A new study shows that savings groups that use a digital record keeping app experience greater transparency, fewer group conflicts and an increase in financial capability among individual members. The study also found evidence that highlights the need to include gender considerations in the design of savings group apps.
PCI, a Global Communities Partner, the International Center for Research on Women (ICRW) and DreamStart Labs presented findings from their pilot study in Tanzania as part of the first-ever Global Digital Development Forum in May. More than 2,600 people from 127 countries participated in the virtual event, which included over 100 sessions focused on best practices and emerging innovations in Information and Communications Technologies for Development (ICT4D).
Informal community-based savings groups, like PCI’s Women Empowered (WE) groups, are used by millions of women around the world as a reliable and trusted way to access financial services, such as a place to save their money and to take a loan when needed. PCI alone has introduced savings groups to more than 1.4 million women in 13 countries over the past 10 years.
For decades, savings groups have relied on complex paper records to track hundreds of weekly transactions – a time consuming and error-prone process. Keeping paper records requires huge investment on the part of the implementor to train and retrain bookkeepers as well as audit the books each year at the end of their savings cycle.
Digital technology provides an opportunity for savings groups to transform this standard, cumbersome process. Digital record keeping apps like DreamSave, which enable each group member to create a profile and track their group financial transactions on a single smart phone, automate record keeping, increase transparency and financial literacy, all while reducing record keeping errors and speeding up lengthy group meetings.
To better understand what it looks like for a savings group to go digital, watch this video of PCI’s WE groups in Tanzania as they talk about their experience with DreamSave.
Over the past nine months, PCI, ICRW and DreamStart Labs piloted the DreamSave mobile app with 16 groups in rural Tanzania. The pilot included testing the app with established as well as newly created groups to assess the impact of technology on group dynamics, a critical element of savings groups. Our evaluation launched in August 2019 following years of design and pilot testing of the DreamSave mobile app. Endline data was collected in early February 2020.
The study looked for the impact of the mobile app on six key domains:
- Digital Literacy
- Financial Capability
- Gender norms and roles within the group
- Time savings
- Accuracy of group financial records
- Transparency and group conflicts
Both the pilot and study were made possible with the generous support of the Vodafone Americas Foundation and the FAHU Foundation. Check back in at the end of June for the release of the full report and findings.