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Data: engendering a world without poverty

“What would we do without data?” journalist Susana Roza asked at the opening session of Oracle Day, an annual event that took place in Madrid this year. More than 1,200 participants came together to talk about the future of technology. A question, if turned on its head, has an easy answer: “What can we do with data?” The possibilities are endless, as the more than 30 participating organizations — of which BBVA Microfinance Foundation (BBVAMF) was one — were able to confirm.

“It is difficult to collect data from the people we serve, because they are vulnerable and in many cases financially excluded,” BBVAMF’s Head of Technology and Data, João Costa, explained. “Which is why,” he continued, “our model of relationship banking is so important: until we go to their homes or businesses, we don’t know what they’re like.” This process is now more efficient thanks to technology in the form of a mobile application that improves the service provided during loan officers’ customer visits and is even available when there is no Internet connection.

“We upload the data we get to the cloud so we can design solutions that are tailored to the needs of the more than two million entrepreneurs we serve across the five countries where the foundation operates in Latin America,” Costa explained. “The success of the initiative depends on a robust and flexible database.” He concluded that data quality “is essential to really be able to help people.”

“Data quality is essential to really be able to help people”

The foundation’s Head of Technology and Data talked at the Oracle event about the specific data that contributes to the development of the microfinance sector and is outlined in the BBVAMF Social Performance Report: “Data on how our entrepreneurs progress over the course of the years lets us really verify if we are helping them, and we have been able to verify that, with our support, their level of well-being rises and their lives are improved.”

The role of technology in sustainable development

The role of technology is fundamental in ending poverty. In fact, one of the targets for the United Nations’ first sustainable development goal (SDG), which specifically refers to the role of microfinance, stresses the importance of access to new, “appropriate” technology in order to make the anticipated progress. Thus, the foundation, with its commitment to vulnerable people, is betting on innovative technologies to advance its mission: to support low-income entrepreneurs. It does so not only in day-to-day processes and data management, but also by providing its clients with a mobile banking application that allows them to check their bank account status and control their credit installments by using a “chatbot” system.

“Our goal is to improve the customer experience, so that it is easy and intuitive, opening a door to new business models that will benefit our customers: facilitating access to markets so their sales can grow and increasing their ability to negotiate with suppliers,” BBVAFM’s Head of Technology and Data points out.

The widespread sentiment in this event made it clear that “we are the precursors of a new age,” — the age of data. A journey that started relatively recently and promises as much potential as we could hope: the power of data is within everyone’s grasp and brings us closer, bit by bit, to a more just, more sustainable, more equitable world.

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