Simple MFI is an open source Android application built for microfinance loan officers to help them manage more loans more easily. The application holds all of the client information that a loan officer needs and synchronizes automatically over the Internet with the database in the head office. The application runs on any Android phone, but particularly it has been designed to run well on a sub-$100 Ideos phone.
Developed by Kevin Gibbs during his sabbatical from Google, the application saves costs for MFIs as it can work completely offline, running off a database on the phone’s local storage, so that no connectivity is needed to look up a client’s balance or a group’s repayment schedule. Synchronization is controlled by the user, and can be done on a daily or hourly schedule, or can be done when the phone is on WiFi connectivity (if there is no data plan available).
“This system could help a lot of MFIs out there, and it doesn’t require changing anything about your current MIS or IT setup— just get the system set up for your organization, and your loan officers can start being more efficient”, says Kevin Gibbs.
Simple MFI is free for any microfinance institution to use. Data synchronization and uploading from the head office database is handled by Manta, a simple, JSON-based synchronization tool. It’s easy to adapt the Manta synchronization to any institution: just plug a few SQL queries into the configuration file, run it on a computer in your office, and you should be good to go. Any loan officer can then start using Simple MFI immediately.
The medium-term goal of the application is to ultimately make it possible for a loan officer to not need to record anything on paper, doing away with paper ledger books, by giving them current information on all their 300-600 clients, that’s automatically updated each morning.
The long term goal of Simple MFI is to make a loan officer’s job easier, so that they can handle an increased number of clients. The operating expenses of a microfinance institution are closely tied to the productivity and efficiency of loan officers.
Simple MFI makes it possible for a loan officer to easily handle twice the number of clients and cut operational costs significantly, reducing the operating expense ratio of the MFI.
Most microfinance loan officers today maintain everything on paper, with a handwritten ledger. Since a typical loan officer attends 40 or more group meetings a month, this paperwork and ledger maintenance really starts to add up.
Simple MFI hopes to make the routine work of loan officer’s job easier, so they can focus on what really matters: working with clients.
21 October 2011