On the Road in Indonesia …

While in Indonesia for a series of meetings, I had the chance to do my very first site visit for Mifos.

Our host, the Koperasi Kasih Indonesia, welcomed us at their head office in northern Jakarta nearby the container port.

We spent some time with the team to talk about the Koperasi and the procedures and tools they are currently using. Their goal to grow comes with a need to scale their business procedures and make them more efficient, which leads to better support by a back office solution, and the need to eliminate most of the paper intensive work in the field and the inefficient  manual data transfer in the office. By then just words to me.

KKI invited us to take part in a group meeting held at a member’s house … so we hopped on a scooter and off we went.

20160921_130003As we arrived, the group already has gathered and was waiting for us. You could feel happiness and tension all around as the purpose of the meeting was to start a new cycle and disburse loans. The meeting started with a prayer and the KKI pledge shouted by all attendees (including us) in unison.

20160921_132134Then some rustling noise appeared … paper magically came out of nowhere. For me it was hard to believe: attendance lists, application forms (of every member), ID card copies, disbursement sheets, and agreement forms. Given that the meeting was a joint meeting of two groups, there were over 50! pages of paper, at least.

The formal meeting started with an attendance check, followed by an educational training session. After the training, four members were tested to verify that they have understood the purpose of the Koperasi and the meaning of group liability and their own responsibility for the group and all other members.

One group welcomed a new member; she recited the policies aloud, and showed her “Fra20160921_135818me of Dreams” to all. What is a “Frame of Dream” you may ask. It is a blank surface that every member needs to fill with the goals she wants to reach, e.g. education for her children, better housing, or growth of her small enterprise.

This frame is shown to every member of the group because they are now all responsible for these goals (shared liability taken to the next level). The frame serves two purposes, (1) a self-motivation for the member, and (2) an agreement that everybody cares about the dream of all other group members.

Suddenly action entered the room and all attendees started to move around and lined up: disbursement time was here. Every member, one by 20160921_140904one, was sitting in front of KKI’s employee, the loan amount was stated out loud, and then cash was counted and handed over. Every member then signed off the payment in the disbursement sheet and the agreement form.

20160921_140926The closing of the meeting included a prayer and the KKI pledge again.

My take away after that experience is two-fold. There are two ingredients that make this kind of business work, (1) a social component where everybody is responsible for each other and (2) and the technology that allows a broader outreach by easing the pain of handling paper.

Cash, even if we Westerners are moving away from it, still has some value. It is something you can feel, which is more than simply the money itself. There is some hidden message in cash that could not be erased by electronic money, a transition needs to be made to distinguish between money and expectations/feelings.  

As a techie, my first reaction was that we can solve all this with decent technology. After seeing what really happens, I realized that technology can not replace a group meeting, rather technology needs to assist the social bonding by providing a solution that allows the employee to focus more on the group, instead of handling large amounts of paper, and other mundane details and error checking.

Technology needs to enhance the social experience, not replace it.

-Markus Geiss, Chief Architect

Thank you to Drew Fass!

Some of the unsung heroes in our community are the community development interns who have been helping our community grow over the past several years. Often their contributions go unrecognized so we wanted to give Drew Fass a proper farewell after an amazing year. He’s completed his year-long internship and is now back to full-time studies at the University of Washington.  You might not know but we’ve created a program of bringing on community development interns through the Chi Psi fraternity at the University of Washington that is now in its fifth generation.

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Along the way they’ve helped to formalize the procedures and programs to effectively engage with all members of our community. Starting with Braden Timm who compiled all of our contacts into Insightly, our first CRM. Ollie Janders then led the transition over to Salesforce for our CRM and contact management, while famously fighting poverty with financial inclusion with a lightsaber! Next came Andrew Mottet who streamlined and perfected the communications cycle and systematized into Google Drive templates and playbook that he used to smoothly on board Drew. Over the past six months, Drew Fass has now worked hand in hand with Jacob Kobzi as he passed over the torch.

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Paul Maritz

Amazon Vs. Open Source

“We strongly believe that the world needs a mechanism to write cloud applications. We don’t want the cloud to be like the bad old days of the mainframe computer. There’s potentially some tension between  people who want the cloud to be closed and proprietary and folks like us who want it to be an option for developers to write cloud applications. History teaches us that every time there’s a major wave of technology and a major new category or platform, then new players emerge. The world went from the mainframe computer, in which IBM was the big winner, to the PC and productivity software, where Microsoft and Oracle were the big winners. Now, we’re going to the cloud as a new category and platform. We know that Amazon is a big winner there but it operates a closed platform and history teaches us that in every major shift, there’s at least one closed winner and at least one open winner. We know that the closed winner is going to be Amazon but we don’t know yet who the open winner is going to be.”

