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Unlocking Entrepreneurial Spirit in the Philippines Through Innovative Technology Solutions

By

Meldy Pelejo

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3 minute read

Jhona Joy is a mother of three and lives in the Philippines. On top of managing her busy family life, she is a dedicated member of her wider community. She is the Centre Chief of St. Elizabeth Community Development Programme (SECDEP)’s financial loan group, a village elected official, and a parent volunteer for child-friendly organisations. To support her family, Jhona also works tirelessly as a microentrepreneur, buying and selling pre-owned items.

Microentrepreneurship is a small-scale business model, common in informal economies, and a vital source of income for many low-income communities across the Asia-Pacific. Jhona is highly motivated by the dream of seeing her children attend university and sources every opportunity she can to grow her micro-business. She herself is working to finish her secondary school under the Philippine government’s Alternative Learning System (ALS). However, due to a lack of opportunities, many women micro entrepreneurs, like Jhona, have low financial literacy or money management skills. Low levels of financial literacy immediately put a brake on the capacity of micro-businesses to grow sustainably. Moreover, finding the time to attend financial training or access secure financial services remains a significant challenge for many women.

While financial literacy remains low, digital literacy is improving globally, and access to technology is on the rise. In the Philippines, it is estimated that 76% of the Filipino population are smartphone users (Statista 2023), and despite high start-up costs, mobile phone usage is rising in low-income communities (Aguero, de Silva, and Kang in Media LandScapes 2023). Globally, the role that technology can play in economically empowering women is only becoming clearer. In 2023, the theme for International Women’s Day was “DigitALL: Innovation and Technology for Gender Equality,” and the key takeaway from the UN Commission on the Status of Women was that the increased participation of women and girls in digital technology and innovation is crucial to economies around the world as well as the global transition to sustainability (UN 2023).

In this rapidly changing context there is a critical opportunity for contextualised and innovative technology solutions for determined microentrepreneurs, like Jhona, to sustainably build their businesses and streamline their processes.

An exciting example of such a solution is Good Return’s ‘My Money Tracker’ application that has been designed to assist Filipino communities keep track of their money, whether it is in cash or in an account, by providing an up-to-date summary every day. Following the success of the Cambodian My Money Tracker, the application went live in the Philippines in October 2022 and is designed for people with low financial literacy so that no user has to make any more than three clicks to upload a transaction.[1] The visual language also strives to fit the specific Filipino cultural setting with a public utility jeepney, a common mode of public transport in the Philippines, directing users through the application.

Sanjay Ramanathan, one of the key application developers explains that mobile applications offer many benefits over websites, as they can be more intuitive, personalised, and feature more animations and customised design. In places like Cambodia and Philippines, where people are using cheaper phones and are sometimes still on a 2G network, applications can be much more accessible. An application can also save data online which is very important in data-poor countries”.  In Cambodia 50,000 people have already used the application as part of their business – proof a simple piece of technology can make a big difference in the lives of so many.

Since launching the application, a check-in with Jhona, who downloaded My Money Tracker in October 2022, has already revealed she is pleased with the accessible and convenient tool. She feels more confident making financialdecisions, delineating between flows from her business or household purse, in addition to maintaining financial records.

It is high time we effectively support micro entrepreneurs across the Asia-Pacific with innovative, appropriate, and contextualised digital tools. When this happens, we can only imagine what these women will achieve.

 


[1] To contextualise the My Money Tracker application to the Philippine setting, Good Return worked with St. Elizabeth Community Development Program (SECDEP), Ahon sa Hirap, Inc., and Alalay sa Kaunlaran, Inc., microfinance institutions in the Philippines. Good Return’s My Money Tracker and CAFE Initiative are delivered in partnership with the Australian Government through the Australian NGO Cooperation Program (ANCP) and with support from the Accenture Australia Foundation.

References

A. Environmental Stewardship
To protect the environment, we organize programmes like mangrove nursery and Reforestation, Coastal and River Clean-Up, Community Based Environmental Solid Waste Management, Environmental IEC Campaign and Eco-Academy

B. Food Security and Sustainable Livelihood
To ensure a sustainable livelihood for the community, eco-tourism include Buhatan River Cruise Visitor Center Buhatan River Mangrove Boardwalk are run by the community. Others include Organic Vegetable and Root crops Farming, Vegetable and Root crops Chips and by-products Processing and establishing a Zero waste store.

C. Empowered Communities
To empower the community, we provide product and Agri-Enterprise Development Training, Immersion and Learnings Exchange Program, Earth Warrior Training and Community Based Social Entrepreneurship Training

Author

Meldy Pelejo

Learning Design Specialist at Good Return

Meldy is a financial capability development, and financial inclusion professional with experience working on social enterprises/MSMEs, and gender/women’s economic empowerment. She has expertise in using Social Return on Investment (SROI) to measure the social impact of programs on health leadership and governance. She also has years of local and international experience providing technical assistance on social performance management to microfinance institutions, cooperatives, and NGOs. As Good Return’s Design and Cross Expertise Coordinator, Meldy works across all Good Return activities to ensure high quality, compelling and impactful learning through face-to-face training or using digital tools (e-learning, apps, etc) and coordinates the work of the Cross Expertise team to ensure the deployment of strong expertise in key areas of programs/projects. Meldy holds a Master’s degree in Development Management from the Asian Institute of Management and a BA in Broadcast Communication from the University of the Philippines.

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