Grameen Foundation Launches Mifos Initiative

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Breakthrough information management platform will change the way the microfinance industry manages technology.

By pioneering a new approach to technology, Mifos empowers microfinance, giving practitioners equal access to a system they not only benefit from, but contribute to and own.

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Grameen Foundation today announced the launch of a new initiative designed to address the significant technology challenges facing microfinance practitioners worldwide by revolutionizing the way they access and use technology to run their operations. Mifos, an open source information management platform, will be unveiled today in Halifax, Canada, at the Global Microcredit Summit with the support of the Global Markets Institute at Goldman Sachs, Omidyar Network, Cisco Systems and other global partners.

“Mifos addresses one of the most fundamental barriers to sustainable growth for the microfinance industry: limited access to affordable, flexible and scalable information technology solutions that microfinance institutions can adapt as their needs evolve,” said Alex Counts, president of Grameen Foundation. “By pioneering a new approach to technology, Mifos empowers microfinance, giving practitioners equal access to a system they not only benefit from, but contribute to and own."

A 2004 survey by the Consultative Group to Assist the Poor found that 46 percent of microfinance institutions (MFIs) around the world were still using spreadsheets or manual systems to manage their portfolio and client information, severely hindering their efficiency and capacity to scale into the hundreds of thousands. With Mifos, a single technology “backbone” that all microfinance institutions can access and adapt is now available. Its innovative open source model allows microfinance institutions to engage local IT specialists to customize Mifos and to provide ongoing support at local, affordable rates rather than being dependent on one vendor that may sit on the other side of the world.

Grameen Foundation, through this initiative, is committed to putting control of the technology in the hands of those who will use it, and beta-testing is already underway in India and Tunisia. “We looked at off-the-shelf products and even considered having someone build a customized system for us,” said Suresh Krishna, chief operating officer at Grameen Koota, a fast-growing MFI based in Bangalore, India, that serves over 70,000 clients. “But, we didn’t want to reinvent the wheel. Mifos gives us control of the development of our system and we are not at the mercy of any particular technology provider.” Grameen Koota is the first Mifos beta partner,

Omidyar Network, which is providing a $1.5 million grant to support the initiative, is one of the many key corporate and funding organizations that have thrown their support behind Mifos. "Omidyar Network is committed to advancing technologies that will benefit and transform the entire microfinance industry,” said Elizabeth Clarkson, investment manager at Omidyar Network. “Since 2004, we have supported Grameen Foundation's efforts to promote the evolution of microfinance, and are particularly pleased to support the Mifos initiative. With its open source platform and strong focus on building local IT expertise, Mifos offers the industry a strong, sustainable technology platform, which is critical for the industry if it is to evolve and expand its outreach."

The initiative has already garnered strong support within the technology and microfinance communities. Cisco Systems was an early supporter and the Global Markets Institute at Goldman Sachs has coordinated an effort to provide the expertise of a large number of Goldman Sachs technology professionals to help build Mifos. To date, Goldman Sachs people have committed over 1300 hours to this effort. "This is a truly extraordinary opportunity for Goldman Sachs people to work with a global community of IT and microfinance professionals committed to ending poverty,” said Suzanne Nora Johnson, chair of the Global Markets Institute at Goldman Sachs. “We are excited to collaborate with Grameen Foundation on the Mifos Initiative which we believe will be critical in helping the microfinance industry advance by improving loan portfolio management, customer data analytics, and access to capital markets."

The Mifos initiative is being spearheaded by the Grameen Technology Center, the Seattle-based division of Grameen Foundation that focuses on using technology solutions in the fight against global poverty. Launched in 2001, it has been a leader in driving industry-wide technology innovations that help microfinance practitioners to operate more efficiently and effectively. It is an outgrowth of the pioneering work done by Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, Professor Muhammad Yunus and Grameen Bank in Bangladesh.

About Grameen Foundation

Grameen Foundation is a global non-profit organization that combines microfinance, technology, and innovation to empower the world's poorest people to escape poverty. It has established a global network of 52 partners in 22 countries that has impacted an estimated 11 million lives in Asia, Africa, the Americas, and the Middle East. Grameen Foundation was founded by Alex Counts, who began his work in microfinance with Grameen Bank founder, and recent Nobel Peace Prize recipient, Dr. Muhammad Yunus. Dr. Yunus is a founding and current member of Grameen Foundation’s board of directors. For more information on Grameen Foundation, please visit http://www.grameenfoundation.org.

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Michelle Tennant

828.749.3200

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