“If we use technology in the service of entrepreneurship and we democratize access so that it could be used as a foundation for economic integration, we can achieve a lot”, points out Argentinian economist, sociologist and author Bernardo Kliksberg. Every 10th of April, the role played by the technological sector in advancing economies and reduce poverty is enhanced, with the celebration of the World Science and Technology Day.
This is the intention which inspired the launch of the ‘Somos FE’ mobile App, developed by Fondo Esperanza, the Chilean institution of the BBVAMF. In this virtual space, communication is strengthened among 116 thousand entrepreneurs served by the MFI, enabling them to boost their networks and businesses. ‘Somos FE’ is an innovative application, similar to Facebook and other social networks, a pioneer in the country’s microfinance sector.
Barely two months have passed since its release, and already it has more than 11,000 registered users, exceeding estimated figures. Natalia Durán, Head of Networks and Community, confirms that “an important part of Fondo Esperanza’s mission is for our entrepreneurs to progress as a community.” “We wanted to innovate by leveraging mobile technology to enhance communication and networking among the MFI’s entrepreneurs, without barriers in time or space.”
Success stories of ‘entrepreneurs 2.0’
Tamara Paredes is an example of how important this App is, and she narrates her experience through her clothing business, “We can upload pictures of our businesses, as well as products to sell.” Similarly, Maria Ignacia Mondaca shares that uploading pictures of her products helped her promote her business to other entrepreneurs, “I do all the networking that I could to promote the sweets I sell. In fact, I started a promotion consisting of a 10% discount for those who would buy through Fondo Esperanza”.
The BBVAMF uses this type of digital tools to transform financial services, increasing financial inclusion and improving its quality and sustainability. Technology & Data director, Joao Costa explains that “the Foundation’s strategy is to develop and provide efficient technological solutions to reach more vulnerable people and give them opportunities that would allow them to make progress, as entrepreneurs.” Furthermore, he reminds us that “it’s necessary to prevent technological gaps and guarantee that vulnerable people could have access to technology as an important means for inclusion.”
According to the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), despite recent progress, no Latin American country has more than 5% of high-speed connection. It also adds that the gap in access to broadband is increasing between rural and urban areas and within low-income population groups.
Likewise, mobile operators’ organization GSMA estimates that for 2020, almost 250 million people will still be excluded from the digital world, most of them located in remote rural areas, belonging to lower-income segments and possibly women.
This is why in an increasingly digitalized world, as Kliksberg says, technology is essential to reduce inequalities. Tools like the ‘Somos FE’ App are useful instruments to remove barriers and facilitate the journey towards progress and development, while they also serve as catalysts for this new era of ‘entrepreneurship 2.0’.