Monkiri: Financial Literacy for Youths and Young Adults in Emerging Economies

Monkiri, a financial literacy e-learning app, aims to completely bridge the gap between no comprehension of financial concepts to knowing where to find financial services in emerging economies such as the Cambodian and Burmese markets.

Developed by 23-year-old Canadian Trevor Schonewille’s company of the same name, the first edition of the app will be available in three languages: Khmer, Burmese and English.

To operate the app, users log in and select from the various lessons on consumer finance, lessons such as mobile wallet, microfinance and insurance. There will be an overview at the start of each lesson to explain its importance, then users can move onto the modules within each lesson. Each module is peppered with animations, skill-testing questions and practices to engage users.

Lesson Cat                                                                          Multi choice

Screengrabs displaying the lessons that will be taught and an example of a skill-testing question within the app. Photo Credit: Monkiri

At the end of each completed lesson, users may receive real-life incentives from local organisations to sign up for their services. Features such as streaks and notifications are also present to encourage users to complete lessons and update on new lessons and incentives, and points will be collected as a sign of their progress!

Lesson End                                                                             FSP Phone

Links to real life financial services will be provided in the app so that users can apply what they have learned after completion of a lesson. Photo credit: Monkiri

Mr Schonewille first discovered the scale of financial illiteracy at his internship at an impact investment company in Cambodia last year. “One of my jobs was to call the different microfinance banks across Southeast Asia and to ask them about delays in repayments and such, and the thing that kept coming up was that financial literacy was a big problem that a lot of these banks were facing.”

According to U.S. financial services company Standards and Poor’s (S&P) 2014 Global FinLit Survey, more than 80% of Cambodians are financially illiterate, one of the worst rates in Southeast Asia. In comparison, Myanmar has a financial illiteracy rate of 48%. As such, most Cambodians are unable to utilise financial tools such as savings accounts and insurance programmes effectively as they are unable to understand how they work and the benefits received. As a result, people from lower socio-economic classes are more likely to remain stuck due to reduced access to safer and easier financial solutions and more vulnerability to predatory financial institutions. The wealth gap between the rich and the poor will also widen as the rich are more likely to be educated in financial literacy.

To ensure that the information provided in the app is relevant and reliable, Monkiri has partnered with financial inclusion organisations such as She Investments, Aflatoun International, Good Return, ONOW Myanmar and other financial institutions to produce content that meets local user’s needs. Furthermore, Mr Schonewille says “Nothing about Monkiri right now is sacred. Everything (from lesson structure to user design and aesthetics) is subject to change and if our end-users say ‘We don’t like the way this literacy content or this feature of the app’, we’re going to change it.”

Future upgrades planned for Monkiri include being able to download lessons for offline use, customized lesson plans and SMS campaigns in Myanmar where non-smartphone users will receive the most important modules from each lesson.

Monkiri’s ultimate goal is to help increase global literacy rate by 10% in the next 10 years and beat language e-learning app Duolingo’s record of 300 million users to become the most popular e-learning app.

The app is free for users with no in-app purchases. Monkiri is currently piloting the app in Cambodia and working with the United Nations Capital Development Fund in Myanmar for the pilot there.  Around October 2019, the app will be available for public download on Android and iPhone. Internet connection is required to use the app.

To learn more about Monkiri or to join the pilot program, visit their website and Facebook page.