQ list
that included other relevant information for familiari-
zation. An additional subchapter was added to the ‘How
to Post a Journal Update’ section titled, ‘Via mobile
phone using MMS’ featured below. In this section the
use of the MiMoSo is described through a series of
clearly illustrated steps.
                                                                    4) Add a journal with a maximum 1000 characters.
    Multimedia Messaging Service (MMS) is a standard for
telephone messaging systems that allows you to send messages        Example:
that include pictures in addition to text as a Short Message
Service (SMS) or text message would. Kiva has detected that         1234#123# Marcus is thankful to all of the organizations
some of their partners are facing huge challenges with connec-      and individuals who made his loan possible. He started keep-
tivity, electricity and travel. Kiva believes that the use of MMS

ing financial records of his business which has already seen   separate providers within Uganda further changes to
an increase in sales …                                         the application were made to resolve issues with provid-
                                                               ers. Had the prototype been physical these adjustments
5) Send it to                                 might have been very difficult but the flexibility of the
                                                               software application allowed for modifications to be
5.4 concl usions                                               made. This was a fortunate aspect of the solution that
                                                               supported distance collaboration between the project
   Bringing in the user early as a collaborator helped         team and Kiva.
to identify specific needs and even direct suggestions
for solutions. A collaborative and open environment
permitted the investigation to go beyond what could be
determined through context research alone. By trans-
parently communicating our goals before all activities
the result was a concentrated response that may have
led to greater depth of detail.
   Brainstorming results varied amongst the organi-
zations, however the groups consistently responded
eagerly to the opportunity to work together with
an open dialog. The result was that having worn the
‘problem solver’s hat’ they moved much closer to
becoming problem owners invested in arriving at a
solution through the contribution of many recommen-
   The structure of the project offered the opportunity
to meet with organizations during a follow up visit and
demonstrate how suggestions and insights that they
offered during the first meeting were reflected in the
final design. By demonstrating the role their contribu-
tion played it was the hope that it may have a positive
effect on their ‘buy in’.
   This kind of involvement and transparency has
suggested an opportunity to draw the most benefit from
the relationship established between user and designer
in terms of creating a solution that meets the needs of
the user in a way that can be easily understood, adopted
and continue to grow in the future.
   No other suggestions emerged from the Kiva staff
outside of the four concepts presented. Perhaps this
was because of a recognition of the limited time avail-
able for development. What is interesting to note is that
in several cases the proposals were the direct translation
of suggestions made by users, such as the ‘Kiva Offline’
   An interesting result of the discussion that followed
the presentation was the identification of requirements
for the Kiva staff themselves. In addition to criticism of
concepts based on their ability to respond to the project
briefs additional Kiva criteria were used. For instance
not only did ‘Kiva Offline’ leave the issue of ‘Power
went off’ unresolved but it also required a commitment
to the ongoing maintenance of another product, not
inline with Kiva’s capacity and strategy.
   Development of the MiMoSo was not completed
until final touches were added on the ground where all
relevant details are available, such as available handsets
and MMS providers. After sending messages using two

opposite: Lawrence from LiA takes a journal update photo in the field.

6. testing
Testing was done to determine whether the MiMoSo
functioned as a method for the credit officers to efficiently
deliver content directly from the field to the Kiva website.
Beyond that fundamental yes no answer testing was also
concerned with assessing the degree to which the MiMoSo and
‘Credit officer manual’ responded to those issues highlighted
by the briefs. Additionally testing assessed the solutions ability
to achieve Kiva’s goals.

6.1 background
6.2 structure
6.3 test results
6.4 conclusions

figure 21. MiMoSo operations, from top left: Review of the Credit officer manual, taking a photo, entering user and business IDs,
receiving update from borrower, writing and sending journal update to Kiva, receiving confirmation ‘successfully sent’.

6 . 1 b ackground                                                            6 . 2 s t ru c t u r e

