Few of our speakers have made as much of an impact on their field of work as Gigi Gatti, Regional Director Asia for Grameen Foundation USA. Ahead of her participation at Seamless Philippines we grabbed 5 minutes of her time to discuss her work and for a sneak peak into the Farmerlink programme which will be the focus of her conference presentation.
Tell us a bit about your role and what that involves on a daily basis
Together with our team, my role is to develop new ways of using technology to serve the underserved and the poor. Our mission as a foundation is to help create a world without poverty and hunger. That is a tough mission and something that cannot be done without the right partnerships. So, I look for partnerships as well so we can work with both private and public partners to deliver programs that will help move people out of poverty. My day is full of “listening” and “ideating”. We need to listen very, very well to the people we serve so my best days are really out in the field, talking to the farmers, visiting families, talking to the women micro-entrepreneurs and hearing their stories – asking them if we are on the right track or if what we are doing is right or wrong, how we can improve. I listen a lot to the team, there isn’t anyone who does not have a good opinion or a story to share. We learn a lot from each other. I ideate a lot – I run scenarios in my mind and throw it out loud to the team and they are free to shoot it down or tell me it is a stroke of genius (laughing). Either way is fine with me because we need to imagine greater things. As an IT professional, ideating also means setting aside time to learn how to fly a drone or learn about new stuff because I want to use a drone to reach rural areas that have no roads!
What is the biggest challenge that you’re currently facing and how are your team solving it?
We are still faced by the challenge of lack of data connectivity in rural areas. In our Farmerlink mobile tool, we are able to operate the tool without data on the field and allow the agriculture extension workers to synch the data once they are at a wifi or internet point. You need to address these challenges by design, not by excluding its potential usage if the infra is not there.
What one trend in your industry has your attention and why?
How blockchain technology can help us protect client data in a much secured way and how it can help us design more efficient payment solutions for the underserved. Why? Because client protection and easy/fast services are very important in financial inclusion initiatives.
How has the industry changed since you first got involved in it?
Traditional NGOs and Development practitioners need to be able to “think technology” in their work. The ability to churn out systems, applications and the declining cost of mobiles is changing the way we design development initiatives. Social enterprises, for example, can leverage on the use of technology to collapse their investments required as there are various ways to fundraise, move payments, lend, do credit scoring, do virtual partnerships and use social media to maximize reach and awareness of their products and services. Also, the tendency to build your own rather than to use someone else’s tech is no longer a wise thing to do.
Give us a sneak peek into what you’ll be presenting at Seamless
Our Farmerlink program. It is a resiliency program for smallholder coconut farmers – How we are able to increase the visibility of smallholder farmers, their practices and the power of data in the eco-system of agriculture. We also have an early warning system that is pretty cool – it triangulates data from a) on-farm, georeferenced mobile data b) satellite weather data and imagery; and c) climate, pest, and disease and other crop models to generate real-time alerts and dashboards that will be used to dispatch government or private sector technicians and early response teams. In today’s agricultural system, 500 million smallholder farming households are producing 80% of the food consumed in the developing world yet as many as 50% of these farmers are food insecure themselves. So please get excited because we need to help these farmers so we and our children will have food to eat in the future.
Why are you excited to be participating in the conference?
Seamless brings together a great mix of industry practitioners and experts from their own fields/areas of expertise. This makes it more than a Payments or IT-like conference because you learn a lot in terms of applications of technology, what works and what doesn’t. There is a lot of practical knowledge, not theoretical.
To hear from Gigi and over 70 other key industry speakers, join us at Seamless Philippines on 27th-28th September. To book your ticket click here.