Moving with the times

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.

About Kate Coffey

After 30 or so years in the investment management industry, 2013 saw me turn my life up-side-down, making my way first to Nepal, then Bangladesh during that first ‘year away’. The year took me on a journey I did not expect, had me fall in love with Nepal and its people, and become inspired at the work of Spinal Injury Rehabilitation Centre (SIRC) located in Bhainsepati - 2 hours east of Kathmandu in the Saanga foothills. Since 2014, I have returned to SIRC numerous times, working closely with the folks there in the aftermath of the 2015 earthquakes. In the past two years, my work in Nepal has expanded to the Bo M. Karlsson Foundation www.bomkarlsson.com and the Spinal Cord Injured Network Nepal. In Bangladesh I marvelled at the strength and resilience of marginalized women who have the courage and audacity to break the rules and make a better life for themselves and their children through microfinance programs with BRAC. 2016-2017 saw me embark on a totally new experience in Sri Lanka, a place I never would have chosen to end up in. It’s the 40C+ heat, big humidity and tropical snakes & animals that scared me! But I ended up love love loving! my time there, working with predominantly Tamil small business owners in remote villages in the north and east of the country, trying their best to recover their businesses and the lives of their employees, after decades of a civil war. My time in Sri Lanka made me realize my hard-earned business skills and experience can really be put to good use! The work the BIZ+ team and I did there ended up earning me International Volunteer of the Year Award in December 2017, presented on Capitol Hill, Washington DC no less. I am currently home on Bowen Island, in the west coast of Canada, shoring up my finances before I head off to who knows where, for my next expert volunteer assignment. This blog initially started out as a travelogue of sorts to keep friends and family worldwide updated while I was off on my travels in 2013-2014. Since then it has morphed into a life story of the many places I have lived and worked and of the wonderful people I have met along the way. I hope you enjoy.
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