DIGITAL CURRENCIES AND UNBANKED SYSTEMS

RESEARCH & IDEAS 

 

 

 

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UNDERSTANDING THE PROBLEM STATEMENT

There are three possible contexts in which we can put this problem statement:

Context 1: There are no banks in the world. We can imagine a world without banks, how would money work then? How can digital currency exists without banks?

Context 2: Design for the unbanked population. What would digital currency look like for someone without access to formal banking services? Can they be brought into a digitized economy without making them open bank accounts?

Context 3: Only we don’t have access to banking. In this you basically want to artificially create the problems of the unbanked population, for yourself, in New York. For example if you decide to go bankless for a month. How can you still digitally pay for day to day stuff.

Out of the three, I feel that we would be able to do most justice to the third context. That is because the scope of context 1 is too big and for the second, we won’t have an easy access to unbanked population in or near NY. This would mean designing in isolation, away from the users.


Links research ongoing:

http://www.larepublica.co/el-dilema-de-los-cr%C3%A9ditos-formales-e-informales-en-colombia_218771

http://www.eltiempo.com/archivo/documento/CMS-13218420

https://www.icesi.edu.co/revistas/index.php/estudios_gerenciales/article/view/127/html

 

 

 

“The blockchain is an incorruptible digital ledger of economic transactions that can be programmed to record not just financial transactions but virtually everything of value.”

Don & Alex Tapscott, authors Blockchain Revolution (2016)

 

A distributed database

Picture a spreadsheet that is duplicated thousands of times across a network of computers. Then imagine that this network is designed to regularly update this spreadsheet and you have a basic understanding of the blockchain.

Information held on a blockchain exists as a shared — and continually reconciled — database. This is a way of using the network that has obvious benefits. The blockchain database isn’t stored in any single location, meaning the records it keeps are truly public and easily verifiable. No centralized version of this information exists for a hacker to corrupt. Hosted by millions of computers simultaneously, its data is accessible to anyone on the internet.

 

 

“The underlying tech behind much of this is simply peer-to-peer transfer technology based off of mobile phones,” explained Dan Kleinbaum, co-founder and chief operating officer of Beyonic, a tech firm facilitating mobile money payments in Kenya and Uganda; rapid demand is driving expansion to 25 more countries. “Pretty much anywhere you don’t have widespread access to bank accounts but [do have] very high penetration of mobile phones – I’m talking 50 percent to 90 percent – is a good recipe for mobile money and P2P transfers.”

A total of 75 percent of the world’s 7 billion mobile phone subscriptions are in developing countries and similarly high levels of usage are found among refugees. A research study in Uganda found that 89 percent of refugees in urban settings and 46 percent of refugees in rural settlements use mobile phones in their main income-generating activity.

– See more at: http://mastercardcenter.org/action/mobile-money-transforming-financial-inclusion-refugees/#sthash.4KczjvTS.dpuf

 

There are 255 mobile money services in 89 countries, according to the GSMA, a mobile money industry group. Besides Kenya’s M-Pesa, top providers are Rwanda’s mVisa; Tanzania’s Tigo Pesa; bKash in Bangladesh, created by the development organization BRAC; and Globe GCash in the Philippines.

The essential ingredient, besides a telecom with a P2P cash transfer mechanism, is a large enough network of agents throughout a country so that no matter where a cash recipient is located, she can find a place to cash out when needed.

– See more at: http://mastercardcenter.org/action/mobile-money-transforming-financial-inclusion-refugees/#sthash.4KczjvTS.dpuf

 

Like every Uber country office, Uber Nigeria is a locally incorporated company that hires employees, runs support services, and adapts the platform to meet the demands of local consumers. For example, while Uber riders in most markets pay via credit card through the app, riders in Nigeria and across sub-Saharan Africa have the option to pay in cash. Many of these riders and drivers handle these transactions via mobile money transfers such as M-Pesa.

 

https://www.technologyreview.com/s/424091/what-bitcoin-is-and-why-it-matters/
https://www.wired.com/2011/11/mf_bitcoin/

 

 

 

Design Thinking

Readings and Questions 

Designing Field Trial Protocols in Ethiopia for Pneumonia Diagnostic Devices

Interesting Concepts:

  • The importance of: early identification, classification, diagnosis and treatment of children where they need it the most: close to home.

In relation to (ARIDA) versus the beads method:

Question: The contradictions between analog and digital or “sophisticated” technologies to solve humanitarian problems seem to have a complexity of layers, however, most of them go back to education and efficiency. When time is of the essence, is it possible to introduce an element of education or culture awareness to the final solution or design-efficiently?