   Testing was done in order to gain insight about the                         Testing was done early and often during the project
ability of the solution to meet the needs identified by                     as a method for confirming suspicions, gaining insights
the briefs featured in Section 4.2.2. as well as those                      from MFI staff and understanding the success or failure
larger system concerns identified initially by Kiva such                    of key functional concerns. Testing was intended to get
as cost, efficiency, quality and scalability. These require-                early feedback important for later development stages
ments were those determined to be important for the                         as well as demonstrate commitment to the organization
future of Kiva. In those cases that a quantitative result                   and respect for them as collaborators.
was possible testing was completed to capture figures,                         The rough concept of the MiMoSo was introduced
otherwise qualitative outcomes based on observations                        during a brainstorm held at the tail end of a week spent
or direct comment were sufficient.                                          with one organization, as a method to get some initial
   Kiva selected LiA and WEEC for testing because they                      feedback about the strength of the idea.
reflected the type of organizations that they anticipate                       Planned in advance as a month long period, the
partnering with in the future. The two organizations                        test phase was designed to provide ample time on the
were given a limited introduction to the specific details                   ground with the user to gather plenty of details about
of the MiMoSo. The project was explained as a pilot.                        the results of the design phase. Broken into four parts,
Questions regarding the MiMoSo were responded to in                         testing consisted of; setup, test group 1 (LiA), Test
general by directing staff to the ‘Credit officer manual’                   group 2 (WEEC), and Test group 1 follow up. Setup
or the Kiva website. This approach reflected a situation                    was done in advance of the first meeting with LiA and
where the phone and manual are sent to new partners                         consisted of purchasing the telephone for use and
by post.11 The phones model and provider were chosen                        establishing dates to make field visits with the credit
based on project briefs to maintain consistency with                        officers. Because the number of credit officers varied
design development goals.12                                                 between the two organizations so too did the length of
   Testing was conducted with both organizations atten-                     the test. A follow up period was done with Test group 1
tive to details that reflected concerns highlighted by                      in order to gather additional information that the users
the 10 briefs. The briefs underscore larger concerns                        could provide about the MiMoSo and manual. LiA was
identified in context research featured in Chapter 3.                       chosen for a second visit because of their numbers.
An effort was made to ensure that the visits were no                           Testing was done exclusively with credit officers
different than standard visits to the field. The visits                     during individual trips to visit borrowers. Each credit
differed only in that the credit officers were told that                    officer was delivered a copy of the ‘Credit officer
they would be completing their journaling processes in                      manual’ and asked to familiarize themselves with it
the field (figure 21).                                                      paying particular attention to the section on ‘Updating
   Kiva suggested during development that in the event of a rollout of the MiMoSo the hardware and ‘Credit officer manual’ may take the form of a kit
delivered by post at the inception of a new partnership.
   The phone was a second hand model bought on site intended to ensure local support and limit cost and appeal. Being the most popular handset
manufacturer a Nokia was purchased to ensure familiarity. Celtel was chosen as the provider because of their free provision of MMS.

a journal via mobile phone.’ The following day a visit              nance and future costs of the phone.
was made to between 1 and 5 existing clients in a ‘local-                The usefulness of the phone was acknowledged
ized’ area that were due for a journal update on their              by both the credit officers and the director and the
Kiva loans.                                                         purchase cost was determined to be reasonable and in
                                                                    line with the organization’s budget. Staff were gener-
6.3 test results                                                    ally surprised at how cheap the phone was (110 euros)
                                                                    considering its capabilities and keyboard feature. They
The following test results are based on the MiMoSo’s ability to     were also surprised to see that the capability could be
meet the requirements specified in the briefs from section 4.3.2.   packaged within a telephone.
                                                                       During dialog at WEEC about the need to acquire
the page can be displayed                                           more phones, an interesting result was that staff began
   By accessing the internet via the MiMoSo to deliver              thinking strategically about how to partner with a
journal updates the inconsistency of the internet is                handset maker and/or a service provider in order to
replaced by the consistency of cellular coverage. Messag-           reduce the cost of the hardware and service. This went
es were sent and their arrival immediately confirmed in             beyond sensible buying to sensible acquisition.
90% of the attempts. In some cases a message delivery                  Demonstration of the particular model was a very
confirmation notice was received up to 20 minutes later.            convincing method to identify a suitably priced and
This was unique to areas with poor coverage. Asynchro-              adequately enabled piece of equipment to suit the needs
nous delivery did not affect the credit officer’s mobility          of the organization but it is yet to be seen whether each
or activities. Once the message was sent the phone was              organization would make a similar purchase.
stored in a pocket and used again in succession to send
other MMS messages.                                                 sh a r e d
                                                                       The phone itself was easily shared amongst the credit
power went on                                                       officers, however the issue of journal posting costs
   Routing journal posting through the mobile phone                 was not reflected clearly during the test. One of the
does not entirely eliminate the issue of unreliable grid            Ugandan service providers was involved in a soft launch
power. The phone will continue to be charged at the                 of the MMS and offering the service for free. In the
office, however the phone grants credit officers the                future the service would incur a fixed cost of around
freedom to control the inconsistency of the electric-               Ushs 300/.15 cents.
ity grid. Ugandan newspapers provide the electricity                   It was discussed that the phone could support the
schedule and as a result staff is able to manage their              individual SIM cards of each credit officers in order to
activities to coincide with electricity availability. The           partition costs, however one difficulty with exchanging
phone can be charged in advance to avoid the absence                SIM cards is that each card requires activation. However,
of power. Observation revealed that many phones are                 flexible prepaid airtime service system in Uganda allows
carried around without airtime but never without a                  the purchase of small amounts of airtime which would
charged battery.                                                    facilitate this shared use scenario.

i dle capacity was investigated                                     th at ’ s t h e c r e d i t o f f i c e r ’ s
   After clearly understanding the capability of the                   After delivering the phone emphasizing that it was
MiMoSo credit officers from both organizations began                an effort to aid the work of the credit officer, includ-
with questions about the additional potential of the solu-          ing the ‘Credit officer manual,’ other staff began asking
tion. They asked whether it could also be used to make              critical questions on behalf of the credit officers regard-
repayments and post business profiles, other necessary              ing the ability of the phone. This showed that there was
online Kiva activities. One credit officer from LiA inves-          a recognition of its particular usefulness.
tigated the phone’s capabilities searching for an option                Although the phone was bought second hand and
that would allow her to send two photos in one message.             showed relatively heavy wear it was not enough to
At the same time that the credit officers demonstrated a            ensure that it did not become a coveted item. The addi-
tendency to investigate the phones potential to accom-              tional camera functionality was very exciting for some
plish other tasks they did not maximize the full number             of the credit officers, one of whom took it home with
of characters provided by the MMS format.                           her the first night of testing. During testing the phone
                                                                    never sat alone unless it was charging, otherwise one of
f ree is not the price                                              the credit officers held onto it. Designating the phone
  The phone was given as a reward for taking part in                as a tool for the credit officer with the addition of the
the pilot project and in return a document was signed               manual as physical evidence did help ensure that the
by the organizations confirming their commitment to                 phone was used only by the credit officers and this was
the project and accepting responsibility for mainte-                reflected by comments from both directors.

