Mobile Services

Reaching the Bottom Billion

By Ethan Wilkes // January 29, 2013

On January 18, for the first time in over a decade, China released official figures on economic inequality.

The verdict?

Even the government is calling the wealth gap “relatively large.” Part of the problem is that China’s incredible growth story is overwhelmingly urban. City residents currently earn on average three times as much as their rural compatriots.

But an important corollary is that financial access has not kept pace with an increasingly transient population. As hundreds of millions of migrant workers flood Chinese cities in search of opportunity, they lack even the most basic means to save for their children’s education, make purchases on credit, protect their homes through insurance, and send and receive money. Financial exclusion prevents many of them from realizing their potential and improving their livelihoods

With the support of the Institute of Money, Technology, and Financial Inclusion, Reboot undertook a … Read More »


An Election System in Need of Redesign

By Jeremy Canfield // January 7, 2013

The results are in!

Since November 6, we’ve been hard at work digesting the data we received from Pollwatch. We kicked off the Pollwatch project at the PDF:Applied hackathon last year in collaboration with Websava and Common Cause NY to uncover and alleviate the challenges that voters face on election day.

With inauguration day two weeks away, we thought it was a good time to share what we learned.

The verdict? Voting is much harder than it should be.

We received hundreds of reports on Pollwatch, revealing many areas for improvement in the voting process. But one problem in particular took the cake with one third of all reports: wait times (2 hours on average among those that reported the issue and up to 5 hours in one instance).

Importantly, wait times are symptomatic of other issues, and the Pollwatch reports provided some insight into what those issues might be. For example, many reports … Read More »


Election Day in the USA: PollWatch gives voters a digital tool to report problems

By Mollie Ruskin // November 6, 2012

It’s no secret that we are pretty big fans of civic engagement over here at Reboot.  For democracy nerds like us, Election Day is a special day, one that ignites our passion for both the amplification of individual voices and the improvement of services and structures that promote good governance.  The United States voting system is, as is becoming increasingly apparent, an archaic structure rife with poorly designed user experiences.  American democracy is a far cry from a human-centered service.

Reboot has been doing our part to improve the voting experience.  Today, a tool we’ve been developing since it’s initial birth at the PDF2012 hackathon earlier this year, is getting put to good use as voters cast their ballots nationwide.  PollWatchUSA – a collaboration between Reboot, CommonCause, and Web Sava, with input from TurboVote – equips voters with the ability to … Read More »


Mobile Justice – An Argument for ‘Boring’ Solutions

By Kate Krontiris // August 29, 2011

In the past few months, I have been doing some considerable thinking about the most useful role for connection technologies in getting better justice outcomes.  I like the word “moju,” referring to “mobile justice,” mostly because I have this sense that we are on the verge of a judicial revolution the likes of mobile banking or mobile health, and “moju” gives it that kick in the pants that could really take it places.

When I think (more seriously) about how technologies can be useful, I see two main avenues: promoting access to justice andimproving the functioning of public judicial administration.  In other words, tech can help regular citizens get connected to courts — or it can help courts work more efficiently and effectively.  

Both avenues are incredibly important — and many good organizations are working to solve the access-to-justice problem.  It is worth noting, however, the great value of the second, and perhaps more boring, leverage point: judicial administration.  By this, I mean digitizing court processes, using basic tech tools (group bulk SMS, mobile calendar functions, etc) to share judicial information between court personnel, and posting court information online.  In many places, it is not yet standard practice to read the law online or to file forms electronically — often because internet penetration is low or the national technological infrastructure is not yet present to make those activities relevant or even possible.


Mobile Justice in 500 Words

By Kate Krontiris // July 13, 2011

“Mobile justice” is the idea that mobile technologies, broadly defined, can be used to extend and improve access to justice. An emerging field, mobile justice includes initiatives such as virtual courts in Kenya, live-streamed court proceedings in Massachusetts, and SMS-sharing of legal judgments in Ghana. These innovations can be launched by judicial systems, government agencies, civil society groups, or even technology companies, and almost always require the strong collaboration of all of these stakeholders.

The human rights movement in the last 50 years has done an excellent job of criminalizing those acts that plague most poor people across the globe, including extortion, human trafficking, and child labor. What is classified as a crime, however, is not always punished as such. Often, this is because the judicial systems in developing nations do not have the capacity required to enact sanctions, due to infrastructure and geographical challenges. In addition, citizens are often poorly informed of their laws and rights, court procedures, and available dispute resolution channels.


