The Philippines is now at a bright spot in the world economy with its bustling economic potentials, and technology now plays part in how Filipinos manage their finances. With better Internet connectivity and affordability of smartphones and tablets as communication devices, they can now conduct bank transactions using apps or sites or make money transfers and payments for business and transactions like utility bills and contributions to social security and health insurance.

But despite the modernization of banks and the proliferation of payment centers, the services are still clustered to locations with data connectivity – town centers or poblacions that are still requiring some form of transportation to reach.  

This is why international NGO Grameen Foundation, supported by J. P. Morgan launched the Community Agent Network (CAN) Program in 2015. A knowledge sharing event was held at The Bayleaf Hotel in Intramuros last April 12 which served as an avenue to present lessons learned, challenges and successes from the CAN experience.

Gigi Gatti, Grameen Foundation’s Regional Director, Asia, reported highlights from the program to an audience comprising of non-governmental organizations, civic society groups, fintech organizations, banking and finance representatives and government agencies.  

CAN laid out an infrastructure powered by the use of digital and mobile platforms carried out by agents, usually a member of the community that runs sari-sari stores in villages that are far-flung or have no direct access to commercial areas. The agents, through their stores, serve as a payment center for utilities, money remittance and top-up for mobile phone loads.

Through our partnership with technology service providers Action Able, Inc. and FSG Technology Ventures, Inc., delivery of a wide variety of financial transactions are made available and easy through these agents. It may sound simple. But in the Philippines, it takes long to do anything.  From queueing in banks and payment points, to moving from one place to the other. By having these payment points closer to their neighborhoods, end clients cut their time to do their transactions and get down to their other businesses faster,” Gatti said.

Some of the communities that implemented CAN shared their good experiences with the program, from Pasong Tamo in Quezon City, San Mateo in Rizal and Estancia, Iloilo. In San Mateo, Sheryl shared the benefits of using the POS!BLE platform by Action Able Inc.

In a video shared during the event, Sheryl, a client is seen saying: “The agent is our neighbor and friend. Initially, I only transacted for cellphone load but she told me she has more service offerings. Right now, I regularly pay my electric bills through POS!BLE,” she said on a taped interview presented during the event. “Whenever I have concerns, I have a proof of payment as a reference. I can also go back and inquire about any issues.”

Reactors to the broader financial inclusion enabling market graced the event, among them from government agencies such as Ellen Joyce L. Suficiencia, Acting Deputy Director for Inclusive Advocacy Office of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas and Pedro T. Defensor Jr., Chief of Institutional Development, Cooperative Development Authority. Also on hand to share their insights were James Indino Jr., VP for the Information Technology Group, Philcare; Liza Kienzle, Head of International Growth, Coins.PH; Martin Camahort, President and CEO of OK Remit; and Lawrence Ferrer, VP and Country Director of Paymaya Philippines.

Supplementing the CAN report by Grameen Foundation was a presentation by John Joseph Gabriel Puzon of Action Able Inc., one of CAN’s collaborators and an Ideation workshop conducted by Alex Marquez of Propellerfish.

Lauren Hendricks, Executive Vice President of Grameen Foundation, lauded the CAN’s success, with the hope that it will be replicated in other communities and countries as well.

CAN has the potential to serve more Filipinos and in many other new ways.  We hope that this work will continue and can serve as a model for rolling out agents,” she said. “Grameen Foundation remains committed to our work in empowering women and their families, and the CAN agency model is a program that we are proud of.”

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