figure 22. (left) Safaricom coverage map 2006 (right) Kenya population density map 2004.

i t i s everywhere                                                a photo, the navigation automatically sizes the image
   There was a general ease of use of the phone by the            for sending while opening up a box for the addition of
majority of users, many were familiar with navigating             text. Automatic sizing eliminated the need for photo
the interfaces of several handset models. Many familiar           editing software and the extra steps that it entails to
with messaging navigated directly to the MMS although             create web ready images. Downloading, uploading, and
the manual specifies no particular phone model and                image editing, have all been eliminated as necessary
therefore provides no instructions to do so. Addition-            steps and instead what remains is a simple navigation
ally the QWERTY keyboard, although a new cellphone                and the prominent buttons that permit ‘capture’ and
feature, was used by all but one of the credit officers.          ‘send’.
   Although WEEC’s director was skeptical of adoption
by one of her credit officers, because of his limited expe-       eag e r n e s s ? y e s
rience with computers and digital cameras, he immedi-                The phone was received and actively explored,
ately became familiar with the photo capture feature of           individually and in groups, without any resistance by
the phone with limited instruction from another credit            the credit officers of both organizations. After a very
officer. Later after completing two updates using the             limited time with the phone, in some cases less than a
keyboard he sent his third without questions.                     minute, credit officers were able to navigate directly to
    Being their initial use of the MMS there were some            the camera and begin capturing images and sending
problems related to the particular interface of the               them. During visits to the field, not a single person was
phone. Some of the menus did not support the intui-               resistant to operating with the phone. In some cases
tive use of the MMS for sending messages to an email              they referred to other credit officers with experience
address. In the event of an error during typing it was            using the phone to answer their questions.
possible to irrecoverably terminate a message. It was                Unlike stories of resistance to computers that we had
not possible to edit saved messages. The incorrect                heard from both organizations, as a result of the stigma
execution of business and user IDs or email addresses             that their use is limited to the formally trained, the
resulted in an unsent message.                                    phone was handled comfortably without visible concern
                                                                  for making errors. Beyond an eagerness to under-
s i n g le serving software                                       stand and use the MMS there was an obvious comfort
& c l ick here hardware                                           amongst the credit officers in providing instructions.
  The MiMoSo was revealed to be a single serving soft-            Lawrence from LiA, who only a month previously did
ware application bound inside of a ‘click here’ piece of          not own a cellphone, was captured explaining the MMS
hardware. Beginning with media capture, in this case

figure 23. MiMoSo operations, from top left: ‘It is everywhere’, ‘Eagerness? YES’, ‘Decentralized’, ‘Quality’.

to other credit officers although his current phone has               to maximize the potential of the solution to meet addi-
no camera function.                                                   tional needs. Both for Kiva and the MFIs price is an
                                                                      important consideration when assessing investments
d ecentralized                                                        and unnecessary expenditures are to be avoided on
   Testing demonstrated definitively that the MiMoSo                  both sides. For the MFI’s the phone was a replacement
functioned to send content even in the most remote                    for the existing situation they were using and therefore
areas. During visits to clients in what can only be termed            it was measured against it. At present the internet is paid
as the ‘bush’ credit officers were able to visit, interview,          for in advance on a monthly basis whereas each MMS
capture photos, write accompanying text and send                      is delivered at a fixed cost paid for on the basis of use.
journals directly to Kiva’s website. figure 22 illustrates            When asked about the cost benefit of the MMS after
the extent of Safaricom’s coverage compared with a                    use, Martha of WEEC communicated that it was her
population density map of Kenya showing that cover-                   belief that it would reduce the cost of posting. Instead
age coincides with population to a great degree. This                 of paying for internet at a cost that can vary per post at
map represents coverage of only one of two Kenyan                     an internet café each update would cost the same.
providers.                                                                As far as the purchase price of the phone it was
   Credit officers demonstrated the ability to handle                 comparable with some of the personal phones of the
activities previously managed by a designated staff                   staff. Upon return to LiA it was discovered that two
member. Portrait photography and journal entries were                 camera phones had been purchased in our absence
completed by each credit officer in the field.                        during the design phase that were equally capable of
                                                                      sending MMS messages had been purchased second
Test results below are based on the MiMoSo’s ability to meet          hand at a higher cost than the Nokia purchased for
the requirements specified by Kiva initially and later during         testing. When asked about his impression of the phone
design development.                                                   and MMS, the ‘techie’ from WEEC responded that he
                                                                      believed that the organization would have 3 similar
c ost                                                                 phones purchased within two months time.
   Cost is reflected by the push to avoid donations and                    Regarding the cost of use Martha from WEEC

