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Mobile Banking for Women's Association Micro-Insurance

Building on the concept of the "village phone lady" and the growth of micro-insurance in the field of micro-finance, I propose a micro-insurance program focused on maternal health. Woman can form an association and pool their savings in order to create a cooperative savings/micro insurance scheme that they can all call on collectively as need arises.

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Pregnancy always has some cost, and in the case where there are complications (ambulance, cesarian, etc) it can become even more expensive. You hear stories in some places where women are literally held in a hospital until their family can find a way to pay for their care. As Diogo pointed out, insurance networks are very effective at increasing access to health care. However, insurance providers are unlikely to offer micro-insurance products in low income or very rural areas in the way that micro-finance institutions have offered loans because of the scale and profitability limitations given the challenges in aggregating a large enough consumer base. Typically, an insurance company invests its customers' premiums in order to generate a profit, which is not possible with small amounts of money combined with a widely distributed consumer base. As such, what is needed is an insurance solution that doesn't rely on hospitals, traditional private sector insurance companies, MFIs, or international NGOs.

Mobile banking might offer such a solution. It would be dangerous in many low income areas for women to physically pool their money over time as it increases the risk of theft and domestic violence. However, with the rise of mobile banking a single cell phone could enable a group of women to pool their resources and share the financial risk of pregnancy and birth. Each member of the group could pay in to the group's fund on a regular basis, and members could then withdraw funds as needed for maternal health costs.

This association would also create a de-facto support network and would provide a platform for knowledge sharing about pre- and post-natal care and other issues critical to promoting maternal and child health. Inviting women to join at a young age will enable the group to grow its savings and helps younger women learn from the experience of the group before they become pregnant (this might actually lead to lower birth rates).

What is the minimum level of mobile technology needed for this concept?

The mobile technology required would be very simple, but the infrastructure for mobile banking is not available everywhere yet. Mobile banking is one of the huge entrepreneurial opportunities in the developing world, and as such, I expect to see its availability grow rapidly. A cellular network is required, but not a data network.

How could this work in a low-literacy context?

From a social mapping exercise one would expect to find that most communities already have a few established influencers when it comes to women's health. The overlap of those influencers and cell phone owners are the targeted leaders for this enterprise. Only basic financial literacy would be required, as as the collective has a generational aspect it would be passed down.

Which partners could help realise and deliver this solution?

  • Nokia
  • Other - Feel free to elaborate in your description of the concept


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Photo of Radhika Mehta Tandon

M-PESA is an innovative mobile transfer solution that enables customers to transfer money -

Thought it would be worth checking out in relation to this concept.

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