Technology rings in financial inclusion

Jan 11 2014, 05:32 IST
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SummaryTechnology is powering inclusive growth, using mobile telephony to deliver financial literacy and access to small value financial transactions for those at the bottom of the pyramid

Fingers flying over her mobile, tailoring apprentice Gurvinder Kaur is one of the many youngsters in the Delhi metro absorbed in their magic pill of the moment—playing games on the handset. On the bus to his computer applications class, 19-year-old Mohammad Tahir, too, shuts out the world, busy gaming. Among the froth of downloads like Subway Surfer and Plants vs Zombies, Gurvinder and Mohammad encounter a mobile game through which they learn money management skills. “I’ve done hours of timepass with this mazedaar game,” laughs Mohammad, a bit abashed, till he recalls that the interactive 3-D board game helps him open and handle a virtual bank account, cash in hand and changing assets and liabilities. “Though I’ve not earned a single rupee yet, I’ll soon be getting a job when my course is over and, then, I’ll be playing like this in the real world,” he says.

A mobile app, the Mobile Kunji (‘Kunji’ being a simplified reference guide for students) breaks down the complexities of banking and finance into algorithms on bank processes such as writing a cheque and applying for a loan. Written in the pidgin, ‘Hinglish’, Kunji helped new shop-owner, 21-year-old Sunil Kumar, who was confused about a cheque a client had given him. “I got a bearer cheque and didn’t know what it was. Now, I know through Kunji that there are three types of cheques—the crossed cheque, bearer cheque and self cheque,” he says, confident in his newly-acquired knowledge of the banking instrument.

Riding the crest of the mobile wave in India are newly developed applications like Kunji, aiming to boost financial literacy among youngsters on the cusp of entering the job market. Like Gurvinder and Mohammad, they may be the first in their families to be professionally qualified and could be looking to be placed in formal employment in the service sector. Developed by the American India Foundation (AIF), the Mobile Kunji app and game were launched a few months ago in AIF’s 14 centres in north India, where a Market Aligned Skills Training (MAST) programme provides job placement to under-privileged youth. AIF country director Hemanth Paul says, “At the genesis of innovating for the cellphone-as-a-financial-learning-tool were the challenges faced by MAST candidates once they were formally employed. They had little knowledge about opening bank accounts, using net-banking, applying for a loan or even considering investment options, and many of them slid back into subsistence

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