A Juhudi Kilimo Credit Officer using a tablet on a farm in Kenya's unpaved heartland.



Are tablets a practical solution to rural microfinance operations?

This is the big question I am working to answer during my 4 months in beautiful Kenya.  This appears to be a simple question with an obvious answer. However, after traveling over 1000 kilometers in one week throughout urban and rural Kenya, I have learned about the obstacles that will make tabletizing Kiva partners more complicated.  Yet, I am hopeful that tablets can, at the very least, be a practical means to improve operational efficiency for Kiva's partners. 

Free Tablets to Kenya? 

Google provided Kiva with Nexus 7 tablets to be given to Kiva partners. I am now in Kenya to experiment whether these tablets will increase the operational efficiency of Kiva partners. Why would Kiva choose Kenya as the testing ground for this project? Kenya has the necessary infrastructure, expansive data network and a culture that seemlessly integrates technology into daily life. Kenyans have embraced and leveraged mobile technology for many years as evidenced by the popularity of M-Pesa and the development of apps such as iCow and M-Farm

However, there will be some growing pains as we work to implement new hardware, software and update processes for well established institutions.  Turning your back to what is familiar to face uncertainty is usually uncomfortable. 
Yet, I like to see change as a precursor to exciting possibilities. Its like leaving my comfortable life in lovely Los Angeles to volunteer in a dynamic developing country where I have the opportunitiy to grow professionally and personally.

Oh the Possibilities!

I've seen first hand how microfinance organizations could leverage tablets to improve their operations and increase their loan portfolios!  I was priviledged to have shadowed 
Juhudi Kilimoone of Kiva's outstanding partners, since they have been using tablets in their field operations for about a year.  While sipping delicious Kenyan tea at the Nairobi headquarters, I learned from their IT, finance and administrative teams how they successfully use tablets to improve their operations.They then generously allowed me to travel with their gregarious and eloquent CFO as he visited various branches throughout western rural Kenya. Despite the pothole infested roads and occasional livestock blockading the roads, I had a very enjoyable and insightful roadtrip.

I witnessed how mobile technology in rural Kenya can simplify data collection, speed up loan disbursements, and facilitate access to Kiva loans in marginalized communities. My time with Juhudi Kilimo allowed me to see that this project has a good possibility of significantly impacting Kiva partners and hard working Kenyans in need of financing.
 

I look forward to sharing more about this project and my experiences in the wonderfully exciting Repulbic of Kenya!
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Comments

Hey Dave, Looks like you hit the ground running -- 1000km in one week! How's the weather? Probably hot for sure, but hopefully not too humid. It was interesting to learn from your blog post of apps like Mpesa and iCow, I would have thought that poor internet speeds and cell coverage across large rural and mountainous areas would have hampered the spread of tech there. But come to think about it, I wouldn't be surprised if they had better reception there then I do in my LA digs. Hope you do some posts on language (how much Swahili will you need to learn?), food (miss In-n-Out Burger yet?) and the local attractions like Lake Victoria, Mount Kenya, and the safaris. Let me know if you see anything advertising that "John Ford's MOGAMBO was filmed here." Use one of those tablets to do some video blogs, too! Have fun, and best of luck on your adventures.

Que interesante saber mas acerca de los retos que enfrentas alla al tratarde implementar la tecnologia necesaria para actualizar y agilizar el proceso de los prestamos para quienes lo necesitan! No puedo dejar de ver lo interesante de tu trabajo al llegar a solucionar necesidades de personas, familias y comunidades enteras con posibilidades sin limites de lo que Dios puede hacer en sus vidas!

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David was raised in southern California very near to the Mexican border, which allowed him to grow up with an appreciation of multiple cultures and perspectives. Los Angeles is his second home after attending UCLA and working for a stock research company as a consultant. During David’s time at the University of California, Los Angeles, his interest in global affairs, traveling, foreign cultures and international development grew significantly, albeit without clear focus on what to do with that interest. As a consultant, he was able to grow his investing knowledge, become more interested in financial services and innovative technology. David decided to combine his interest in international development and financial services and pursue microfinance. This lead him to diligently study microfinance and volunteer as a Young Ambassador for Opportunity through Opportunity International. David hopes his experience as a Kiva Fellow will be just the beginning of a long career in microfinance.
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