Branchless Banking Terminology

By Emma Gardner // June 28, 2011

We’ve recently featured a series of posts about our branchless banking work, including posts on branchless banking in Pakistan, better development through mobile banking, and designing financial inclusion. Recognizing that some of these concepts are not yet commonplace, we thought we’d offer our perspectives on them. This post will focus on branchless banking terminology, but we plan on offering explanations of other concepts in the Reboot domain in the next few weeks. These definitions are gleaned from our own understanding and from previous posts on Reboot Ideas. If you’re curious about a term or idea you dont see below, please comment in the space below or send us a tweet (@theReboot).

Financial Inclusion:
To anyone living in the US, it may seem like there is an overabundance of banks and financial services. In parts of New York City, banks are as ubiquitous as Starbucks. Throughout the US, credit card offers arrive in the mail almost daily. Yet, in other parts of the world (and in certain parts of the US), a large swath of the population is excluded from these financial opportunities. Many of the world’s poorest live without access to basic financial services such as savings, insurance, payment services, and basic credit….


Expanding Access to China’s Financial Transformation

By Panthea Lee // May 27, 2011

Good field research starts with a focus on training. This ensures that the entire team, including new local staff, fully grasp and support project goals. This shared understanding is critical to the ability of each team member to effectively execute his or her responsibilities. This is true everywhere, but the importance of training and buy-in increases in direct proportion to the authoritarian-ness of the local government. In contexts where asking an unbefitting question can lead to a visit from national security, or an invite for a less than pleasant ‘cup of tea’, local team members are understandably wary of missions they don’t thoroughly understand.

Our current project in China is no different. Thus, our team in China has spent much of the last week between Beijing and Hohhot training our crack local staff on project vision, goals, and the broader ‘why this stuff matters’.


Towards Inclusive, Relevant Branchless Banking in Pakistan

By Panthea Lee // May 26, 2011

A Reboot team recently returned to Pakistan, where we are supporting the efforts of a bank to expand access to basic financial services to those in need. We recently presented the project findings from our recent field study in Punjab Province to the bank’s management and staff. Some of the resulting design recommendations addressed how the bank could:

- Enhance delivery mechanisms for humanitarian relief funds and government-to-person payments.
- Graduate aid beneficiaries into viable branchless banking customers.
- Strengthen its business model through selective, strategic investments.
- Better serve marginalized market segments, defined here as rural populations, the poor, and women.

The team also led a series of interactive workshops with each of the bank’s functional areas, where staff at all levels were encouraged to test, challenge, and build upon our findings, and to develop concrete next steps towards improving their branchless banking services.


Better Development Through (m)Banking

By Panthea Lee // January 27, 2011

We’ve written previously about the potential of mobile banking to help marginalized populations overcome poverty’s debilitating effects. Elsewhere, you can find extensive data on the enormous financial potential of mobile banking. Indeed, the alignment of corporate and development interests in the sector suggests a sustainable, double bottom-line opportunity.

Through strategic cooperation, mobile operators, governments, and financial experts can each achieve their respective goals — profit for the former, improved livelihoods for the latter two — and empower the poor to securely save, better manage day-to-day risk, and seize new opportunities to improve their lives.


Mobile Money in the Land of Mao

By Panthea Lee // January 12, 2011

The birthplace of both paper money and Maoism, China has a long, complex history with capital. Known for both the novelty and the sophistication with which it has managed its resources — from shells to bronze coins to ‘socialism with Chinese characteristics’ — China recognized early on that value, once tangibly captured and fungible, holds immense power in shaping and moving society.

Today, China is poised to begin another era of financial innovation. In October 2010, state-owned China Mobile — the world’s largest mobile network operator — acquired a 20 percent stake in the Shanghai Pudong Development Bank, also government controlled. The operator is expected to launch a range of mobile financial services (MFS) nationally this year, and industry watchers predict a dramatic take-off in mobile payments in the near-term. Given that progress in mobile banking across markets is often stifled by inefficiencies between regulator, operator, and service provider, China’s integration of the three is intriguing and opens up new possibilities. In addition, with mobile penetration high (64 percent and growing) and bank card penetration relatively low, as well as accumulated experience from various recent pilots, 2011 indeed looks promising for MFS growth in China.