  • High Trust in Technology: The user research also showed that patients do have some experience with ‘low-tech’ health products, such as thermometers, stethoscopes, blood pressure meters and pregnancy tests, and they have a high degree of trust in them.  Patients generally believe that health technology reduces human error. When one of these tools is used on them, people feel that they have been properly examined; raising confidence in the health worker and potentially reducing their desire to self-medicate, use traditional healing methods or seek advice from unlicensed ‘chemists’.

Thought: This element of “trust” is crucial. In my personal experience, back home in Colombia where the health system, in general, suffers from all kinds of corruption and inefficiencies, people have already lost faith in the system and tend to rely more often on community doctors which sometimes might not be the best solution. However, it would be valuable to provide this community centers with the proper technology that might save lives and slowly educate and regain trust in the potential benefits of the health system.

Question: what are the common causes of pneumonia in these communities? Is there a way to prevent it at all? Is it due to specific environmental conditions linked to cultural traditions? As I read this papers I find it interesting how little we know about the world, and how easy it is to look up in google some fact sheet which I am sure will be the basic knowledge of the typical politician or bureaucrat. But how can we redesign the system so that a person can actually understand or explore the complex situation that a community might be experiencing? How can we pretend to solve a problem when we know so little about the multiple layers that determine a culture?

Community Case Management handbook

Interesting Concepts:

“We do not need a new science or new gadget to address the challenges we face today. What we need is to remove the bottlenecks that prevent these population groups from sustainably accessing essential services.”

One of the key bottlenecks is the ability to know where disparities are the greatest so that resources can be targeted more actively .

Are we reaching the right people?

What are the returns on our investments?

How can we make mid-term course corrections to our programmes based on feedback from real time data?

How can we get the few key pieces of information we need that can help programme managers act in time?

Can mobiles help us improve program- matic outcomes and increase impact?

And how can we engage the people we serve in this process?

How can we use communication technologies to give a stronger voice to community demand for Community Case Management services through Community Health Workers on the front line of care?

Idea: The most common complaint you will get in public/poor hospitals and health service providers in Colombia is: “The nurse or caretaker is always on her mobile and couldn’t care less about the patient.”  I have seen this situation first hand and it is quite impressive how mobile phones affect the already poor service quality in hospital but also other public service centers.  

However, it is such an intrinsic element of their realities that it seems quite smart to give it a turn and benefit from it somehow. I am not sure if it will work at all, but in the case of the nurses and caretakers, it would be interesting to see what happens if they were given an incentive for everytime they use a specific mobile app to help a patient. The incentive might be that they will be given free internet data for personal use. 

  • Rather than forcing hierarchical, linear chains of communications, look for overlaps in the system. 

UBER & Drones

  •  It is through its hyper focus on efficiency that Uber may have the most potential to benefit riders and drivers across the 473 cities and 76 countries where it works.
  • Early stage impact and long term potential in areas like safe roads and clean air that have traditionally fallen within the domain of aid agencies.
  • Uber is a testament that the global development community needs to continue pushing the envelope in terms of innovations that promote sustainable transport.
  • Uber advertises the flexibility the platform gives drivers to be their own bosses.

Question: How can we as designers, create or remodel and make attractive the idea of investing in doing good. How can we make “doing good” the next big thing in finance?

DATA

 

Readings:

Principles of Innovation in Action (pages 105-115),

Social Media Fingerprints of Unemployment,

The Data That Turned the World Upside Down,

Fake News Is Not The Only Problem

 

Guest Speakers:  Gilad Lotan , Dr. Amen Ra Mashariki , Manuel Garcia-Herranz

 

Questions / Thoughts:

  • How do the concepts of innovation and relevance relate to time and sustainability in design?
  • What is the history behind post-truth politics, and how did it become so acceptable? 
  • How or what is being done in a research front to understand people’s perception of what is real?
  • How can we create or expect people to create something based on publicly-available social media datasets, if the average person does not know how to read data?
  • How can we understand why people react or act to a specific piece of information?
  • If data quantifies information based on actions and/or reactions, could it somehow analyze communication or interactions? Possibly as a means to then make data more trustworthy and non-binary?

 

 

DESIGN WORKSHOP

Design Thinking Workshop (class activity) 

 

Quick design challenge process on the theme of digital or virtual communications (Skype, Facetime etc.)

We had to pair up with a classmate and together engage in the step by step process of identifying a problem and creating a simple solution through design thinking. My solution to Kenzo’s virtual communications problem is the “Mom Cloud” or possible “imom” a portable device designed to be clipped to any wall. It will be synchronized with Kenzo’s cloud system, therefore a screen video will appear on the device when Kenzo’s mother calls him but it will only allow video calls when his icloud calendar permits, on the other side, Kenzo’s mother will also recieve time notifications from the “imom.”

Kenzo’s problem is that as much as he loves his mother, he can’t afford to talk to her everyday all the time as she would like to.

This class activity was a great experience. The time constraints and partnership allowed us to realize the importance of adapting our design approach depending on context and user’s needs.