mentioned that the fixed cost of the MMS would allow          being able to learn about their developments the more
her to calculate her operating costs, permitting her to       awareness they have and therefore an increased trans-
better manage her expenditures including travel.              parency. Thirdly, the richer the content the higher its
e f f i ciency                                                quality is. Lastly, that the following equation is sound: 1
    Cost is additionally reflected through the concern        picture = 1,000 words.
for increasing the efficiency of the organization.                 Regarding transparency what was observed during
The MiMoSo has demonstrated the ability to achieve            testing demonstrated that journals were being written
greater efficiency of operation by eliminating steps on       and sent almost immediately. Because the journals are
two levels, one of which is human and the other is tech-      sent without delay it limits the amount of time between
nological.                                                    when the borrower’s story is told to the credit officer
     It is no longer necessary for credit officers to pass    and made available to the lender. Journal content
handwritten journals entries to another staff member          was often captured and sent up to several weeks after
for entry on the Kiva website, nor will staff responsi-       contact with the borrower. The same is true with the
ble for taking photos be required to accompany credit         photos. As a result of the Nokia interface once a photo
officers to the field. The time consuming and costly          is taken for sending by MMS it immediately prompts
task of passing content between several staff members         the user to add text. This prompts the user to complete
has been eliminated through the use of the MiMoSo             and send the message right away increasing the speed
thereby reducing the steps required to deliver borrow-        of content delivery.
er content.                                                       Kiva makes limited demands about the number of
    A second efficiency gain for the organization or more     journals that must be posted for each business only
specifically for the staff member responsible for updates     the photo taken after funds have been spent requires a
is that there is no longer the need to pass the content       photo. With the MiMoSo every journal update includes
between storage mediums. Once the journal has been            a photo. For the lender this means 3 or 4 photos rather
written and sent it appears on the website where it           than 1. The richness of the updates is improved direct-
becomes a stored copy of the information. Previously          ly.
several steps were necessary to process the handwritten           Another result of testing the MiMoSo was that credit
journals into a Word or Notepad document which was            officers were witnessed showing both the photo and
later copied and pasted to the Kiva website then saved        text of the journal to the borrower. In some cases the
in two formats: paper and digital.                            MiMoSo itself was also explained. Transparency for
     Empowering the credit officers with the flexibility      the borrower increases as a result of conveying what is
to handle journal updates on site and regardless of           being sent and how. The credit officer is only a facilita-
connectivity and power issues provides them the means         tor of the p2p exchange that is made possible through
to handle their duties on their terms. Freedom provid-        Kiva and the more the borrower and lender are let
ed by the MiMoSo translates into the most gain for the        into the process the more they may feel they are truly
credit officer, tasked with the most Kiva related activi-     connecting p2p. The MiMoSo may soon permit lenders
ties. By creating the ability to work in a decentralized      to communicate directly with borrowers.
fashion without the requirements of place and power
the credit officers can now become creative in the way        sca l a b i l i t y
that they manage their tasks. Perhaps this will mean             In terms of achieving scalability the MiMoSo fairs
that they chose a sequence of events that minimizes           well. Firstly, the service is currently seeing a lot of invest-
travel costs and time spent. Lastly, although visits to the   ment from multiple providers in East Africa. The intro-
internet are not eliminated because it is still necessary     duction of the MiMoSo with Kiva’s partners in Tanzania
to post repayments and business via the Kiva website          would not be difficult as the service is already support-
the MiMoSo may soon permit these functions to be              ed there. Worldwide figures for the MiMoSo are also
handled.                                                      supportive. MMS is supported in 129 countries.13 The
                                                              cost of the phone was not demonstrated to be a limiting
Qua l ity                                                     factor either.
    Quality is a loose concept whose scope is defined here
by some assumptions. Firstly, there is the assumption
that the quality of the exchange between lender and           6.4 conclusions
borrower increases as the transparency of the process
increases. If both members of the exchange feel that all         The ability of the test methods to deliver insights
is being laid bare the more likely they may be to commit      about the strength of the MiMoSo was demonstrated
further. Secondly, the shorter the amount of time             several times during the project. An early test with
between collecting the borrowers story and the lender         LiA during the final day of context research helped to

     According to Mike Minter, IT Manager, GSM Association.

provide early evidence of the potential of the MiMoSo.       operating is a complex one that demands close atten-
Later during a month of testing, the solution’s strength     tion to detail that can only be accomplished to a great
was confirmed through credit officer approval and            extent through on site observation.
proof of concept. The test schedule proved manage-
able and allowed for enough time spent both with the
organization and the credit officers necessary to answer
questions and formally conclude the final period with
each group.
    The early steps taken care of during setup were very
valuable for testing in terms of efficiency but it remains
to be seen whether partner organizations will be respon-
sible for purchasing and activation duties. There is a
question of who would do it and who should do it.
    Qualitative test results have provided a great deal
of important information for Kiva necessary to justify
further development. These results confirm the
MiMoSo as a legitimate solution for Kiva partners to
deliver content to the website. Credit officers as well
as other staff were very vocal in their support of the
concept, however the lack of quantitative data may
make it difficult for Kiva to convince partners of the
solution’s ability to reduce operational efforts and
cost. The decision to limit testing to primarily qualita-
tive results was appropriate with regards to the avail-
able time and staff resources however it may have been
beneficial to include more quantitative testing to more
definitively support the cost benefits of the MiMoSo.
    The two organizations demonstrated an eagerness
to participate in the pilot and which made completing
testing very easy. The follow up visit with Test group 1
was a very effective method for trying to understand
what is likely to happen when the organization is left
alone to operate with the MiMoSo.
    Upon meeting with LiA after a more than a weeks
absence the staff communicated that they had discon-
tinued use of the MiMoSo. After having received an
automatically delivered email from Kiva’s website asking
for updates of businesses that had been updated via
the new phone based solution it was assumed that the
system was not functioning. What was later determined
was that the new feature had not been moved to the
‘live’ Kiva website which meant that MiMoSo updates
had not been legitimized by Kiva. This prudence on
Kiva’s part resulted in a lack of commitment from their
partners. A miscommunication between the project
team and Kiva staff meant that the site issue was not
communicated to participating partners.
    Through observation of the credit officers during
testing usability issues were witnessed that communicat-
ed several issues that must be resolved by changes to the
manual, website and handset interface. These changes
reflect the need for additional design iterations before
the MiMoSo is launched. Observation was recognized as
the best method for testing over any other method such
as questionnaires because of its ability to capture the
unexpected. The situation within which the MiMoSo is

