According to Elizabeth Galpin, an MFI services partner that I’m proud to work with, Prince Charles visited what we call the slums of Dharavi and was impressed by the financial systems in use there, amidst the primordial ooze of the economic overhaul that Liz hints at in her blog at www.paygsolutions.com, an overhaul that I’m sure is occurring as we speak, where young men and women of Dharavi and other places like it, with the support of their friends and family, are using their scarce time when they’re not working as bellmen at the hotels that we stay in, and using unreliable and expensive electricity on computers that they’ve scrimped and saved to buy and rent and consign and borrow and trade and hide, to learn and develop mobile financial system API’s that are just now coming available, that allow them to tailor their savings and spending to the needs of the throngs in their communities, the communities that we’ve chosen to call slums.
It just took me less than a minute to sign up and become part of PayPal’s Developer’s Network in their “Sand Box” that I’m sure is more of a carefully crafted, “Walled Garden”, but nonetheless, I am able here in Boulder, Colorado to provide tailored, financial platform plug-ins in partnership with one of the world’s biggest non-cash institutions, one where, as the old (American) saying goes, “We ain’t seen nothin’ yet”.
I had the good fortune of visiting Mumbai as a member of the Urban Land Institute where my son Isaac (having saved his pennies from a good summer construction job right out of high school) and I got to hear first-hand from a very professional tour-guide about raising a son and daughter in Dharavi and putting them through college! Her tales of the overlords of water, safety and electricity were amazing, particularly because of the candor and matter-of-fact delivery of her stories, highlighting many of the things that we take for granted just as we do, taking them for how life is there, and how she coped with her life, keeping electricity to her refrigerator and television.
My visit was in 2007; I’m sure this resourceful ladies’ children are now at least using the system that the Prince of Wales witnessed, and my hope is that they’re also part of overhauling our financial system for the benefit of their greater friend and family community, certainly including their mother, and whose numbers I’m sure are in the millions.
The same is true in the financial education realm, highlighted recently with the announcement of MITx, where the incredible brain power of this great institution is becoming available in ways that will have an impact that we can only imagine; same with the likes of the Khan Academy.
While we were in Mumbai I also met a wonderful, bright young man about Isaac’s age, who was a bellman in the Taj Mahal who stopped in to the business center to ask if I needed help getting my email. Although he didn’t mention where he lived, I can certainly imagine that he too lived in Dharavi, and that he was probably very good at getting away during his breaks to log-in and use the computers that I was simply checking my email on.
Just think of the computing prowess that these young men and women have now, five years later!
My question is “How can we participate in the revolutionary financial overhaul that is occurring as we speak?”, in this world that’s becoming technologically democratized, where feature phones, smartphones and tablets are the personal computers of the 70’s on quantum leap evolutionary steroids, delivered one customer at a time to billions, in a matter of the next three to five years!