The traditional financial system excludes many users worldwide – depending on your location, or your financial status, you may not be able to open a bank account. But what if you could turn a cell phone into a bank account? With over 5 billion cell-phone owners worldwide, mobile banking has massive potential.
That’s where Fonbnk comes in. Fonbnk is an emerging provider of blockchain-based mobile money solutions that turn any prepaid mobile SIM card into a bank account.
With Fonbnk, you can buy and send mobile data to anyone anywhere in the world instantly, and they can use that mobile data as cash; think Venmo for mobile data.
Fonbnk currently resells mobile access from 600 carriers in about 200 countries representing ~4.5Billion people, and is continuing to expand.
As Fonbnk grows, they came to the LabStorm for advice on how to best collaborate with the social sector to deliver mobile data to those who need it most. The Fonbnk platform has great humanitarian applications, especially during disasters, because it allows people to donate mobile data to recipients across the world with no delays or fees. Fonbnk has already connected with actors in the humanitarian space, including a Medical Aid NGO in Malawi and Malaria Prevention organization in Ghana. As they continue to expand their social good work, they turned to the LabStorm for advice on which representatives to engage with in the NGO community, and how to build feedback loops into the Fonbnk model. Here’s what attendees had to say.
- Fonbnk has immense value for NGOs. It is clear that having access to a free and frictionless banking services can be valuable for unbanked and vulnerable populations. But what value does Fonbnk have for organizations? From the NGO perspective, LabStorm attendees noted such a simple mobile money solution saves a lot of time and allows NGOs to focus their energy elsewhere. Another organizational benefit is increased accountability and transparency. In terms of NGO applications for mobile money, LabStorm attendees suggested that organizations could give their constituents Fonbnk access tokens to use to contact Hotline services. For example, an NGO with a crime hotline could easily distribute phone tokens to all of their constituents with the click of a button and rest assured that if crime occured, any constituent would be able to afford a phone call and report the crime.
- Organizations can use Fonbnk to collect feedback data. Fonbnk works like a chat bot – you message it to say how much you would like to donate, and to which phone number, and it responds with full sentences as if it were a personal concierge. Fonbnk users are essentially in conversation with the chatbot, and this offers a special opportunity to collect feedback. In its most basic form the Fonbnk platform to collects real time, conversational feedback from NGO constituents. With additional bells and whistles, it could also be a channel for more formal feedback, such as surveys and polls. Since the platform is easy to use and widely accessible, it assuages many of the challenges associated with feedback collection.
- Beware the unintended consequences. With any mobile application, there are data privacy risks. Fonbnk users are willingly sharing their personal data when they use the chat bot, and Fonbnk must assure that the data does not end up in the wrong hands. For Fonbnk, they key is guaranteeing users’ anonymity, while also providing granular reporting to NGO stakeholders. One way to do this is to provide data to aid organizations and entrust them to protect their participants in their time of need. Another option is to keep all Fonbnk data anonymous and encrypted, and then crunch the numbers from encrypted results.
This LabStorm reminded us of the massive potential – and inherent challenges – of techincal solutions. Chris of Fonbnk closed of the session with the best LabStorm mic drop in history, so we will leave it with you as a closing thought:
“The power of listening is part of innovation. If you don’t listen to feedback, you’re not moving forward.” – Chris Duffus, 2019
Do you have any ideas for Fonbnk as they expand into the social good space? Please leave a comment below, or send a message to [email protected].