opposite: East Africa from a systems perspective.

7. system level
The importance of systems level considerations is elaborated
here to explain their usefulness during the creation of
solutions and supporting their ultimate success. The chapter
includes a brief explanation of the link between a systems
approach and aspects of sustainability. Details of how systems
modeling works and its ability to create a complete picture
useful for identifying and managing crucial issues are
followed by a brief investigation of opportunities and threats
that emerge at this level.

7.1 background
7.2 creating sustainable systems
7.3 opportunities
7.4 threats

7 . 1 b ackground                                                ing an investigation of system characteristics to aid in
                                                                 development and support implementation.
   Systems level thinking is a perspective for use in               In order to understand the system surrounding the
considering any issue so that it takes into consideration        user an approach was taken during context research
all relevant aspects. Depending on the focus of the anal-        that entered at the macro level and descended inwards
ysis this can include the full elaboration of exchanges of       towards micro level issues in an effort to create a
money, materials or value between stakeholders, known            complete picture of interwoven elements. figure 24
as systems modelling. (Applications of systems model-            gives clear examples of those issues as they descend
ling can be found in Appendix 7) The hope of taking              from the developing world down to the individual in
this approach is that through the full development of            a series of roughly planned loops that looked at both
the system its composition and dynamics can be mapped            macro, mezzo and micro issues, sometimes all in one
and understood at a level that helps to consider how             day.
elemental changes will affect the entire system. Macro              Following translation of these findings design devel-
level issues take a position alongside micro level issues        opment resulted in the MiMoSo. It is at this point that it
associated with the individual elements of the system            is necessary to navigate outwards from micro to macro
being analyzed. This broad approach is advocated to              concerns whereby the solution can be considered in
aid in sustainable development by helping to ensure              terms of how the system will react to the changes that
success and limit impact during implementation.                  the solution implies. By reversing the order of the three
                                                                 levels this approach progressively approaches more and
7 . 2 c reating sustainable systems                              more broad ranging issues up until it can ultimately
                                                                 be situated within social, political and environmental
   After completing the testing phase and demonstrat-            contexts.
ing the viability of the MiMoSo, the next step for Kiva             Concern for bridging the ‘digital divide’ has been
will be implementation. Global operations mean imple-            linked with ensuring the ongoing social health of the
mentation across several oceans, within several cultures         world’s people. The hope is to achieve a long term
and ultimately at an increasing scale. It is at this point       solution for providing a high level of well being for
that it is crucial to consider those macro level concerns        humanity through greater equality of access to those
of the system helpful for creating solutions that are            resources provided by ICTs. According to the well worn
sustainable in terms of people, planet and profit,               Brundtland definition of sustainability this mandates
known as the 3P’s. This demands an approach involv-              that goals be accomplished without sacrificing anyone’s

figure 24. System Overview.

                                          Analysis - From macro to micro
                              MACRO     Developing World
                                        Development projects
                                                   East Africa

                                                                   Internet, Power

                              MEZO                                               Industry


                                                                                                             Credit Officer

                                      Problem                             Context                                      Design
                                      Identification                      Elaboration                                  Concept

ability to achieve the same level of well being both now            identify new opportunities. Beyond the obvious poten-
and in the future (Brundtland, 87). As much as possible             tial of the MiMoSo to improve the relationship between
environmental, social and economic issues should be                 the lender and borrower through increased transpar-
considered in the development of a solution however                 ency and communication other opportunities can be
the following sections refer only to the first two issues           demonstrated. A very preliminary attempt to model the
as they relate to ICT.                                              Kiva ecosystem, shown in figure 26, demonstrates that
   The systems perspective is presented here in a                   there is potential at a fundamental level. The exchange
twofold manner that presents a limited effort to high-              of information amongst partners if facilitated would
light some of the potential threats and opportunities               create a platform for communication that relates to
that emerge when the entire system is considered. Each              those issues each group faces with regard to Kiva.
is described to suggest the type of benefits that can be               Within the system there are many natural commu-
drawn from modelling however they do not reflect the                nities such as credit officers, lenders and borrowers.
results of thorough investigation.                                  Tapping into these networks to facilitate the exchange
                                                                    of information and experience may help one organiza-
7.3 opportunities                                                   tion improve the efficiency of their operations. Credit
                                                                    officers sharing tips on how to maximize the capacity of
   Beyond the obvious efficiency gains that the MiMoSo              the MiMoSo would be beneficial for all parties. Organi-
can provide other benefits can be identified through                zations proposing solutions for alternative methods for
a systems approach involving modeling. Those oppor-                 repayment via MiMoSo could have big consequences
tunities that may emerge upon introduction within                   for all partners. If the MiMoSo is able to demonstrate
different spheres can be understood through an elabo-               efficiency gains for one organization Kiva has the
ration known as a value map, an example is given in                 opportunity to encourage that organization to commu-
figure 25. A map of existing exchanges amongst part-                nicate its success to other partners (or potential part-
ners can highlight weak areas in need of attention.                 ners) leading to further growth.
An effectively mapped ecosystem of actors, with a well                 Although these opportunities are not a direct conse-
balanced exchange of value, is likely to support long               quence of the development of the MiMoSo the evalu-
term success.                                                       ation of the system suggests potential for encouraging
   Within the system defined as immediate Kiva stake-               more valuable exchange amongst stakeholders.
holders (figure 1) a map of the existing situation although            Mobile phone applications have been shown to repre-
rudimentary, can help to demonstrate the ability to                 sent a great deal of opportunity for growth amongst

    Implementation - From concept to sustainable system

                                        Hardware Manufacturer

                               Network Coverage




Design                            Implementation                             Sustainable
Concept                                                                      System

figure 25. Service ecology of Free Range Learning Support, by Chris Noessel.

disadvantaged populations (Economist, 2005). The                  environmental degradation such as global warming.
results are clear in numerous articles and projects               In the case of mobile phones the large majority of
however the phone has also been demonstrated to                   their impact results from manufacturing because of
represent threats at the systems level.                           an increasing miniaturization of components and
                                                                  demand for purity of exotic materials. Whereas with
 7 . 4 t hreats                                                   PC’s it’s impact is concentrated during the use phase
                                                                  (Plepys, 05). Finally, energy to support ICT services is
   The point at which the MiMoSo is looked at in the              largely provided by the burning of fossil fuels leading
larger context of the system that surrounds it there are          to significant environmental impacts and the longer
some immediate conflicts that result from the use of              term threat of energy security.
ICT. Because Kiva is an internet based application it                The scale of the ICT industry is global and envi-
requires the use of the massive ICT infrastructure that           ronmental impacts have been demonstrated however
supports personal computers, mobile communications                impacts are also present within the more localized
services, the internet and so on. In addition, operating          system that surrounds Kiva and its partners.
with Kiva requires the use of a digital camera and now               Based on the results of a survey conducted during a
the use of a cell phone with camera.                              microfinance summit held at Uganda Martyrs Univer-
   Research done by Andrius Plepys indicates that                 sity with several MFIs operating in various countries
currently the processes necessary to deliver ICT serv-            it was revealed that many organizations saw Kiva as a
ices have huge negative environmental impacts. Begin-             threat because of its potential to steal their clients by
ning with materials extraction until the disposal of              eliminating them as middle men.
hardware, the lifecycle of ICT products contribute to                Secondly as Kiva is operating in Africa in its present
                                                                                     state it does not present a significant
figure 26. Latent communities within the Kiva system.                                threat to capital lenders because
                                                                                     many of them are operating at a scale
                                                                                     that Kiva can’t match. Should the
                                                                                     MiMoSo help to allow Kiva to scale
                                                                                     up to offering considerable capital,
                                                                                     it may have a positive impact on the
                                                                                     East African economy at the micro
                                                                                     level aiding small entrepreneurs
                                                                                     while detracting from the profits
                                                                                     of groups previously doing money
                                                                                     lending to the same organization
                                                                                     that Kiva is working with.

opposite: Toy phone, from Eastern Uganda.

8. evaluation &
The following section evaluates both the final solution and
the methodology used to create it in terms of their success
in meeting the goals of the project as they were defined. Key
insights gained during the course of the project are reflected
upon and contribute to a short vision of the future providing
recommendations for central project members regarding their
future activities.

8.1 project evaluation
8.1.1 MiMoSo
8.1.2 Methodology
8.2 recommendations
8.2.1 Microsoft
8.2.2 Kiva
8.2.3. TUDelft

figure 27. Journal update via MiMoSo.

8 . 1 proJ ect evaluation                                   Kiva requirements emerged that had an impact on the
                                                            shape of the MiMoSo.
   This project began with the following goal, “to             Efficiency, scalability, quality and cost issues have all
research which technology forms are most appropriate        been demonstrated to be improved. Although results
for integration into the operational context of microfi-    are qualitative in most cases they confirm a harmony
nance institutions to facilitate entrepreneurs accessing    with the existing situation that defines appropriateness.
micro credit through Kiva.” Now upon completion of          Briefs are a candid reflection of the nature of that situ-
the project it is important to reflect on how close the     ation identifying important issues and they provide a
project has come to achieving that goal.                    good basis for assessing the suitability of the solution.
   Appropriateness was left undefined as its meaning        The briefs are the best indication of those requirements
was discovered throughout the course of the project         that if met will produce an appropriate solution and
as the collective set of project requirements emerged       the extent to which the MiMoSo accommodates those
including those from Kiva, the benchmark and trans-         needs demonstrates why it is indeed appropriate.
lation results. A defining characteristic of appropriate-      The three sets of requirements that surfaced during
ness is the degree to which it suits its environment or     the project were each relevant to the ultimate success
purpose. Strong examples of appropriateness would           of the solution.
demonstrate an ability to harmonize with the features
of an existing situation.                                   initial kiva requirements
                                                            Kiva specified a set of requirements before the begin-
8.1.1    mi m os o                                          ning of the project specifying that the solution should:
                                                            Increase efficiency
   At the time of writing this report Kiva is involved in   Have the ability to scale
moving the MiMoSo feature from their development            Be self supporting
site (see figure 27) to their live website where lenders    Improve the quality of the exchange between the lender and
will begin to receive updates sent via mobile phones.       the entrepreneur.
A generous gift of handsets has been made by Nokia
and Kiva is planning a rollout of the MiMoSo with other     benchmark requirements
partner MFI’s. The solution has been adopted signal-        The benchmark additionally contributed valuable in-
ling that the project has been a success.                   sights featured in section 2.5. The benchmark results
   The project initially set out with the goal to improve   provided considerations both for the development of
the efficiency and scalability of Kiva’s offer. In addi-    the approach and the solution. Solution requirements
tion to those first insights from the benchmark context     include:
research created additional requirements for the solu-      Accommodate various users, hardware, software
tion. Finally during design development additional          Encourage entrepreneurship