Check out what else Paul Maritz, Executive Chairman of Pivotal and Mifos Chairman of the Board has to say about the future of Open Source and cloud computing in the Forbes article:

Paul Maritz’s Vision For Pivotal And The Battle With Amazon Over Open Source Cloud Computing

-Jacob Kobzi, Business Development Intern

Partner Spotlight: Kanopi

Hello Mifos Community!

With the Mifos team traveling to Indonesia, we wanted to take the time to spotlight Kanopi, one of Mifos’s most productive partners.

Kanopi is based in Indonesia and has been actively involved in both deploying the Mifos platform as well as building new features on top of it. Specifically, Kanopi has developed prize-linked savings, social media notifications, and biometric authentication using the Mifos platform as their base.

kanopi-in-acxtionAn MFI agent shown on the right carries out a transaction using Kanopi’s fingerprint scanning device

The Jakarta Post has noticed how fintech is changing in Indonesia, and highlighted Kanopi as one of the innovators and was named one of the grand finalists of the Fintech Festival’s startup competition. The Digital News Asia featured Kanopi as sparking a microfinance revolution in Indonesia and pushing for financial inclusion.

To learn more about Kanopi, you can check out their presentation on our Youtube channel at Mifos Tech Days ‘16 where you can learn more about the great work that Kanopi is doing in Indonesia. You can also check out their website here.

We would like to thank Kanopi for actively contributing to Mifos and ultimately providing easier access to financial services in Indonesia.

-Jacob Kobzi, Business Development Intern

2016 Google Summer of Code Wrap-Up

Google Summer of Code has come and gone in a flash…of brilliance that is. It seems like it was only yesterday that we were flooded with applicants for GSOC – now that we’ve concluded, our seven interns did not disappoint in their contributions throughout the summer. This marked our fifth year as a mentoring organization and each year GSOC continues to unite and grow our community in different ways. Once again, we received incredibly valuable contributions to our Mifos X web and mobile clients this summer; most importantly we have cultivated numerous passionate contributors that will be a part of our community long into the future. This year’s program also taught us many valuable lessons of how we can improve our communications and collaboration to realize the full potential of each of our interns.

imag7587Before we recap the new features that the community will soon be able to benefit from, a round of thank you’s:

  • Thank You to our GSOC Interns – persistence, patience, and passion were all critical factors needed along with your programming skills to help you succeed in navigating the complex FinTech domain. You have used cutting edge technologies to develop valuable innovation to help move millions out of poverty
  • Thank You to our Mentors – thanks to Nayan, Ashok, Pranjal, Antony, Ayuk, Ishan and Gaurav – you are the lifeblood of GSOC – your tireless commitment, your wise advice and your visionary insight have helped shape this next generation of open source contributors. We welcomed five new mentors this year including 2 of our former GSOC participants – Ishan and Gaurav.
  • Thank You to Google Open Source Programs – thanks to Stephanie, Cat, Joshua, Mary, and the entire team. Year after year, you continue to make the program more effective including the rollout of a brand new program website this year. We appreciate the attention and commitment you give to the hundreds of orgs and thousands of students you impact in so many ways.

Here’s a brief recap on what the interns worked on over the summer followed by a closing interview on their experiences over the summer.

Want to see all of the brand new features and innovation in action? Register and attend our GSOC Demo Day for a showcase of all their work via GoToTraining. GSOC Demo Day is Thursday September 15 at 1400GMT.

 

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Mifos in Indonesia

Hello Mifos Community!

This past week, the Indonesia Fintech Festival and Conference 2016 took place in Tangerang, Banten, Indonesia. The conference is a joint event between the Financial Services Authority (OJK) and the Indonesian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Kadin). Although the conference is based on fintech, there was a special focus on Financial Inclusion this year, as technology continues to transform Financial Inclusion.

The conference was two days and covered topics including “Improving Financial Inclusion Through Fintech”, “Accelerate Financial Sector With Fintech”, “Digital Currencies”, and many more.

Mifos had an exciting presence at the Indonesia Fintech Festival and Conference this year.

Steven Hodgson, Director of Kanopi, was present at the conference. Kanopi has been a partner with Mifos for a long time and is working on deploying the Mifos platform within Indonesia.

