Technology Levels the Playing Field

Anin could be a typical 24 year old in Canada. She is working at a job totally unrelated to her university degree in Agroforestry. Moving to Kalimantan or Sumatra where the jobs are is not an option for her partly because her parents want her to stay on Java.

The thing she likes about PT Ruma where she works is its mission and believes it is making a social impact in the villages of West Jakarta. Like so many Indonesians I have met, they love their country and want to make it a better place. So for now, she is finding purpose in her work.

Anin accompanied me for some of the Borrower Verifications I did at PT Ruma. This process is important for maintaining the integrity of the Kiva website. When lenders go to and look for borrowers to lend money to, they need to be able to trust that what they see is true. As the name implies the process verifies that the borrower exits, he/she has received the loan and is using it as described in the profile. We also check the integrity and completeness of communication between the partner and borrower.

Signature Verification

Doing the paper work

Most people in the small villages have a cell phone. Cell phone towers are visible all throughout the country. A Samsung touch screen phone is a status symbol for young people in villages and they can use it access Face Book and other social media. They will pay $150 to $250 which is a lot of money. Operation is cheap compared to Canada. Basic phone time will cost about $1.60/month. Internet access added on is about $10/month.

Signs of Technology in the Village. Not Always Pretty

PT Ruma is harnessing this technology to have a positive social impact. Ben, the GM of PT Ruma told me their core business going forward will be providing mobile banking services. Saving in rural Indonesia has typically been in the piggy bank or under the mattress. You can always find excuses to dip into the piggy bank but it is not as easy if the money is in the bank. There are many reasons why they don’t save in a bank.
  • Deposits have to be a minimum size at a bank
  • Banks are not close to home and there are no ATMs
  • Banks charge for deposits. Deposits of rural people are typically small.
For example, if a guy running a small store has to drive to the bank to make a $5.00 deposit, the bank will charge 50 cents for the deposit, he pays 20 cents for parking, the store is closed for two hours, plus the cost of gas. It goes in the piggy bank.

So, what is the social impact that Anin believes so strongly in. The services are not the impact but the economic improvement in people’s lives as a result of them. Making it possible for poor people in rural communities to save money in a bank has many positive long term spin offs.
  • Allows them to save effectively for things like children’s education.
  • Gives the saver a credit rating which would allow them easier access to credit in the future.
  • Will give them access to other banking and financial services
  • Will lead to access of more formal products such as insurance.
Eddie is a “super agent” for PT Ruma. As an agent he sells air time for cell phones, takes utility bill payments and offers mobile banking. He also sells propane for kitchen stoves and the usual snacks and drinks. Providing mobile technology services through PT Ruma has significantly increased his income with not a lot more work. He is an amazing business man and can multi task and is super organized guy. Eddie has two loans through Kiva. One is to purchase the printer he needs to generate receipts. The other is to purchase credits on the weekends for selling air time. Without these Kiva loans, it would not be possible for him to improve his business and offer the services to the community.

Eddie using his printer for a receipt

Cell Phone technology at its best

There is a Ruma sign at his store which illuminates after dark. They are branding themselves in rural Jakarta as the place to do your banking. In a cash based society like Indonesia, ATMs are plentiful but not in the villages. It is not profitable for banks to install the expensive machines in rural communities. Ruma can be the ATM of the village; another benefit for these communities.

Your local bank/ATM

One of Kiva’s goals is “reaching excluded customers”; in other words to provide equal opportunity to those who are disadvantaged because of their circumstances.

About the author

Ron Beaton

Ron grew up in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, Canada’s smallest province on the east coast. He graduated from Dentistry at Dalhousie University in Halifax and practiced for 25 years in Richmond, BC, on the west coast. Through the school of hard knocks he learned the importance of good business management and financial planning. That motivated him to learn more about these subjects. He took management seminars and received a certificate in financial planning from the Canadian Institute of Financial Planning. He retired from dentistry and started a consulting business helping individuals and small business owners with money management and financial planning. From 1999 to 2012 he was a director of a company (CDSPI) which provides financial solutions for dentists across Canada. He organizes and mentors a financial planning study group for people in his own community of Delta, B.C. Ron’s goal with this group and his clients is to empower them to be more financially responsible. This dovetails perfectly with Kiva’s mission to help people pull themselves up by their own boot straps. The Kiva fellowship is a great opportunity to apply this philosophy using his experience.