Environment & Urbanization

World leading environmental and urban studies journal

Best Practice for Implementing Mobile Finance in Low-Income Communities

Rebecca Martin, Richard Duncombe

Centre for Development Informatics, Global Development Institute, University of Manchester



This working paper provides suggestions for inclusive delivery of financial services through mobiles (or m-finance). M-finance rollout and research in the global South have generally not targeted people on the lowest incomes, and this paper attempts to address that gap.

To do so, the authors analysed the content of several webinars and online discussions. (The participants may not have been representative of low-income groups, but their conversations did reflect attention to those with the greatest financial needs.) Martin and Duncombe found three primary concerns in these discussions:
• lack of attention to local social norms
• insufficient financial education
• limited take-up of low-income groups

Secondary concerns, meanwhile, included:
• trust
• consumer protection
• customer service
• affordability
• effective financial agents
• weak financial infrastructure

The authors identify a gap between donor priorities and local needs when it comes to m-finance. For instance, donors may focus on programme literacy, while financial literacy is a requirement for low-income people to benefit from mobile services.

They also list specific best practices in response to the three primary concerns identified:

1) To counter the lack of attention to local social norms, donors and NGOs should improve their local knowledge and shape marketing campaigns around local preferences
2) To address insufficient financial education, donor organizations should take a multi-pronged approach to spreading information, including empowering agent networks and peer educators
3) To respond to the limited take-up of low-income groups, donors should simplify m-finance registration and encourage continued use of these services


The paper, along with discussion questions for educators, is available from:

Other papers in the University of Manchester’s Development Informatics series can be accessed at:


Further reading:

Baumann, Ted (2001), “Shack/Slum Dwellers International and banks”, Environment and Urbanization Vol 13, No 2, pages 139–143, available at http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.1177/095624780101300211.

Heeks, Richard (2012), “Why M-Pesa Outperforms Other Developing Country Mobile Money Schemes”, ICTs for Development, 24 November, available at https://ict4dblog.wordpress.com/2012/11/24/why-m-pesa-outperforms-other-....

Solo, Tova Maria (2008), “Financial exclusion in Latin America – or the social costs of not banking the urban poor”, Environment and Urbanization Vol 20, No 1, pages 47–66, available at http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.1177/0956247808089148.


Book note prepared by Christine Ro

Search the Book notes database

Our Book notes database contains details and summaries of all the publications included in Book notes since 1993 - with details on how to obtain/download.

Use the search form above, or visit the Book notes landing page for more options and latest content.

For a searchable database for papers in Environment and Urbanization, go to http://eau.sagepub.com/