Challenge timeline:

Posted on October 25, 2012

Posted on October 25, 2012

Posted on October 24, 2012

Join our team!  We're hiring a Product Designer - please see this job description for details

Posted on October 04, 2012

Meet Maricerina Namuddu, a farmer we encountered in Luwero district, who has incredible ways of managing her money. She separates money both mentally and physically. We engaged her in the income and expenses game where she was given dummy cash and images of common expenses and asked to role play her financial regimen.

Her first reaction was to separate it into 4 pots - 3 for savings and 1 for expenses.

After spending all of the expenses, she accessed her first savings pot and indicated that this pot was more accessible than the other savings pots, which could only be tapped into for emergencies. In addition, she also belongs to 3 village saving groups in order to access big credit. 

The key learning here is that some of our me2me clients understand and prefer bifurcated savings approach though our earlier researches indicate that people don’t usually separate savings goals.

Posted on September 20, 2012

GF AppLab Money Incubator and Accelerator teams have been working together to find solutions to mobile money agent liquidity and capital constraints. One outcome of this is a product concept that helps agents access float faster and cheaper, while allowing them access to credit to grow their business.  

Key learning: Liquidity and capital constraint can be addressed by better collaboration between financial institutions and mobile money providers.

Posted on September 07, 2012

This week, the AppLab money incubator team encountered Nikodemus Musinguzi an advanced mobile money user in western Uganda. He has two sim cards, one for voice calls and the other for mobile money savings. Nikodemus uses his mobile money savings to act as a money lender in his village. He lends to others for interest (10% per month) and expects monthly repayments. He is aware that he earns no interest on his mobile money but points to the security and convenience of using it to keep his money. 

Posted on August 10, 2012

The AppLab Money team worked with Darren Menachemson – the service design expert from Australia to complete draft service design blue print for the me2me concept. This process involved;

-Articulating strategic and operating intent and outcomes of the me2me service

-Drafting high-level map of the ecosystem (defining the various  stake holders and how they relate to each other currently and in the future)

-Mapping end-to-end user interaction pathways to show a holistic view of user experience.

-Risk assessment showing possible failure points, and how these can be mitigated

-Identify opportunities  that could enhance the outcome for the different stakeholders, rated by value and indicative effort/cost

-High level project roadmap, detailing the key activities and milestones that need to be undertaken to deliver the service           


Key learnings from this session include:

-There is no standard interaction sequence in me2me service. Different users will experience service differently, based on their particular needs

-The pricing model should be designed to encourage commitment to goal  and follow-through

-It’s important to incentivize people or reward good behavior to help them keep on track with their goals

Posted on August 03, 2012

We completed documentation of key findings the different FGDs and used these to prepare product concept decks for Zimba and me2me. One key learning this week as we worked with Darren was the need to identify the key stakeholders with an interest in our concepts or their performance as well as their motivations. Beyond poor users, the operator and Grameen Foundation, other stakeholders may include regulators (Bank of Uganda, Uganda Communications Commission, etc.), MM agents, VSLAs, etc. Understanding how each of them may be affected by the success of either Zimba or me2me will be a key influence on the kind of design decisions we make as we move forward.

Posted on July 20, 2012

WeeklyBrief_0720.pdf Testing in Mbale this week, where we focused on both zimba and me2me. Both concepts were easily understood by users and many wondered whether the services were already running and asked where they could sign up. We indicated that these were still concepts and they were helping the team to refine them. 

Posted on July 06, 2012

WeeklyBrief_0706.pdf ; A key insight from the field this week is that most users prefer to pay a monthly subscription charge at the start of each month that allows them to save as many times during the month depending on their inflows as opposed to paying each time they make a transaction. Users who consume at least 500 UGX a day in airtime are willing to pay more, given that this is in the form of purchasing more airtime in return for free transactions.

Posted on June 22, 2012

Check out what we were up to this week

Posted on June 15, 2012

Another chance to join our team: We're looking for an innovative commercial thinker for our Business Fellowship!

Posted on June 14, 2012

Want to join our team?  We're looking for a creative product designer for our Design Fellowship!

Posted on June 12, 2012


The AppLab Money Incubator team refined the Virtual Savings Group idea into a product concept they are calling “ZIMBA” and developed rapid testing methodology and materials. This included some iteration around a physical interface prototype which started in paper, but moved to a tablet in order to improve the focus group flow.

In addition to the physical interface prototype we created storyboards to walk focus group participants through a use case for the product.

Posted on June 11, 2012

What's the best way to offer savings products when it isn't cash, but liquidity that's king?  Ignacio Mas and the AppLab Money team discuss this issue in the third of three blog posts talking about savings as a deferred payments mechanism, focusing on the customer need for liquidity:  

Posted on June 04, 2012

This week the Applab Money team explored different customer value propositions and business models and how they could be used to support our selected product concepts. For example, we asked ourselves:  How could an MNO make money on a savings product that actually incentivized customers AGAINST transferring or withdrawing money - which is the primary way an MNO earns revenue today?  Could there be an advertising-based model?  A subscription model?  What do YOU think?

Posted on May 24, 2012

After incorporating votes from AppLab, CGAP, MTN, and our Product Advisory Committee, we narrowed the list down to 4 products:

  • me2me
  • Virtual Savings Group
  • MNO Data for Credit
  • CKW Data for Credit

We'll test these through lightweight paper prototypes with consumers and see what feedback they have!

Posted on May 18, 2012

Selecting concepts for user testing

Given constraints in resources (staff, time, etc.), the AppLab Money team worked to reduce the number of concepts that would be prototyped and tested. The process involved a range of stakeholders (industry experts, representatives from CGAP, employees from MTN, and a select group of GF Managers).  Besides in-depth discussions and the application of the Product Selection Criteria, participants voted for ideas in two main ways: (a) each individual was given USD100,000 in “play money” to invest across the eight concepts in whichever they felt would be the best opportunities; and (b) each individual had the opportunity to “kill” a concept and provide an explanation for why they thought it should not progress.   From this exercise, four concepts emerged and will proceed to the next phase.