figure 28. Methodology revisited: Arrows indicate where results and tools from each phase have played an additional role.

Ubiquitous and easily maintained technology                        8.1.2    me t h o d o l o g y
Appropriate pricing
Reliable power source.                                                The methodology consists of two approaches that
                                                                   have run parallel to each other. One of which begins
project requirements                                               from the bottom up looking at people to determine
These are requirements reflected in the briefs from                what technology should look like and the other begins
section 4.2.2.                                                     with the system that surrounds the user. Taken togeth-
Power went off                                                     er the methodology has demonstrated the ability to
The page cannot be displayed                                       meet user needs at the same time that those needs are
Shared access                                                      considered within the larger system context that will be
That’s Monica’s phone                                              critical to consider during implementation.
Idle capacity is expensive                                            Placing the user at the core of the approach was
Free is a very good price                                          reflected in the degree to which harmony depended on
Single serving software & click here hardware                      characteristics of the user’s environment and personal
Decentralize                                                       characteristics unearthed. Through context research
Is it everywhere?                                                  aspects of appropriateness were extracted from deep
Eager to learn                                                     investigation and recognized as the collection of many
                                                                   individual features which collectively contribute to
final kiva requirements                                            harmony.
Finally after the presentation of proposals a second set              After translation and integration into the final solu-
of Kiva requirements emerged:                                      tion context research findings had helped to define
Low cost                                                           appropriateness. The results of the test demonstrate
No maintenance required from Kiva.                                 that those issues identified in the project briefs were
                                                                   indeed an indication of necessary characteristics of
   Each set of requirements had a different effect on the          appropriateness for Kiva’s East African partners.
solution. Development hinges on the perceived ability                 Having navigated a path descending from larger
of the solution to meet both sets of Kiva requirements.            macro issues such as communication, infrastructure
Adoption will depend on those requirements identified              and developments in microfinance down to micro level
by the briefs. These are the user centered requirements            issues such as individual ownership have been clarified.
that must be met for the solution to provide value for             Human factors, at the core of interaction with technol-
MFI staff. Insights drawn from benchmarking have a                 ogy, have been linked with larger concerns such as the
role to play during design development alongside the               stigma surrounding computer use.
briefs but may play a bigger role in helping to achieve               Having descended from the large to the small the
greater efficiency and scalability during implementa-              process of returning to where the process began will be
tion. Ultimately each set of requirements is helpful in            necessary to secure the MiMoSo’s ability to function in
managing the ability of the solution to meet the needs             the future and encourage its long term viability.
of the situation. At this point the only thing that can be            The method was developed in response to the unique
confirmed is development and the rest is to be proven              structure of the project involving numerous stages oper-
in the future.                                                     ating with different groups in varied locations. Flexible
                                                                   use of the tools and results associated with each phase
                                                                   proved invaluable for maintaining a linear trajectory
                                                                   towards the definition of appropriateness. figure 28
                                                                   highlights where results and tools were used outside of

