Extreme Need: Mobile Banking and Mifos
The smell of burnt trash as we discuss integrating our new accounting processes with Mifos finally brings me back to Kuria. Maybe it’s because I had my most painless trip out yet (39.5 hours from California to Isibania, door to door!), or because it hasn’t been that long since I left, but a week after arriving I still don’t feel like I’m actually in Kuria.
There were small moments, like losing electricity in the middle of a shower, and finding the big chubby toad that habitually turns up in the house (I call him Puddles, and he was in Aerie’s suitcase this time). It feels familiar, but not quite real. A lot of it has to do with the amazing progress that’s been made in only a few months.
Aerie has spent a large part of his rotation researching and implementing the information management system that will not only run our loan operations but also enable us to scale. The Grameen Bank initiated Mifos with the intent of developing it as an industry-wide effort to address the microfinance industry’s technology needs. The active community of developers and practitioners puts Mifos on the leading edge of innovation. Our deployment of Mifos coincides with a much-needed visit from Nuru’s CFO, Kari Hanson. She is working with some key staff in Kenya to tighten up bookkeeping processes in our field operations.
It’s a Saturday morning; Aerie, Jake, Kari and I are hashing out what ledger codes will be linked to Mifos as we start our weekend house chores. Outside, Matt is making a small bonfire with the garbage. Instead of color-coded trash bins, our disposal system here is organics and burnables. Innovative technology, crude trash disposal. It hits me, the sensation of the cutting edge in the context of rural, extreme poverty. It can feel incongruent, but I’ve realized how much it makes sense that extreme need drives innovation. That feeling is what I associate with being here.
Kama kawaida (as usual), Aerie says, explaining to our team how he and I are again handing off. This promises to be an exciting rotation. We’ve got a new foundation team of high-tempo rock stars, amazing growth of Kenyan staff (more on this next week), and within the CED program, exciting plans for information systems and mobile technology. Extreme need, community-driven growth and innovation. Kama kawaida.