The UN Capital Development Fund (UNCDF) launched the “Digital Finance for Sustainable Development Goals” challenge in August 2019 through its Financial Innovation Lab (FinLab) initiative. The challenge sought to find digital finance products that impact the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and showcase them on a global platform during the 74th UN general Assembly.
Through this initiative, seven companies from Malaysia, India and Indonesia were selected to present their innovative solutions at the “Good Servant, Poor Master: Capturing the Promise and Managing the Risk of Financial Technology for a Sustainable World” summit in New York on 27 September. Organized by the UN Secretary-General’s Task Force on Digital Financing of the Sustainable Development Goals, the event provided a forum for policy thought-leaders and technology experts to discuss the role of financial technology in achieving the SDGs.
UNCDF strives to make public and private finance work for the poor. The Financial Innovation Lab (FinLab) is an initiative of UNCDF that believes inclusive digital financial services have the power to transform people’s lives and contribute to the elimination of poverty worldwide (SDG 1). By sharing knowledge and providing resources to develop impactful solutions, the various FinLab programs aim to increase the accessibility of digital financial services for low- and moderate-income (LMI) people in Africa, Asia and the Pacific. The UNCDF FinLabs support the efforts of fintechs, start-ups and other organizations that care about improving the financial health of vulnerable people.
To this end, UNCDF opened a public call for applications for the “Digital Finance for Sustainable Developments Goals” challenge in Malaysia and India. The challenge was open to organizations with existing digital financial products that are addressing the SDGs in their markets. After an initial screening, teams from Malaysia and India were invited to present during a demo day in their respective countries. During the demo days, held on 21st August in India and 22nd August in Malaysia, the applicants pitched their products to a panel of judges. Along with UNCDF team members, representatives from Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) and Indian Institute for Human Settlements (IIHS) sat on the judging panel in India and representatives from Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM), Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC), and Malaysian Global Innovation and Creativity Centre (MaGIC) joined as judges in Malaysia.
UNCDF also nominated organizations in Malaysia, Indonesia and Nepal that were FinLab winning applicants from earlier editions in those countries. These nominated applicants presented their products at a Demo Day on 28th August, judged by Tillman Bruett, Secretariat Director of the UNSG Digital Financing Task Force, and Sabine Mensah from UNCDF. The highest scored applicants from all Demo Days were selected and invited to pitch and network in New York at a series of events.
The seven teams selected are: Frontier Markets, FarMart, Kaleidofin, and MOSIP (International Institute of Information Technology Bangalore) from India; GoGet and HelloGold from Malaysia; and AwanTunai from Indonesia. On 27th September, all companies presented their fintech products at the “Good Servant, Poor Master: Capturing the Promise and Managing the Risk of Financial Technology for a Sustainable World” summit in conjunction with the 74th UN General Assembly in New York.
With an audience of world leaders and industry experts in technology and finance, the summit provided a platform to explore how advances in technology can lead to better adoption and usage of financial services while also addressing the SDGs. The teams selected by UNCDF FinLab contributed to feed discussions and panels on the “Future of Money”, the “Role of Capital Markets in Financing the SDGs”, and “For better or for worse: The marriage of Finance and Technology and how it can address inequality.”
“Within the Asia and the Pacific region, there are a growing number of innovative solutions harnessing emerging technologies to improve the financial health of low- and moderate-income earners. We are pleased to support these efforts through the UNCDF FinLabs and excited to see how these initiatives are concrete examples of how technology can service the SDGs.” – Ms. April Khor, Digital Innovation Specialist, UNCDF
UNCDF plans to continue supporting this cohort of innovations under the FinLab initiative and to draw learnings from these solutions and their impact on the SDGs.
About the selected companies:
Frontier Markets is a rural distribution company that markets affordable and high-impact consumer durables (such as a solar torch and home lighting system, a solar-powered television, and solar-powered poultry farming devices) in India through a network of digitized local entrepreneurs with women at the centre of the value chain. FM uses tech, skilling and access to build economic opportunities for women and leverages e-commerce to help drive access to services in utility, products and finance.
FarMart provides small farmers across India access to reliable formal finance by leveraging mobile internet technology to offer a full range of financial services. By first assessing their credit worthiness using a simple mobile app, FarMart issues a 10-digit credit number to farmers on their mobile phones; a virtual credit card that can be used to buy various farm inputs from offline retail partner stores. Farmers can repay FarMart loans in small installments after harvesting their crops, enabling them to sell their produce when crop prices are higher in the market.
Kaleidofin is a wealth-tech platform that provides unique combinations of savings, credit and insurance products, mapped to individuals’ personas, life goals and risk capacities. The solutions are designed for small savings and take into consideration the ups and down of irregular income. The Kaleidofin algorithm suggests an estimated monthly amount and duration that a customer should save for and invests the savings on behalf of customers into a customized mix of mutual funds. Kaleidofin also helps provide a line of credit that is secured against these savings.
The Modular Open Source Identity Platform (MOSIP) is a project developed at the International Institute of Information Technology, Bangalore to be an open-source platform for building foundational identity systems. MOSIP provides the basic features to acquire an individual’s identity data, process the identity data to establish uniqueness, generate a unique identity number and authenticate an individual’s identity where required. This is the necessary gateway to providing individuals with access to services, such as healthcare, education, social security benefits, banking and financial services.
GoGet is a platform for part time help, connecting small and medium enterprises (SMEs) to verified part timers as their on-demand workforce, enabling them to scale up their operations without scaling full time costs. At the same time, lower income individuals are empowered to earn with on-demand part time jobs through a trusted and flexible solution. The platform connects the network of on demand employers, to gig workers with a layer of trust technology. The platform allows for digital payments instantly with the click of a button, ensuring informal and gig workers can get access to health insurance, savings, loans and fast cash disbursement.
HelloGold has a mobile phone app that allows customers to save in fully allocated investment grade-gold and allow deposits from as low as $0.25 cents. They offer a “SmartSaver” feature, which automatically buys gold for the customer every working day, for one calendar month at the lowest price of each working day.
AwanTunai is digitizing the downstream FMCG supply chain in Indonesia by acquiring wholesalers and providing traditional micro merchants with inventory purchase financing, digital ordering and wholesaler subsidised logistics. “AwanTempo” offers low interest inventory purchase financing by partnering with wholesalers in Indonesia’s offline FMCG supply chain to acquire valuable transaction data and use it to underwrite unbanked credit risk.
Within the Asia and the Pacific region, there are a growing number of innovative solutions harnessing emerging technologies to improve the financial health of low- and moderate-income earners. We are pleased to support these efforts through the UNCDF FinLabs and excited to see how these initiatives are concrete examples of how technology can service the SDGs.