Friday, November 27, 2009

Open Source, SaaS to drive future of microfinance IT: Grameen Technology Center

Open Source software and SaaS are emerging as the key Management Information Systems (MIS) software for MFIs, according to Craig Chelius from the Grameen Technology Center (GTC). These products, he argues, can offer MFIs fully customisable, secure software that they can own without the need to pay expensive licensing fee.

Mr. Chelius is the Global Sales Advisor for MIFOS — an open source, web-based “SaaS” system developed by GTC which MFIs can download and modify for free. Work on MIFOS began in 2006, and GTC has worked Grameen Koota in Bangalore, India, since 2007 to develop and implement the software. MIFOS is now used by 20 MFIs in India, Nepal, the Philippines, Kenya, Senegal, Tunisia and Ghana.

MIS are the systems MFIs use to record and track financial information. It is here that loan officers record money given to clients for loans services as well as cash received from repayments. This information is then available to management and the back office for accounting and compliance purposes. As an essential part of MFI operations, MIS is an important factor to the operational efficiency of MFIs.

According to the Grameen Technology Center, the lack of flexible and cost-effective MIS infrastructure is limiting the ability of MFIs to grow. MIX/CGAP study on MIS in microfinance found that 41% of MFIs use a manual MIS — either Excel-spreadsheets or paper-based systems to track payments. These methods are time-consuming and vulnerable to data loss, limiting the ability of MFIs to grow their client base.

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Sunday, November 15, 2009

Open source software needs marketing

PUNE: There is a need for greater promotion of the use of open source software for information and communication technology (ICT)-based teaching and learning.

Professor Kannan M Moudgalya of the Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay (IIT-B), highlighted this on Monday. Moudgalya, who heads the Centre for Distance Engineering Education Programme (CDEEP) at the IIT, was delivering the keynote address at the launch of kPoint, a software solution for interactive learning and training.

kPoint, developed by city-based Great Software Laboratory (GSL), was launched by noted computer expert Vijay Bhatkar, creator of India's Param series of supercomputers. Heads and professionals from leading IT companies as well as principals of engineering institutions were present at the occasion. Open source software refers to computer software provided under a license that is in the public domain.

"Open source software has a distinct cost advantage over the expensive commercial software packages. However, a considerable marketing effort is required to secure a greater and wider audience of students for courses transmitted live using ICT tools based on open source software," Moudgalya said.

"Open source software is often sufficient in most distance education programmes, except for some niche academic segments. However, academic institutions don't train students in using good open source software," he further stated.