Building a Local Technology Ecosystem

This is a follow-on post to our original post on the widespread reach of open source community back on November 11, 2009.

In that post we explored the participation that open source community enables by allowing our customers, support providers, and technology developers all to communicate in one place to advance a common vision. This time, we’d like to highlight another powerful force that our open source platform and community enables: a local technology ecosystem of Mifos Specialists who can build a market-driven business bringing our software platform to microfinance institutions, implementing and supporting Mifos, and extending it to fit their unique and specific needs.

Many of the thousands of MFIs worldwide needing access to technology, operate in rural and outlying regions where most software vendors and technology providers won’t go. Securing access to affordable in-region support is one of the greatest barriers to technology adoption. Through our open source platform, entrepreneurial-minded IT providers with a commitment to social impact have the freedom and the opportunity to help MFIs overcome that barrier. These Specialists make it relevant for that region by localizing Mifos, integrating common accounting packages, building new features, and tying in other technologies. Not only are they expanding the reach of Mifos, enabling greater technology access for microfinance, but since these companies are local, they’re fostering innovation from the bottom up and providing a path for a marketplace for IT services to develop from within the regions served by microfinance.

While this ecosystem and network of local support providers is still in its infancy, around the world we’re seen significant interest and notable activity arise. This activity ranges from extending the reach of technology-enabled microfinance through leading Mifos deployments to contributing significant value to our platform and overall community:

While there is still no formal certification or training program for Mifos Specialists, participation in our community is always welcome; there are a number of resources and active members to get acquainted with. The quotes and videos below provide a glimpse into this community, the open participation of our ecosystem, and the support it can provide:

Within the community there are a lot of people that are able to assist you, never think that anything is too foolish because someone else may not have thought about it and it might be a good option to open up other ideas towards the Mifos community – Maina Wachira, Adept Systems

These two video clips showcase two support providers in our local Mifos community in Kenya, Adept Systems and X-Emplar Technologies:

Why Open Source?

Why we believe open source is a compelling option for the microfinance industry:

  • Cost-effective – our software along with other open source platforms in general lessen the burden of costly complex technology
  • Freedom & Flexibility –software that is flexible and extensible is required to be adapted to the diverse needs of each region
  • Widespread Reach – with few barriers to entry it provides local resources the ability to deliver software and technology to markets where market-driven providers won’t go.
  • Innovation – open source enables the grassroots innovation from the bottom up that is required to bring technology closer and closer to the poor.
  • Long Lasting – open source technology scales and evolves to meet the needs of our organizations as they grow and mature.

Sustaining this community and growing the ecosystem doesn’t come without it’s fair share of challenges which we’ll explore in a future post.