Grameen Foundation AppLab in Action


Since the launch of M-Pesa in 2007, 130 mobile money services have launched across the globe. Yet none have replicated the explosive growth that first caught the industry's eye in Kenya, and few mobile network operators (MNOs) or financial services providers have succeeded in delivering mobile financial services that are relevant for or adopted by the poor. CGAP reports that barely 10% of mobile banking users are poor, new to banking and doing anything other than mobile payments.

Though many factors are at play, we think limited product offerings are a significant piece of the problem. Most MNOs offer three primary transaction types - domestic remittance, airtime top-up and bill payments. Though some MNOs have linked with banks to deliver existing products through a mobile interface, few have invested in developing new mobile products that are specifically designed to meet the needs of the poor and poorest. Even fewer telecoms and banks have the resources and capacity to conduct the research and development needed to create products for this new market segment, much less test their solutions with users, invest in supporting infrastructure and operations, and validate commercial viability.

The industry is long overdue for a wave of innovation. Grameen Foundation's AppLab Money is our way of doing something about it. AppLab Money combines in-depth research-based approaches with rapid, iterative testing to develop new mobile financial products. By observing consumer behaviors, conducting field research, leveraging industry experts and crowdsourcing ideas from the public, the AppLab Money team will identify products that have the highest potential for sustainability, scalability and impact for the poor.

We will also build knowledge within the industry by frequently publishing our lessons learned about how to:

  • Understand customer needs and capture latent demand
  • Test new products
  • Move products from pilot to commercial scale

We thrive on the new, the untested, the impossible. Innovation requires testing many ideas, most of which won't work, but failing fast and early is required if we want to succeed at all. We don't know what products will emerge from this process - it could be savings, credit, micro-insurance or something completely different - but we look forward to the innovation that will move the mobile money industry beyond simple payments.