Week 1 Wrap-up

Lucky Iron FishI’ve reached the end of my first week on the Mifos project.  The Mifos team has been very welcoming and I’m looking forward to working more closely with them.  I “vMet” (see Post 2) some of the Mifos users during a User Meet-up Skype call to discuss the UI.  It’s been fun.

What I learned:    

  • The poor are surprisingly creative when it comes to managing their finances (see Post 3).  You’d be too with a lack of financial services.
  • MFIs (micro finance institutions) have traditionally focused on small loans to help the poor start a business.  Not everyone is inclined to be an entrepreneur, but everyone needs to save.  Need more savings products.
  • “Creative” investing for the poor often involves buying assets, such as gold and jewlery, (which can be worn and then “recycled” into cash when needed and is safer than holding cash).   This often looks like frivolous and irresponsible spending to MFIs.
  • MFIs have been criticized for doing more harm than good when they lend to people who cannot repay or act irresponsibly with the credit.
  • The Lucky Iron Fish added to a cooking pot dramatically decreases the incidence of anemia in Cambodia.  (Oops, wrong reading.  I’m also taking an online nutrition class.)  But the point is – there is a threshold effect, above which people can survive and below which they do not.  Like the iron fish, micro lending attempts to help people get above that threshold.
  • Stuff about the Mifos product – (yes, I did actually learn something about the product itself.)  Developing a new, more generic platform on which to build different, more customizable UIs.  New features include more focus on individual loans (currently aimed at group lending), ability to upload multiple transactions at once (currently only one a a time, which can be painful on a slow internet connection) and more role-based interaction.
  • Need Yellow Fever immunization to travel to Kenya.

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