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Including people with limited literacy in digital financial services

By Opportunity International

Opportunity International recently hosted the first in a series of roundtable events. We brought together user experience experts from technology companies and business and venture capitalists, for different perspectives on digital financial inclusion. With an estimated 2 out of 3 Opportunity clients having challenges with literacy, this roundtable comes at a key moment. As our services and outreach become increasingly digital, we want to tap into attendees’ breadth and depth of experience to gain additional insights to enable financially excluded populations to participate and have a positive digital user experience.

Guest speakers included Maneesha Nanda, Senior UX (user experience) Writer at Google and Kwaku Acheampong, Head of Financial Inclusion and Enterprise Development at Sinapi Aba Savings and Loans. One of the largest Savings and Loans Companies in Ghana with a core mandate to transform lives at the bottom of the pyramid through microfinance. Across the range of businesses and sectors represented at the event, a fascinating consensus emerged among participants. These included the importance of understanding key barriers faced by customers, putting the customer at the centre of any design process, and building trust of digital solutions both within organisations and with customers.

For information on the next roundtable event, and how you can attend, keep reading...

We spoke with India-based user experience expert Gaurav Lal to delve a little deeper into these issues:  

Opportunity: Why you are interested in the user experience for low literacy persons?

GL: User experience is not just a skill but an attitude. I have worked across the world with the endeavour to enable humans to make 'informed' decisions or help complete their task with 'ease'.

Service design has been of great interest to me. For example, when paying an electricity bill people used to stand in long queues for frustrating hours. Now, with the help of technology, one can pay the bill from their home. Enabling this entire process to create ‘ease’ is service design.

Many poor or illiterate people are still unaware of this technology or ‘ease’. 

To create a robust economy, connecting people on digital platforms is very important.  Empowering them with financial inclusion, giving them ability to save and protect their hard earned money, finding a location in a new city or opening up markets for the farmer etc are opportunities to create an inclusive nation.

Opportunity: In our recent roundtable discussion, the importance of trust was a recurring theme. What are the best ways to improve trust (in digital services delivery)?

GL: There are many ways... 

  • Storytelling is a great way to share the benefits. When I helped my housekeeper to open a bank account, she was fearful. But now she is very happy, she can see the money growing in her account.
  • Don’t create long task flows.
  • Create forms which are not error prone.
  • Give assurance across multiple channels for example using SMS, apps, WhatsApp etc.
  • Design applications that can be downgraded with grace – for example if 3G network is not available, then SMS can be used.
  • Define simple goals: for example, create an app that can help customers open an account quickly and see the account balance. This gives customers great pleasure to see their money grow. Give customers the ability to send money. In India, with the use of Aadhar Card, accounts can be opened with 5-10 minutes and account balances can be seen by sending a SMS or by using an app. In addition, Paytm ‘pay through mobile’ India's largest mobile payments and commerce platform, helps people to transfer their money. Many low income groups in India are taking advantage of these design solutions.

Opportunity: Human-centred design was discussed at the roundtable event, that is, the creative process that directly engages with users to develop innovative solutions tailored to their needs. How do you recommend we involve end-users in the design and development process?

GL: Humans have been able to help other humans only by understanding the problem. This is the only way to build products that people enjoy. During the discovery phase it’s important to understand the problem by talking to customers, business, technology and marketing teams. Define the personas, develop the customer journey map, their goals, the product strategy, the GTM [go-to-market] strategy etc. Develop the design concepts and always go back and validate it with the stakeholders. It’s crucial to iterate and build: a robust feedback loop is important to improve the product further.

Opportunity: From your experience, what one piece of advice would you like to share?

GL: Many products are built in isolation and hence they fail. Create design which makes someone’s life better. Create a simplistic mind-set: as humans we are programmed to complicate things, but it takes an extra effort to create simplicity!

Gaurav Lal is the Senior Vice President and Global Head for Product Design with RateGain, which help the travel industry maximise revenue with next-gen solutions. In his more than 20 years' of experience in this field, Gaurav has had extensive global experience across India, South Africa, USA, UK and Hong Kong, including with Fidelity International and Accenture focusing on User Experience, Digital, Customer Experience, Product Design, Behavioural Design, Usability Testing and Design Thinking.

Our next roundtable discussion is entitled ‘Mind the Gap: Closing the Digital Gender Divide’ and will take place on Thursday 23rd June, 4pm BST. If you would like to register for this event, please contact Matthew Wenham on [email protected]

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