Big data directly impacting the design, implementation and results of projects in Uganda

  • May 28, 2018

  • Kampala, Uganda

Digital & financial inclusion application drastically improves the design, implementation and monitoring of digital projects in Uganda.

Data, big data, data analytics. Buzz words commonly used in the digital industry. And nowadays considered to be the future resource for better efficiency, leading to more economic growth. Analyzing big data can allow for better profiling, leading to improved design and tailored-made products and services. Big data can improve companies’ internal decision making and accurately streamline processes. And big data can also help the private sector and development organizations accelerate the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.

While everyone acknowledges the great potential of data, few organizations are actually mining big data today. The news is full of what the tech giants (also called super platforms) like Google, Facebook, Alibaba, Tencent, and others, are doing with their customers data. They collect big amounts of data that they analyze through artificial intelligence and behavioral mapping to create user profiles. While these giants are ahead of the trend, other companies in particular in developing countries have limited, or no understanding on how big data could help their businesses or increase their impact. In the financial sector, banks and mobile network operators are sitting on vast amounts of data but barely use it. This data could be used to better profile clients, improve branch performance or agent networks. Entrepreneurs, start-ups and fintechs host teams of eager data scientists, but often don’t have access to the right data to develop their new ideas. In the development sector, major international organizations and governments recognize the potential of big data, but struggle to understand how exactly this data can be mined for their specific objectives.

In this context, UNCDF via its programme MM4P and with the support from the Belgian Government, initiated a project in Uganda to unlock the power of big data for development organizations. Since last year, UNCDF, in collaboration with Dalberg Data Insight (DDI), tested how ‘call data records’ (CDR) and mobile money data can guide decision making and service delivery for the most vulnerable. With DDI, UNCDF secured anonymized and aggregated data directly from MTN Uganda and Airtel Uganda on mobile phone usage as well as information on airtime credit purchases (so called top-ups) and mobile money transactions.

Four Use Cases

UNCDF developed four applications for different users with data collected from these mobile operators. Through a series of blogs UNCDF will share the learnings of these use cases. Applications were developed to analyze transport mobility for Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA), food security for Hunger Fighters and the levels of digital and financial inclusion for UNCDF MM4P programme in Uganda. In this first blog we share more on the application developed for UNCDF.

Digital and Financial Inclusion Application

The digital and financial inclusion application provides both a national view as well as separate dashboards for projects through which UNCDF MM4P aims to increase access and usage digital and of digital finance in Uganda. Each of these dashboards then reports on six different groups of indicators which are presented in different views; mobile penetration, mobile money penetration, mobile money usage, agent coverage, merchant coverage and mobile money transaction.

The objective of this application for UNCDF in Uganda is two-fold. First, our objective is to increase the amount of people using digital financial products in the country. The application helps visualize and analyze the current status and trends in usage of digital and mobile money. It helps UNCDF prioritize its interventions at country, districts and tower level, with our partners. For instance, decisions can be made on where to improve network coverage, why an agent network should be developed in a certain value chain, when and where customer activation or customer education should take place and which new services hold the greatest potential.

Secondly, UNCDF is supporting the private sector (such as MTN, Airtel, Mukwano, Agroways, McLeodRussel and Kyagalanyi) to test the viability and business case of digital innovations. The dashboards help track the performance and impact of specific projects in Uganda, mainly on the bulk payment pilots in agro-value chains and for refugees.

Quick access to data is a game changer

In all its projects, UNCDF requests data quarterly from its partners (in excel, word or email) to track progress. And UNCDF relies on market studies such as the FinScope to track the development of financial inclusion. Providing the right and accurate data can be challenging, causing for delays in measuring the impact of projects.

With this application, UNCDF now has an online tool providing nearly real-time data, at a detailed level and with a variety of indicators. It saves both our partners and our team time spent on gathering data. The time saved allows our teams to focus on data analysis and programming to maximize impact.

What have we learned to far?

  • Iterate, iterate and iterate. It has taken 4 to 6 versions to come up with the final dashboard. The development and testing was a crucial learning process for the entire team, seeing how big data can be used for our work. The collaboration with the DDI team, who always provided rapid updates to the dashboard, facilitated this process.
  • Linking business data with development goals is a challenge. While UNCDF had access to a lot of data, one key challenge was to properly select and link the data from the mobile operators with our key development indicators.
  • The data from mobile operators was not sufficient for UNCDF to track how adult use digital finance. Other data sources were added to the dashboard to give more insight.

What next?

Now that we have piloted the digital and financial inclusion application, the next steps are to:

  • Secure long-term access to the data of Airtel and MTN. Bring other data partners on board, to broaden the scope of data.
  • One of the key priorities is to integrate data from banks into the dashboard, now that agency banking is launched.
  • Support the development of an open data platform in Uganda that will allow development partners and government to have access to data and have the necessary support to analyze this data for their development objectives.

Curious to see exactly how UNCDF uses the dashboard? Have a look at the video.

In the weeks to come we will share two more blogs on the applications developed for KCCA on transport mobility and Hunger Fighters on food security.