ACCENTURE and Grameen Foundation India have collaborated to develop two new applications that help overcome the barriers to financial services adoption among women and other low-income populations in India.
Leveraging artificial intelligence (AI) and augmented reality (AR) technologies, the applications help users better understand financial products and services, enabling them to make informed choices that positively impact their financial and social well-being. Grameen Foundation India plans to roll out the applications across 300 villages in the states of Maharashtra and Odisha.
“This is a tremendous example of how technology can help bridge the vast cultural and educational divide in places like India, having a real impact on the way people work and live,” said Sanjay Podder, managing director, Accenture Labs India. “Our collaboration with Grameen Foundation India is part of our Tech4Good initiative to apply disruptive technologies in new and unique ways to address complex social challenges.”
“Access to financial services gives women greater control over their lives, enabling them to start small businesses, invest in their local communities, and better cope with crises. But barriers – ranging from illiteracy to a lack of bank branches in rural areas, coupled with a lack of confidence and access to information – hinder adoption for millions of low-income women in India,” said Prabhat Labh, CEO, Grameen Foundation India. “The breakthrough use of these new technologies will enable Grameen Foundation India to work even more effectively for the economic empowerment of women.”
Accenture Labs in Bangalore began working with Grameen Foundation India last year as part of its broader corporate citizenship focus on using Tech4Good. Leveraging its expertise in emerging technologies – including AI, AR, speech recognition and computer vision – coupled with Grameen Foundation’s expertise in human-centric design and e-learning to solve the problems of poverty, two applications were developed:
- Emotional Analytics for Social Enterprises (EASE) – an AI-based web and mobile app that helps microfinance advisors gain real-time insights on the emotional and cognitive status of their clients, based on video and audio inputs. Helping to improve cross-cultural communication, the tool provides deeper insights on precisely what topics or key words attract attention, or cause clients to disengage. For instance, the tool could help detect whether a woman applying for a loan is being pressured to do so by someone else – making it an unnecessary burden, or whether she would find it to be of genuine use.
- Grameen Guru – a smart phone-based multi-lingual chatbot that leverages AR technology to help clients who can’t read understand written materials. Using the app, a user can hold their phone over a brochure that details available financing options, for example, and the Guru virtual assistant will pop up and prompt a conversation in the local language to explain the material. The intuitive interface and simplicity of use makes it accessible to people with a wide range of abilities and can result in better engagement.
“Our mission is to empower the poor – especially women – to end hunger and poverty by creating breakthrough solutions that leverage digital technology and our local partner networks to bring people the tools and opportunities they need to help themselves,” said Steve Hollingworth, CEO, Grameen Foundation. “Working with Accenture Labs enabled us to take advantage of cutting edge technologies to create entirely new solutions for financial education and financial inclusion.”
The new applications build on Grameen Foundation India’s successful implementation of its new e-learning platform, G-LEAP, which is being used by more than 1,000 frontline microfinance workers who have trained and equipped over 58,000 women beneficiaries to use digital financial services. These women perform digital transactions worth over a crore of rupees (Indian Rupees ten million) each month.