This past weekend, Kenyan researchers, technology professionals, and Mozilla community members descended on Nairobi to break ground on the Digital Skills Observatory project.
In Kenya, Digital Financial Services (DFS)—of which "Mobile Money" is a big part—are an essential part of society and the economy.
"I cannot imagine living our lives without M-Pesa. Even someone in a village who cannot understand anything about a phone understands about M-Pesa. So the future of DFS is important." — DSO Bootcamp Participant
With millions of people purchasing their first smartphone every year, aspirations, challenges, and learning methods are unclear with respect to DFS, smartphones, and the Internet. And, in response to this technology boom, there is lots of potential for corporate, organizational or grassroots efforts to shape Kenyan communities and marketplaces.
"A person’s life can be changed financially [and] morally. People stopped visiting their family since M-Pesa exist." — DSO Bootcamp Participant
This past weekend, Kenyan researchers, technology professionals, and Mozilla community members descended on Nairobi to unify their values and understanding about this volatile techno-socioeconomic landscape. This meeting marked the start of the Digital Skills Observatory: a community-driven research project, led by Digital Divide Data and Mozilla.
Our goal is to learn about the present and future landscape of DFS and smartphone adoption using the same research rigor that produced the Kenya Financial Diaries, bolstered by Mozilla's community support.
What are the immediate barriers to usage for first time smartphone users?
How does limited literacy impact the usage and adoption?
What education methods including pre-loaded applications, improved device on-boarding, improved user experience, training programs and outreach increase adoption?
Does improved digital literacy and smartphone adoption change expectations for financial stability?
As a group, the DSO Community is digesting the project's initial broad research questions to formulate testable hypotheses. With year-long observation of 150 first-time smartphone users in 5 locations in Kenya, we will be able to accept, reject, or amend many of these hypotheses. However, some of them will be tested through direct or indirect intervention: software, curriculum, workshops, exposure, etc., introduced formally or informally, actively or passively.
This intensive, ongoing activity offers a unique opportunity for DSO community members to learn from experienced professionals and one another, and to form a network that will be a prime example for this type of work and exploration. People in the Kenyan community are invited to be Open Researchers, a relatively uncharted territory for projects like these, whereby volunteers can contribute skills they already have while being exposed to a real-world, large-scale research project from its inception. As such, aside from sensitive data, the majority of this project is being conducted on platforms that allow for open communication and contribution (like our GitHub repo).
For the entire DSO team, this bootcamp marked the start of an entire year of research, prototyping, learning, and sharing about smartphones, community, and Digital Financial Services. Already, the team is learning from one another, and is prepared to learn much more from respondents as the project develops.
Keep an eye out for more!