Tim:So Ed we are here with the Mifos platform. Or the Mifos project. You have partnered with Mifos?
Ed:Yeah. Mifos it is both a community and a platform. We provide open technology platform for bringing financial services to the poor. So the core software is a Java platform with an AngularJS 110, and then all the core functionality and services needed to provide any range of financial service to a poor person. It is fully exposed to an API, so we have that platform in which anybody can build their own application for bringing financial services or financial inclusion to a poor person. Then we build an entire global community that is both developing, supporting, promoting and using our software.
Tim:You say this is for poor people, I think a lot of Americans are used to online banking, or used to____financial dealings online and electronically, so what are the differences____ what do you need for software?
Ed:Yeah, so we are in microfinancing, financial inclusion like the loans and savings accounts that we are talking about are very tiny compared to at least what we would have. With microfinance institutions, the banks actually come to the customer. As you can see in the banner here, this is typical of a meeting where the loan officer will come and meet with a group of borrowers and they will provide the payments, and provide the disbursals, and collect the repayments. So software adds a lot of value here, because they can actually take our software, run it from a mobile phone or tablet and do all that data collection in the field. And then software also helps these organizations to connect better into the digital finance services movement that is happening. In some countries like Kenya there are mobile payment platforms like M-Pesa that are taking strong hold. So customers are able to basically transact via SMS and send money back and forth so they could fully receive a loan via their feature phone just via SMS, they can make their repayments via SMS. They could send money to a relative in a faraway place via SMS. So these digital financial services provide a lot more convenience, a lot more security, a lot more flexibility. Because poor people, when they are living on perhaps the equivalent of less than $2 a day, income and money coming in is very volatile. So they need places to conveniently and frequently save their money, and digital financial services provide this ability.
Tim:This being open source, what is the reason for that? What is the significance of that____open source as a project?
Ed:So being open source and being community driven is really critical to our success, and the effectiveness of the software. So financial inclusion varies from region to region. So there are different products, there are different services, there are different regulations, there are different systems that organizations use. So, one, they needed a flexible system where they could easily extend it and customize it and localize it to their region, and they also needed a system where they could find local support. So with having an open source platform, we enable a business model where local technology companies can create their own businesses, where they are providing services implementing the software, supporting the software and providing other consulting services on top of it. So not only do we have this flexible platform that is beneficial to the end user, we create this business model and a local economy where these talented individuals don’t have to move away to a city—they can create their own business, employ local employees who are supporting these grassroots organizations that are bringing financial services to impoverished people.
Ed:Yeah. So Mifos was originally a project out of the Grameen Foundation which was a nonprofit based in DC and Seattle that was formed to promote the missions and ideals of the Grameen Bank which was founded by Muhammad Yunus. So we were founded as a project in Grameen Foundation back in 2006, and then we spun out on our own as a separate 501 C3 nonprofit in 2011. And so now we are the Mifos initiative and our sole focus is enabling our community and growing the Mifos X Platform.
Tim:How many developers take part?
Ed:So our core team itself is very small. We just have a team of two to four developers. But our actual community of volunteers and partner developers is in probably several dozens. So we have developers in India, Amsterdam, Ireland, Kenya, the US, all over the world. We try and get as many volunteers to help extend the platform to as many of these partners who are both supporting customers but also giving back features and development that they do for their customers.
Tim:____4:52banks to do ____4:54not banks. ____4:56local financial institutions. They also support the project in any way?
Ed:Yeah. So some of our larger customers who are serving even hundreds of thousands of clients, they help by providing developers, they sometimes financially sponsor the development of features. And then our smaller organizations who can’t financially build a feature or provide resources to do, they give a lot of good help in providing feedback, they test the software, they give us suggestions on what we need to improve. Because with our software, it is imperative that the technology and the functionality is appropriately designed so it actually meets the needs of those who are receiving the financial services because we can’t build a solution that isn’t effective for them, when we think ____5:41it has to really deliver on that need and be impactful for that end client.
Tim:People see this is an intriguing project and like to be part of it. How do people find the code?
Ed: So we are on GitHub, so if you just search for Mifos Apps you will find our software there. We have the code for the platform, the code for our AngularJS community app, and then you can just find us on our website at mifos.org . So we have many different ways to volunteer. So you can write code, you can translate the software, you can write the documentation, you can help to scope out features. Or you can just help in growing the community and promoting our initiative. And then you can find us on Twitter and Facebook under ____ 6:21 .
Tim:If somebody doesn’t live in places where there are specifically going to be using ____6:25microfinance, ____6:27check out ____.
Ed:Yeah, we have applications on the smart phone, or on the web. They could check it all out. You don’t have to be located in the country to volunteer. Or you could even use our software if you are looking to set up your own grassroots financial institution or credit union of sorts. So we definitelyencourage you to check out the software and test it out.