The Road to Financial Independence

Villagers on Talim Island in the Philippines finally have a faster, convenient way to make important financial transactions.

Legend has it that a visit to Talim Island in the Philippines brings good luck.

A few weeks ago, Grameen Foundation staff and 370 families crowded into covered basketball courts to discuss how digital technology could transform life for island residents.

Talim Island sits in the middle of the Philippines’ largest lake and is home to just over 39,000 people, who rely on bamboo craft and fishing for a living. Its relative isolation forces them to travel 45 to 60 minute by boat to the nearest town just to pay bills. We held two meetings with families as part of a series of outreach events designed to introduce our Community Agent Network program and demonstrate how it could ease islanders' financial burdens by allowing them to pay bills right on the island.

The Community Agent Network program trains owners of sari-sari shops (neighborhood variety stores) to serve as financial service agents in underserved barangays (neighborhoods). The sari-sari operators use digital technology systems to help customers make money transfers and digital deposits, pay bills, and purchase airtime. Equally important, the digital system works with multiple mobile networks and financial institutions. We plan to train at least 600 sari-sari owners and reach 66,000 customers across several islands by the end of this year.

These community agents also provide an additional layer of financial independence, especially in areas like Talim Island. We partnered with long-time microfinance partner Ahon Sa Hirapm Inc. (ASHI) to host the outreach events. The program gives ASHI clients and others important new digital and financial literacy skills, while helping to connect them more seamlessly to the mainland.