Posted on May 15, 2012

Using data from a survey of >2600 Ugandans, we've segmented the market based on financial needs and behaviors.  Check out our work here.

Posted on April 26, 2012

Can cash compete with a pig?  Ignacio Mas and the AppLab Money team wonder if the rewards offered on savings accounts can ever compare with the returns an animal provides to a rural household - or if it should compete at all: 

Posted on

Julius Matovu, Research and Programme Coordinator, Ali Ndiwala, Research Lead and Toru Mino Product Development Lead, AppLab Money Incubator discuss the ideas and opportunities which emerged from the insights gotten from data related to financial behavior of Ugandans. The insights were quickly translated into a problem statement from which the challenge question was born.

Posted on April 13, 2012

Aggregation, animal-oriented finance and social networks are three overriding themes that emerged from an ideation session at AppLab in which we reflected back on our research to date.

Posted on April 11, 2012

Identifying ideas to concept

The AppLab Money team had to condense the high number of ideas (50+) into a few concepts that could be tested with users. Using Product Selection Criteria developed earlier in the process the team synthesized ideas and linked them back to stories and opportunities resulting from the research work. The team ended up with eight ideas that were fleshed out into more robust product concepts.

Posted on April 06, 2012

Jan Chipchase and Olga Morawczynski ask: what if bankers were service designers?

Posted on March 21, 2012

Ignacio Mas and the AppLab Money team publishing the first of three blog posts talking about savings as a deferred payments mechanism - me2me - on

Posted on March 19, 2012

Olga & Lisa talking about a new product idea on the CGAP blog - lottery insurance.  Why not make insurance "fun?"

Posted on March 12, 2012

During our ideation session, we culled through the research and identified key problem statements to tackle through new products:

How can we help users accumulate lump sums…

  …but ensure that they are accessible only when needed?

  …that will allow them to address certain + non-negotiable goals?

How can we help users smooth income and expenditure during the year as well as address deficits that may arise?

How can we design affordable, on-demand credit products?

What kind of product could allow users to improve their financial position and enable them to access their cash when needed?

How can products increase trust in formal financial institutions?

How can a product improve customer loyalty for MTN in an increasingly competitive environment?

How can we make it easier for the poorest to afford handsets
and airtime?


What new products do you think we can design that addresses one of these problems?  Let us know through the challenge!

Our first challenge has launched!  Looking forward to seeing the great ideas that come through.

Posted on

True or false: Farmers spend up to 80% of cash earnings on school fees.  (Yup, it's true, according to some folks we talked with in Mbale!)

Posted on February 22, 2012

We talked with another person today who is what Ali calls an “agent on the fringe.”  In villages that lack MM agents, some individuals conduct transactions on behalf of others through their own personal MM account.  Today Yiga Joseph, a bike repairman, said he conducts roughly 10 withdrawals and 5 deposits a week, servicing 20 people.

How many other agents on the fringe exist in Uganda?  And what might that imply about how many people actually use mobile money, but aren’t formally registered?

Posted on January 21, 2012

During focus groups, we saw that people found the concept of sending money to themselves - me2me - very intuitive.  They "got" it!

Posted on January 11, 2012

[Product feature testing, take 2]:

Q: When considering rewards, do people prefer a small amount that is certain (e.g., 2000UGX) or the option to win a lot (e.g., a lottery)?   

A: Most participants said they want it early, even if it’s small.  A respondent clarified: “Let it be 200UGX, let it be 2-what, but let it be for sure!”  [Note: 200UGX is about 8 cents USD.]

Posted on January 11, 2012

[Product feature testing, take 1]:

Q: Do people prefer cash or in-kind rewards or incentives?   

A: Turns out everyone wants cash, even if it’s a small amount.  As one man said: “When you have money you can buy sugar – but when you have sugar…” it’s not the same!

Posted on December 05, 2011

Richard Mwami, Head of Public Access and Mobile Money at MTN Uganda; Toru Mino, Consultant, Technology Program at CGAP; and Stephen Rasmussen, Technology Program Manager at CGAP, go to work during our first idea brainstorming session:

Lisa Kienzle, Ops & Strategy Manager for the Incubator, explaining some of her ideas: 


Posted on December 02, 2011

AppLab Money Incubator and Toru Mino of CGAP visited SAGE (Social Assistance Grants for Empowerment) recipients in Fort Portal.  SAGE recipients are individuals in Uganda identified as either vulnerable or elderly, and they receive a distribution of 23,000UGX each month to an MTN electronic wallet they access through a SIM-enabled ID card.  A few findings from the discussions with vulnerable recipients:

-For many, this is the first time they have received regular cash income

-7 out of 35 in a group owned a mobile phone

-Many started forming a savings group after receiving the money so they could each have an opportunity to receive a "lump-sum" payout periodically vs. small amounts consistently

-Many here preferred credit to savings - preferred a loan now to pay back over time with interest to the idea of saving up slowly to reach a goal  

-Trust was built very quickly in the SAGE system - by the third transfer, recipients felt money was safer in the system (i.e., on the e-wallet) than stored at home

What could this mean for MM product development for SAGE recipients? 

Posted on November 18, 2011

After our workshop to define the criteria we'll use, we codified our innovation process and the approach to filtering ideas that we will take at each step: 


Posted on November 01, 2011

Gabe White, our design consultant from Small Surfaces, helping us identify the criteria we'll use to identify the top ideas coming out of this process: