In recent years, public and private organizations are increasingly working to eradicate poverty on a road beset with obstacles that make it difficult to reach the “last mile”. The Millennium Development Goals are a step in the right direction as they have gone a long way to reducing extreme poverty in developing countries (from 47% in 1990 to 14% in 2015). But in spite of these advances, hundreds of millions of people who are the hardest to reach still live on less than $1.25 a day, according to the United Nations. Covering this final stretch that separates them from a better life is one of the great challenges of the digital age.
To promote sustainable development it is essential to generate opportunities in underprivileged communities and enable these people to build their own future and succeed in creating wealth.
The BBVA Microfinance Foundation places the customer at the center of its activity by supporting vulnerable entrepreneurs in Latin America, and it understands the importance of integrating technology with processes that are constantly reviewed in order to make them more sustainable. “We need to automate them using IT systems to make them more efficient and effective”, said Joao Costa, Technology Director at the BBVAMF during the Second International Conference of the CODESPA Foundation, which has just taken place in Madrid under the heading “A practical look at inclusive businesses”.
For microfinance institutions, the digitization of the banking sector is an opportunity to reach out to more people, but they must conserve the human relations on which they are based. “We need to mobilize advisers, agents and customers in the digital world, above all because unlike traditional banks we go to their homes”, said the head of technology at the BBVAMF. The aim is to reduce times, avoid displacements and simplify processes to improve the offer for entrepreneurs.
Innovate beyond technology
Other initiatives discussed at this meeting included the project by iDE Bangladesh, a NGO working on development in the agricultural sector by connecting vulnerable farmers with sustainable technology providers and offering them financial services to boost their productivity. “We promote quality companies at the local level, generating trust and minimizing risk”, said Conor Riggs, head of iDE Bangladesh.
We see that paradoxically in a hyper-connected world, small business people and entrepreneurs in “the last mile” continue to be disconnected from opportunities. The mission now is to bring these opportunities within their reach so they can access them in an easier and more egalitarian way as they deserve.