When I was in Bangladesh checking out the nuts and bolts of microfinance, I was impressed with the face to face monthly meetings every Credit Officer ran in small villages, to collect loan payments and savings installments from BRAC’s clients. What shocked me was the large hard-covered heavy ledger that was hauled around from village to village where the Credit Officer would diligently enter every transaction in the ledger, and the Branch Manager would compare the totals to the computer printout, and then update the client’s account book.
It took many hours to complete and this meant these clients had to break away from their work and families for an extended period … every month. In addition to having a need for a Credit Officer out in the villages, there was also a need for teams of Account Officers who inputted the handwritten data into the centralized computer system. This took another few hours to complete and was rife with errors … handwritten records are always tough!
At the time BRAC were considering a pilot project to investigate the possibility of introducing technology into the process. Back at the regional office, I remember having a long discussion with the Regional Manager about the pros of using technology. Being a process geek, I was happy to give some ideas on how the process could be digitized yet still have the appropriate controls to protect the client’s hard-earned money. At the time the wireless network across Bangladesh was not very reliable or robust enough.
You can imagine my delight to read this article from the Centre for Financial Inclusion. It tells the story of BRAC’s project to digitize the collection process. Launched in late 2014, it took some years to pull together and a pilot was launched in 2017. More recently, the process has seen a few tweaks before it is being fully rolled out across the country.
Another example of the smart use of technology! Way to go BRAC. Enjoy the article from the Centre for Financial Inclusion.