CGAP IT Innovation Series: Personal Digital Assistants (PDA)

How successful are PDAs for microfinance?
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This note studies the case of using Personal Digital Assistants (PDAs) in MFIs to manage the MFI and client data and perform financial calculations.

The note informs that:

  • PDAs help MFIs to:
    • Standardize their credit methodology and operating policies;
    • Improve loan officer efficiency;
    • Increase data accuracy and access in the field.
  • PDAs supplement the management information system (MIS);
  • Requirements for PDAs include:
    • A stable, well-functioning MIS;
    • High-speed access to MIS data from branch offices;
    • Strong support from top management for implementation;
    • Capable MIS technical support to adapt the MIS to support PDAs.

Further, the paper informs about:

  • The benefits and costs of PDAs,
  • The use of PDAs for microfinance operations in:
    • ADOPEM - Dominican Republic;
    • Compartamos - Mexico;
    • SKS Microfinance - India;
    • BanGente - Venezuela;
    • Banco Solidario - Ecuador;
    • FinComun - Mexico.

Finally, the author opines that despite its potential to increase efficiency, PDAs are not a solution for fundamental operational problems, nor are they a substitute for staff training. The following are the points that MFIs should consider before adopting PDAs:

  • Leverage the use of PDAs as much as possible;
  • Establish a well-functioning MIS for effective results from PDAs;
  • Have stable, proven loan products to reduce modifications to the PDA software;
  • Ensure strong support from top management;
  • Carefully think through the complications arising during the development and implementation process;
  • Set quantifiable cost-benefit estimates.

About this Publication

By Waterfield, C.