Papua New Guinea’s dramatic geography of highlands, islands and vast waterways population is home to around 8 million people. With significant infrastructure challenges, mobile technology has long been touted a golden opportunity for the West Pacific nation, particularly with the introduction and anticipated adoption of mobile money services, across an 81% unbanked population.
Mobile does indeed offer isolated communities the potential to access key services otherwise out of their reach – but what if these communities are not familiar with the basic functionality of a mobile phone? During research undertaken earlier this year, Connected Women found that of the women in PNG who owned a mobile phone, the majority were using them to ‘press the red button or the green button’ – in other words to make and receive calls. Bearing in mind that the large majority of mobile value added services (VAS) require some degree of technical literacy to navigate an SMS, USSD or even voice menu, this lack of skills is an obstacle to the adoption of most services. Equally, of the proportion of the population without a phone (estimated to be around 65%), low awareness of mobile functions and services contributed to low perceived value in investing in a mobile phone.
The Connected Women team soon realised that to bridge this crucial gap in the M4D ecosystem, an adaptable toolkit, informed through community engagement offered the best vehicle to improve technical literacy across the island nation.
Through an iterative design process consisting of multiple rounds of focus groups, interviews and individual technical competency testing of resource-poor women, Connected Women collected key insights on women’s wants and needs with regards to mobile and their preferences for learning. From this, a strong interest in mobile money was identified (despite very limited knowledge), and a preference to learn in a community environment, with visual and narrative aids.
These community interactions informed and refined the Mobile Skills Toolkit, which consists of two parts: a training guidebook for MNOs, NGOs and other practitioners, and visual ‘how-to’ guides and story-telling posters for end users on SMS, mobile money and mobile bill pay for women to increase consumer education and adoption around these areas.
Working with key PNG community partners – UNCDF, MiBank, UN Women and the National Capital District Commission (NCDC), women in across PNG are now being taught the key functions and value of SMS, mobile money and mobile bill pay in a training of trainers program in the marketplace. “MiBank works with grassroots women in market places to provide financial literacy training and facilitate mobile money’ said Tony Westaway, Managing Director of MiBank.
“These toolkits on mobile literacy are a terrific asset for our people to use in the field; to scale up access to financial services for the most vulnerable in our community,” he says.
In the initial push, 100 trainers have been trained in the Port Moresby markets of Gordons and Gerehu who will in turn train the over 400 vendors in these markets on making their daily vendor fees with the MiCash mobile money service. In addition to this, modified visual resources are being designed for Digicel’s Cellmoni program across PNG.
Recognising the potentially catalytic role that mobile technology is poised to play in development across the country, Martin Dihm, EU Ambassador to PNG stated that ‘the EU Delegation in PNG is happy to support the Pacific Financial Inclusion Programme which is implemented by UNDP and UNCDF. The program worked with GSMA Connected Women to produce a toolkit to educate people about possibilities of mobile phones to access mobile money and services in remote areas in PNG, including the Highlands where over 90% of the people, mostly women, are unbanked.”
In addition to the guidebook and market trainings, Connected Women has also partnered with PNG’s National Broadcasting Commission to produce three 15-minute audio segments highlighting important mobile applications such as mobile money, SMS and mobile security, each consisting of a drama, debate and lessons. Drawing heavily on the local context and in the Tok Pisin language, these vignettes will be played over the next 10 weeks, on national, provincial and youth radio – appealing to a large audience seeking knowledge on the benefits of using mobile.
The guidebook and other visual resources will be offered in English in the coming weeks as well, for use and adaption in other geographies. The toolkit is a resource designed to be continually adopted and adapted by different parties in PNG, and Connected Women’s strong network of distribution partners across PNG offer a unique opportunity to include women across PNG in the mobile revolution.