their particular position in the project planning.                 8.2.1       mi c ro s o f t
   Examples of the overlap of tools and results can be
seen in the instance of testing where the fundamental                 Based on insights from the project a people driven
idea behind the MiMoSo was introduced during a brain-              approach to technology interaction, centered closely
storm with LiA at the end of context research. Addition-           around the needs of the user, is advocated for Microsoft
ally a test of the ability of a multimedia message to be           to pursue should it continue with efforts to understand
delivered to an email address was concurrently tested.             the role ICT can play in the developing world.
Recommendations form the benchmark resurfaced                         Beginning with those important issues specified in
during design development and testing when consider-               the Digital Inclusion Initiative such as finance, health,
ing the model of the handset to use. To guarantee easy             education is the best place to start to create valuable
maintenance the phone was bought locally.                          change. An approach driven by user demand has
   Although the particular structure and choice of tools           demonstrated success here as well as in other projects
chosen may not translate effectively for use in other              found in the benchmark.
projects there are some aspects that have demonstrat-                 Continued investigation of ideas like Kiva, that are
ed their contribution to the success of the project and            encouraging the adoption of ICTs is an exciting source
should be considered favorably for inclusion in projects           of insights for understanding what functionalities are
that involve many members operating at a distance                  really being required. The project revealed two inter-
investigating a new context. Those aspects include a               esting insights that communicate a great deal about
user focus that involves their direct collaboration, a             fundamental differences between web use and the
flexible approach, consistent communication and an                 technology to support that use in this particular situ-
emphasis on the successful translation of important                ation. Use of the internet for Kiva purposes was 90%+
issues.                                                            content delivery for which the phone was a useful tool,
   It is interesting to note that the project began with           but the extra features of the phone were not necessary
the intention to determine appropriate technology                  including phone calls. A reworking of the functionali-
interaction forms and by the time it was over no new               ties of the device might more succinctly suti the credit
hardware was necessary instead software to accommo-                officers; a camera with the ability to send messages via
date existing technology was developed.                            MMS.
                                                                      Whenever possible Microsoft needs to encourage
8.2      recommendations                                           the incredible eagerness present in East Africa to learn
                                                                   and benefit from ICT, as mentioned before. The cell
   The following sections are intended to provide                  phone may only be a transitional platform for engaging
participating partners with some indication of how to              these benefits but it does handle one fundamental issue
proceed now that the project, has been completed.                  which is the stigma related to operating a computer.
Having spent the past six months thinking about the                Few are comfortable handling a computer while every-
issues at the center of this project there are some ideas          one is comfortably using their cellphones.
and themes that have not found their way into this
report up until this point but deserve mention.

figure 29. The typical domain of a designer within a macro to micro analysis

8.2.2   kiva                                                 project the methodology is sound and has produced a
                                                             successful result. Application is therefore recommed-
   Rollout! The MiMoSo has shown real potential to           ed in other technology projects in emerging markets,
create improved transparency across the Kiva system.         where understanding context is particularly crucial,
With MMS available in 129 countries and cellphone            as well as at the top of the pyramid is advocated. The
growth increasing the opportunity is clear, however Kiva     macro to micro systems approach will help teams to
needs to demonstrate their commitment to the MiMoSo          consider projects within the larger system, helping to
and properly plan the rollout to ensure success.             frame the issues in order to achieve greater ecological
   Although it has proved beneficial, partner organiza-      and social sustainability.
tions must operate in a new way. If they begin to switch         Another transferable aspect of this project is the
from the PC to the mobile phone as a platform for            mantra of beginning with a question rather than an
content delivery the MiMoSo should grow to accommo-          answer. This approach is particularly useful for projects
date their other online activities, such as repayments       that relate to technology because it helps to resist tech-
and posting business profiles.                               nology push. In terms of achieving sustainability gains
   Regarding distribution, without the benefit of hand       it is often the case that one technology is substituted for
delivery and someone present on site to answer ques-         another more ecological option. This often happens
tions, it is important to invest in the creation of a        when the project begins with technology as an answer
successful method that will ensure that the MiMoSo can       and works to fit it into the context.
offer its intended advantages. Otherwise it is likely that       In the future project teams would benefit from
the phone will be used improperly or for an entirely         including members with a systems familiarity to help in
different purpose.                                           framing the question and also considering implemen-
   Time and cost savings indicated through testing           tation. The designers role typically begins and ends
could be considerable for the organizations and partic-      here (figure 29) but this project has identified that a
ularly the credit officers. As soon as it is possible to     designer’s role in a project can begin much earlier and
demonstrate those savings conclusively to other part-        is recommended to go much further.
ners the ease of introducing the MiMoSo will improve             Projects involving partnerships with other groups,
considerably. Numbers will speak volumes where in our        organizations or otherwise should be chosen when
case enthusiasm for the concept had to suffice. Facili-      possible based on the commitment of those groups.
tating communication between organizations and staff         The success of this project is very explicitly linked with
has the potential to provide a channel for dissemina-        this characteristic. Just as important was the willingness
tion of this information.                                    of Kiva and Microsoft to begin with a question.
   Even the rudimentary value map in figure 26 shows
incredible potential for new exchanges amongst stake-
holders that strengthen the Kiva system. A larger
view for Kiva should include developing features that
permit greater exchange amongst natural communi-
ties through an increase in the quality of the exchange.
The possibility of creating a ‘community of co-creation’
involving both the user and producer is very strong
(Cottam, 2005). Motivation has already been demon-
strated on both sides, what is missing is a method to
enable them to contribute to its development. Design
can help to accomplish this.
   In response to the acknowledged impacts of ICT
solutions on the environment, implementation of
the MiMoSo should involve an evaluation of handset
model characteristics, schemes that can take advantage
of second hand phones, and renewable energy options
to limit impact.

8.2.3   tudelft

   The methodology to suit the needs of this project
is the result of planning and a responsiveness to the
particular characteristics of the context, as it became
clear through investigation. Based on the results of this

index of abbreviations
BOP      Bottom of the Pyramid
FAQ      Frequently asked questions
GSM      Global system for mobile communications
Html     Hypertext markup language
ICT      Infomation and communications technology
MiMoSo   Miracle mobile solution
MIS      Management information system
MFI      Micro finance institution
MMS      Multimedia message service
NGO      Non-governmental organization
P2P      Person to person
PC       Personal computer
PDA      Personal digital assistant
POS      Point of sale
RAM      Random access memory
RTS      Remote transaction system
SIM      Subscriber identity module
SMS      Short message service
USHS     Ugandan shillings ($1= 1,800 USHS)

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