Going High Tech: Selfish Reasons

BlackBerry Storm SmartphoneImage by liewcf via FlickrOne big reason I want to go super high tech with my microfinance startup is because I want me and my small core corporate team in New York City to be able to see all aspects of all our operations in near real time. I want my lenders - people who might put in that $100, that $200, at no interest - to be able to see much of the action in the field. I want them to experience that last mile as much as possible.

We are in microfinance, we are not in some kind of a data collection business. But I'd want my folks doing the last mile to think we are in a data collection business. People in the last mile collect data. People in the middle mile - us, the corporate team - make sense of that data. People in the first mile - the lenders - get served some of that data in palatable ways.

When I did the democracy work for Nepal in 2005 and 2006, it was amazing to me how much of the unfolding ground reality I was able to see through publicly available information online.

I have put forth a phrase: points of interest. What are the points of interest for us in the identity of a borrower and that borrower's business?

But if you only go from a high tech angle, you miss out. You also have to go the high touch way. Relationship building in that last mile is key. And that part is not about data. That part is about meeting in person and talking. But there also technology helps. Making a phone call is not the same as meeting in person. But it is pretty good.
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