Accenture and Grameen Foundation India launch two financial inclusion applications

05 April 2018 5 min. read
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In a bid to close the gap between digital access and digital literacy, Accenture India has partnered with Grameen Foundation India to develop two applications that will allow access to online financial services for women and other low-income segments of Indian society. The duo plans to distribute the applications to over 300 villages across Maharashtra and Odisha.

The size of India’s population combined with its economic strength make it one of the most attractive markets for investment in the world. However, a substantial majority of India’s population remains under the economic radar, residing in rural areas and engaging in agriculture, characterised by low levels of literacy and minimal connectivity with the national and international markets.

This is set to change, in light of a growing body of predictions that a majority of this rural population will be online over the next five years. Cost-effective data platforms such as the Reliance Jio network have made it possible for nearly all segments of Indian society to obtain steady digital access, and the number of online users is growing by the minute.

In such a scenario, the next step is to ensure that people in rural areas are equipped with the tools and the know-how to extract the wealth of potential that lies in digital access. Recent reports from Redseer Consulting as well as BCG and Google have revealed that the usage of digital platforms remains highly primitive across India.

Global strategy consultancy Accenture appears to be highly engaged in closing this gap, providing rural segments with both the required tools and the skills. In 2016, the firm partnered with Nepali NGO Rural Education and Development (READ) to train 150 adolescent girls in rural areas in online skills. 

Accenture and Grameen Foundation India launch two financial inclusion applications

Now, the firm has shifted its focus to developing tools, partnering with Grameen Foundation India to develop two new applications that will allow low-income segments in rural areas, particularly women, to access financial services online. The pair have been developing these tools in line with the latest technology for the last year, labeled as the Tech4Good initiative.

Founded in 1997, Grameen Foundation works with poverty-stricken segments across the world, and has been working specifically in digital literacy in the Indian context. The foundation works in tandem with banks, mobile service providers, government agencies and a host of other organisations to ensure that the spread of digital media translates to financial inclusion.  

The two applications developed under the new partnership are: Emotional Analytics for Social Enterprise (EASE), and Grameen Guru. The former is a highly advanced application that tackles a significant social issue in India; the coercion of women. The app uses audio-visual indicators to determine whether a woman is acting of her own will or under duress.

Grameen Guru, equally advanced, is a multi-lingual chatbot that, if held in close proximity to written material, can help convey its highlights to the user in the local dialect. In essence, the two apps tackle both the capability and the security aspects of online financial activity, and will be distributed by the Grameen Foundation to more than 300 villages in the states of Maharashtra and Odisha.

Commenting on the new applications, Sanjay Podder, Managing Director for Accenture Labs in India said, “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. 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.”

Prabhat Labh, CEO of Grameen Foundation India added; “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. The breakthrough use of these new technologies will enable Grameen Foundation India to work even more effectively for the economic empowerment of women.”