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Explore New Ways to Measure Delivery and Use of Digital Financial Services Data (Round 15)


The Opportunity

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation believes that access to digital financial services is fundamental to enable poor people to become more economically stable, prosperous and resilient. Digital financial services – payments, credit, savings and insurance offered through mobile phones or other technology – are reaching millions of poor people around the world that have never been reached before. Despite their promise however, digital financial services are still not reaching the bulk of the world’s unbanked poor. Data related to the delivery and use of these services is critical to unlocking key barriers to their widespread adoption but current data collection techniques and methodologies data are often expensive, error prone, slow, low resolution, and/or unsustainable (providing only a snapshot of ‘today’).

The Challenge

Develop a low cost and reliable technological solution to capture relevant data relating to the delivery and use of digital financial services in developing countries that is an order of magnitude lower cost, faster, higher quality, greater transparency/auditability and more reliable than existing approaches which often rely on paper based surveys or in person data collection. Examples of relevant data include:

  • Delivery: Locations and various other metadata and features of retail financial access points, including product availability, quality of service, pricing, and transaction volumes and values.
  • Use: Consumer and household usage patterns and behavior, customer or agent perceptions of products and brands, financial habits, rates of adoption of different products, and product usage patterns (including of enabling devices like mobile phones).
  • Barriers to Adoption (especially as they apply to women): Rates of fraud, overcharging, failed transactions, distances traveled (and costs related to such travel).

Many potential approaches will be considered, including:

Successful applicants will fall into the category of devices, software, algorithms, or business models, including:

  • Technology that facilitates crowdsourcing of data collection (especially models where data validity or statistical representation of the population can be reasonably assured);
  • Novel use of satellite data or other remote sensing technology/information;
  • Franchise models where smartphone users are rewarded for collecting data
  • Mobile data collection platforms
  • Technologies that facilitate fast and accurate self-reporting of data
  • Applications that provide incentives to consumers or financial services personnel to share data (e.g. through personal money management applications or “gamification.”

Winning Proposals must:

  • Identify the data it proposes to capture and explain how such data can be used, by what stakeholders, and the anticipated impact the data will yield. (Explaining the value of the data for specific stakeholders is a critical part of the application.)
  • Describe how personally identifiable information will be protected if a proposal involves the collection of such information, e.g., the collection of data from households and individuals.
  • For solutions that rely on mobile technology, the proposal must demonstrate an understanding of the cellular infrastructure in the targeted geographical area, and propose solutions that do not require connectivity beyond the current system. For example, solutions cannot assume that most people have smartphones or that connectivity is fully reliable in rural areas of Africa or South Asia.
  • Set forth a clear hypothesis and an associated plan for how the hypothesis would be tested or validated if funded to demonstrate the expected improvements in speed, cost, accuracy, etc. against existing alternative collection approaches.
  • Explain how the proposal would be sustainable and scalable in the developing world context (solutions developed for South Asia or Sub-Saharan Africa will have priority).
  • Explain how the proposed project will demonstrate and assure data validity, quality, and representation of the relevant population.

Ideas we will not consider funding:

  • Basic methodologies or approaches without clear relevance to the Challenge.
  • Proposals that do not include a plan for measuring and demonstrating to the foundation the improvements in data collection.
  • Proposals that would not work in developing country contexts (especially rural).
  • Proposals that are highly dependent on permissions to obtain data from owners such as banks or mobile operators and that do not explain how they will achieve explicit co-operation of data owners.
  • Proposals that do not address a good representation of the target population (adults aged 15 years and above in developing countries, especially populations living on less than $2 a day).
  • The development of technical solutions that will provide only modest or incremental improvements in financial inclusion and/or provide benefit in non-strategic populations.
  • Proposals that lack a hypothesis or an innovation that can be tested, at least in part, during the initial round of the call for proposals.
  • Automation of existing tools without a clear advantage in cost or reach into rural, poor and underdeveloped areas.
  • Minor or low-impact improvements to existing cell-phone-based data collection applications.

Applicants must not disclose personally identifiable information or other sensitive data to the Foundation without the prior written consent of the Foundation. Applicants with proposals that involve the collection of personally identifiable information or other sensitive data may be subject to laws or other rules governing the collection, management and protection of such information. Applicants should consult with your own advisors to determine whether laws or other rules apply to your project. 

Preference will be given to applications that leverage existing or open source platforms (e.g. Open Street Maps; Open Data Kit, etc.) 

Our team is also sponsoring a challenge to create innovative solutions that facilitate merchant payments. You can find more information at Enable merchant acceptance of mobile money payments. These contests are distinct challenges with different goals requiring separate applications.

Great ideas come from everywhere.

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The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is part of the Grand Challenges partnership network. Visit www.grandchallenges.org to view the map of awarded grants across this network and grant opportunities from partners.