Mifos was also present through BTPN. BTPN is a financial institution in Indonesia that has been using Mifos since we were a project with the Grameen Foundation (roughly 5 years ago). They are still using Mifos and have around 2 million clients processing around 630,000 transactions per day.

In a country with significant mobile adoption and devotion to financial technology, there is a great opportunity to reach the unbanked. It’s amazing to see the Mifos community come together like it has in Indonesia, joining partners, financial institutions, and ordinary people together to promote Financial Inclusion for everybody.

 
-Jacob Kobzi, Business Development Intern

Fun Facts about our Google Summer of Code Interns

As we come to the end of the 2016 Google Summer of Code program, before we give you a wrap-up on all the amazing work they did throughout the summer, let’s take a look back at where they’ve come from by highlighting some of the fun facts and interesting information they shared with us at the start of the program.

Once again, I’m astounded by the diversity and depth of thought of our students – I admire how moved they were by their first pull requests and their thirst for knowledge – now that we’re at the end of the program it’s fulfilling to see how much they’ve grown by collaborating and contributing to our community.

Welcome to Seattle – SolDevelo!

Hello Everyone!

This past weekend, one of our premier early partners, SolDevelo (http://www.soldevelo.com), opened their Seattle office, expanding all the way from Poland. To celebrate the event, they were kind enough to invite some former members from the Grameen Foundation and the Mifos team to attend their opening celebration. I, Drew Fass, was lucky enough to be the Mifos guest of honor.

The Mifos Initiative began as an open source project under the Grameen Foundation. The Grameen Foundation was formed by Alex Counts, to further the mission of Grameen Bank and Muhammad Yunus, who won the Nobel Prize for his pioneering efforts in microfinance. HiIMG_0063s method of Grameen Joint Style Liability lending, in which all the women in a community were jointly responsible for everyone else paying off their loan, is what our first generation of Mifos software supported. SolDevelo was a key contributor in our shift out of the Grameen Foundation into our own non-profit. They were also pivotal players in the ongoing evolution of Mifos 2, our first generation of our open source platform. Since then, they’ve continued to work closely with the Grameen Foundation and other international development NGOs on the West Coast.

After arriving at their office, I was welcomed by a group of other SolDevelo supporters, including some key Mifos contributors from back when the project was under the tutelage of the Grameen Foundation. These members included Adam Monsen, Software Engineer and Kay Chau, Technical Program Manager. It was great to see that even 5 years from our departure from the Grameen Foundation that it’s original members are still able to connect over common ground.

All in all, it was a wonderful day at SolDevelo’s new headquarters. We would like to thank Krystian and Jakub for their hospitality and we wish them the best of luck in future endeavors.  

Welcome to Seattle!

Luisa’s Extended Stay in Ecuador


After the Mifos Innovation Team finished their week in Ecuador, Luisa had the opportunity to stay in Pindal to hold a couple more meetings. Pindal is a small town in Ecuador that borders Peru. Even though it is composed of just 6000 people, it produces 90% of the corn in Ecuador. Luisa was joined by the Assistant Director of Banco Desarrollo, Juan Carlos Aguirre, to experience first-hand the effect that the Electronic Money system wo20160719_125711uld have on these rural areas.

Luisa and Juan first met with Pablo Saritama, the manager of Banco Desarrollo in Pindal. They discussed the various types of loans that would be implemented using Mifos, similar to the conversation that the team had at the Banco Desarrollo headquarters.

After the meeting with Banco Desarrollo, Luisa and Juan then met with the Corn Producers Association. They were able to answer questions and gain valuable insight from the corn producers regarding what kind of loans were needed and which loans work best. Luisa and Juan were able to explain Mifos and the Electronic Money System and everyone there seemed excited and willing to embrace this new system.

Signing off,

Jacob Kobzi, Business Development Intern

Friday in Ecuador

Friday, July 15th, 2016

IMG_0332After a week of work, the Mifos Innovation team has seen it’s last day in Ecuador.

The team met with the Dinero Electronico team in order to discuss regulations. Dinero Electronico saw eye-to-eye on the prospect of providing nano loans as a financial service. They also directed us to the right people to talk to next.

That was the last meeting for the team’s week in Ecuador. The Mifos Initiative is extremely excited for what the future holds and we are looking forward to making the vision of Financial Inclusion 2.0 a reality.

-Jacob Kobzi, Business Development Intern