4.2 ICTs and e-financing – new possibilities and dimensions

The financial intermediary sector that services small businesses is extending its reach to poorer sections of the economic community and to those clients who might not otherwise have access to financial services. ICTs are already being applied to serve small businesses in many ways, such as:

  • Adapting and simplifying book-keeping, accounting and loan-tracking software;
  • Computerizing financial reporting and performance measures, making them cost-effective, secure and accessible to both borrowers and lenders;
  • Providing individual borrowers with secure, user-friendly account access through location points in local banks, post offices, and other community centers;
  • Building up savings and credit schemes through mobile banking, smart cards, handhelds, and modified ATMs, in order to bypass the traditional methods of providing bank services. As banking services become a built-in function of mobile wireless telephony, these aspects of recording and completing transactions will expand.
Content example: SWAT Youth Front, Pakistan (hyperlink)

Established in 1997, Swat Youth Front (SYF)43 is a youth-oriented, not-for-profit and non-governmental organisation (NGO) using communication, advocacy, training, and service delivery to foster poverty reduction, gender equity, literacy, youth employment, women's empowerment, and disaster management in the Malakand range, North Western Frontier Province (NWFP), Pakistan. SYF works in partnership with community-based, public, and civil society organisations in an effort to:

  • Promote socioeconomic empowerment among the marginalized,
  • Promote gender awareness and sensitivity,
  • Narrow gender gaps in education and economic participation, and
  • Promote volunteerism and facilitate employment among youth.

Interpersonal approaches are central to SYF's efforts to develop the skills of, and provide opportunities for, children, youth, and women, in particular. For example, in partnership with the Pakistan Literacy Commission, SYF trained 63 women in teaching methodologies and then implemented 63 non-formal schools in various parts of District Swat.

SYF also focuses on adult literacy; its Functional Literacy Programme was launched in March 1999 and is designed for working adolescent and adult women in various sectors of the Mingora region. In addition, in February 2000, SYF's Women’s Skill Development Project (WSDP) was launched with the purpose of enhancing women's skills and creating income opportunities at the local level. Vocational classes have been held and women's saving committees formed. In an effort to protect the environment by encouraging use and reuse of household waste material, SYF has conducted various trainings for women to learn how to produce finished products while gaining an income.

To foster women's financial empowerment, SYF has also organized exposure/study tours for students and female entrepreneurs to historical places and the country's industrial cluster. The main purpose of these activities is to identify new channels and markets for Swati products. SYF has gone beyond such local initiatives by facilitating the participation of several female entrepreneurs in national and international exhibitions in order to get exposure and gain knowledge about how to market their products. The organisation has also developed linkages between these entrepreneurs and raw material suppliers. SYF has developed various advocacy campaigns, such as in the areas of women's and children's rights and socioeconomic issues.

 Where women workers are unable to visit their bank after work to deposit their pay, mobile banking allows women either to make loan payments or add to their savings. Likewise, women may not have access to information about government benefits to which they are entitled. Where governments make such information available on the Internet, the same ICT devices that enable women to manage their credit and savings can also be used to access their benefits.

Content example: Micro-finance loan software

The Loan Performer software grew from humble beginnings in Uganda and is now employed in micro-finance institutions in 50 countries. Various software packages are contributing to the increase in efficiency of many Micro-Finance Institutions (MFIs). HISAAB, for example, is group-level microfinance software designed for illiterate and uneducated users. Currently the software is used by:

  • Sero Business Women, Tanzania
  • Mara Women Empowerment Assistance, Tanzania
  • Women’s Finance House, Botswana
  • National Association of Business Women, Malawi
  • Tanzania Women Entrepreneurship (WEDTF), Tanzania
  • Pamoja Women, Kenya