For a considerable number of people, all they know about communication technology is how to make a phone call, nothing more. In contrast, there’s another set of people, significantly less than the former, who are immersed in the Internet world.
Majority of the former are not within the financial system. This begs the question of the possibility of using a voice recognition service to provide financial services.
Google and Apple both have voice-activated services which the Internet savvy are using effectively for voice searches as well as commands. This can be considered as proof that voice recognition could make an impact in the lives of the financially un-served and underserved.
Apparently, a Lagos, Nigeria-based team is exploring use cases that would take advantage of the most common means of communication – the phone – using an Automatic Speech Recognition (ASR) system.
The interesting thing about this is that the system being built has a bias for African accents, with a focus on Nigerian accents at the initial stage. This is definitely a tall order, considering that there are hundreds of languages spoken in the country.
One of the use cases that the team is looking into is a bookkeeping system targeted at small businesses. Market research has been done in that regard.
It’s as simple as dropping a voice note every time there is a sale or an expense. The voice note is converted and recorded into a cash flow record. It is believed that this will increase merchants’ chances of accessing loan facilities as lenders can get insights from their cash flow records.
This is similar to the interactive voice response (IVR) that telecommunication operators use for self-service for their customers. And there’s no need for any extra infrastructural financing in remote places as long as they already have access to basic telephone services.
Within the past few years, loan services have proven to be one of the major financial services with organisations offering collateral-free credit facilities to people and small businesses in the country. But these have been limited to people with bank accounts.
Beyond financial services, the team is also looking at the possibility of using voice service to offer other solutions like helping suppliers and distributors to take orders, among others.
Using voice recognition to bring more people into the financial system is a combination of channel and service by offering what people need using the channel they can easily access.
USSD and mobile apps have proven to be effective channels for financial services. Can we expect voice service to do even better?