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The Roots of The Mifos Initiative

As told by James Dailey, Chief Innovation Officer, at the 2015 Mifos Summit

james-headshotHere is my Mifos story. Back in November 2001 I took a trip to visit a microfinance program outside of Hyderabad, India. I met a group of women who had gone through a process of learning how to save first, then to take out a loan – Microfinance-101.  There were mountains of paper forms: forms for groups, for ledgers, for receipts, for new loans, for repeat loans filled out by the loan officers and for processing at a branch office.   Aside from being profoundly humbled by the dedication these women had to bettering their lives, I realized that data really mattered to MFIs! Providing a service in the field efficiently and effectively mattered AND data enabled that.

I decided to stay the night in the branch office so I could be at the morning borrower meeting. That night, we were literally locked into the same room as the safe with a guard and shotgun downstairs and another outside.  As I fell asleep staring at stacks of paper forms, and imagining similar rooms, thousands of them across the world, I had an epiphany: there had to be a better way.  4140326923_3473a3a7ea_o

As I watched the data being entered into a PC the next day, I came to understand that there was no easy ‘low cost’ system for microfinance operations. Instead they and many others had built their own portfolio systems, or were trying to or they were working with under capitalized software companies.  MFIs implementing their own systems made as much sense as everyone writing their own operating system, so that’s when an idea popped in: Why not an open source, community driven operating system for financial services? Read more