Mercy Corps digital solutions for basic needs

NORTHAMPTON, MA/ACCESSWIRE/November 8, 2022/Cisco Systems Inc.

Cisco Systems Inc., Tuesday, November 8, 2022 Image from press release

This article was previously published on the Mercy Corps Technology for Development blog. In 2017, Cisco embarked on a 5-year, $10 million partnership with Mercy Corps, known as Technology for Impact. Our goal was to help Mercy Corps apply its expertise to deliver humanitarian relief sooner, more efficiently, and to more people.

Who was supported by BNW – in numbers:

250 households redeemed the equivalent of 360,000 UGX (approximately $97) every 30 days for primary devices at participating providers

The average supported household had 5 members

There were 1,315 program members (722 female, 593 male)

80% of members' essential bags have been exchanged for meals, about 20% remain to be exchanged for mobile money to cover other expenses

help households cope

Household prices often far exceed what household members can earn monthly. Securing food, housing, transportation, utilities and other payments has proven more difficult as prices for products similar to firewood continue to rise. For Robert, a participant, overcoming poverty starts with feeling empowered:

“Before we were supported by this system, our family scenario was not good. But now it's much better. We have enough meals to clean up and now I really have the strength to get up and walk because I feel so much stronger."

Food security also came in handy for the matriarch of another household. She remarked of our staff, "We don't run out of food anymore and we always feel like someone is taking care of all our problems." Kahindo, another program participant, is famous for giving his whole family an extra BNW meal granted:

"Before this system, we had a light meal before dinner (porridge), but now we can have two full meals." Despite the success of the program in improving food security, individuals encountered challenges affecting understanding of prices, to have the ability to optimize cash support in the provision of support.

Lessons for the future of BNW

For increased usage and adoption, individuals need additional freedom in using BNW. Some members noted that the locations of stores and vendors accepting BNW were not always close to their families. In some situations, participants traveled longer distances to redeem their digital bags, only to find that the store was closed or the salesperson was away all day, leaving them without vital resources.

Participants are also aware that trading windows need to be longer to ensure users have enough time to trade the wallet. Similarly, the option to cash out remaining balances up to UGX 150,000 ($40.50) to cover various expenses such as rent, utilities or medical bills was a benefit to households, but could generally take longer than expected because some members were unreachable. phone because they had both changed numbers or submitted a family member or friend's phone number for use in mobile money transfers.

The given list of basic needs did not always correspond exactly to the exact needs of a family. Many members expressed the need for additional options, ranging from culturally appropriate food for refugee families to water pumps for households struggling to access certain goods at home. Additionally, the rising value of things has made digital redemptions a much less attractive choice than traditional cash. One family has found that using money helps negotiate energy. With an e-voucher, there is no way to negotiate the value.

These observations and insights highlight a fundamental issue that matters to individuals: increased agency enables households to make the most effective decisions to urgently address their unique situations. These improvements in flexibility should continue to help households better cope with shocks affecting their finances and their general feeling of stability.


With the proliferation and accessibility of MoMo, it currently remains the most attractive option for individuals via BNW. Likewise, conventional currency is still preferable because it allows additional freedom to buy from a vendor of one's choice, increases bargaining power in transactions, and gives more power to decide what to spend money on based on most urgent needs.

Overall, BNW achieved a 56% reduction in the time spent initiating and completing the money transfer to participants. This reduction in time fulfills one of many key program objectives and portends a bright future for innovative digital options to ensure that humanitarian and development programs can reach those in need with deliberate speed and efficiency.

The Technology for Development (T4D) group supported the Mercy Corps Uganda team in carrying out this pilot project by partnering with Cisco on a 5-year program designed to leverage expertise to provide support and development assistance faster, more efficiently and better to deliver people.

Learn more about Cisco's partnership with Mercy Corps

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Contact information: Spokesperson: Cisco Systems Inc. Website: Email: [email protected]

SOURCE: Cisco Systems Inc.

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