Mistakes happen.

Agents are human, and while many make transactions happen quickly, they make mistakes like everyone else. We saw an opportunity to include simple cues and reminders in the user interface to guide agents to protect themselves and prevent errors in the transaction.

  • “I once accidentally gave away all the cash before checking the amount if the funds are available”

  • “Whether customers are good or bad, you have no choice but to help them because you don’t know ahead of time.”

In some of our initial concepts, part of the transaction, such as inputting a PIN, was performed by customers on the agent's smartphone. This idea failed! Even though 74% of customers hand over agents their phones, agents were much more protective of their devices.

  • "I wouldn't hand over my smartphone to customers. What if they run away with it?!". —Janet

Fear is lack of information.

When it comes to trust, agents feel that their hands were tied: They worry about being victims of fraud, but also about reassuring customers they won't be a source of fraud.

  • “The books are a protection against fraud, but they are time consuming.” —Francis

  • “Today we calculate the float/cash balance at the end of the day, so we will only catch a fraud or error when it's already too late.” —Becky

We heard from many agents that they invest a lot of time balancing their books at the end of the day. It can often take an hour, sometimes two. But they don’t have much visibility into what’s happening in real time. Mistakes are bound to happen, and often then just don’t catch them in time.

  • “Today we calculate the float/cash balance at the end of the day, so we will only catch a fraud or error when it's already too late.” —Becky

Agents Need Help Too

We ran an experiment allowing a select group of agents to interact with an Airtel Customer Service Exec and ask any questions they’ve had about doing their job.

We learned that current communication channels available to agents aren’t as responsive to the agent as MNOs think they are. Agents are worried about losing business because they have to stay on the phone solving problems.

Though text-based interfaces exist, people prefer to resolve problems by talking to each other. We see this an opportunity to make a conversational UI that’s more approachable, human, and warm, and takes the pressure off the user to type a lot.

  • “I wish I had somewhere to report fraud.” —Francis

Rewarding Loyalty

We heard that many agents find ways of appreciating their loyal customers. This sometimes comes in the form of promotions or giveaways and sometimes it’s as simple as memorizing their phone numbers or pins to make transactions go quickly for their favorite customers. We also heard feedback from agents that customer book could serve as a security feature by giving agents information that could identify or flag a customer.

  • “I run promotions and giveaways for my customers to get them excited to come back to the store.” —Francis

  • “I have a book of numbers for my most loyal customers.” —Becky

  • “If a new customer comes for a big transaction, and I feel like I can't trust them, I sometimes say I don't have float and send them away.” —Doreen, focus group

Creating a Win-Win

A pain point for agents is having enough float or cash to complete a transaction. This is a variable throughout the day, and needs to be resolved quickly when it arises.

Agents know their neighbors and would be open exchanging with them if it meant getting more immediate access to float and cash at lower rates. In the beginning, we thought that they would do this to help their fellow agents, and wanted to understand how far agents were willing to go for their communities. But, we learned, it’s really a win-win. When one agent needs float, the other might need cash.

The Agent of Tomorrow

How might we deliver the digital experience of tomorrow that leapfrogs the problems of mobile money today?

We’re on the cusp of smartphone adoption, even for low-income customers. By 2020, smartphones will account for 70% of mobile connections in the developing world, according to the GSMA. In Uganda, we’re already seeing mobile-money agents use smartphones for customer registration and KYC.

Inspired by these shifts and freed from the limitations of USSD and feature phones, IDEO.org designed tools for the Agent of Tomorrow.

The Agent’s preferred tool will be her trusty smartphone and an Agent app that streamlines the most common mobile-money tasks, avoiding problems that can paralyze the mobile-money experience today, and helping her serve customers better while building a thriving business. And the smartphone platform will allow providers to have access to a wealth of data about the Agent’s mobile-money activities in order to offer her better information, guidance, and support as well as to optimize the entire mobile-money network around her.


Imagine if agents could transact faster with fewer errors.

Accurate, Accountable Transactions

Mistakes are costly, both for agents and for customers. We designed an experience to reduce errors, create efficiencies in the workflow, make smart suggestions based on real time information, and provide valuable feedback throughout the process.

Customer Transparency

Agents can show details of the transaction to the customer before confirming to provide clarity about fees.

Fraud Detection

A preventative alert smartly identifies numbers that are associated with fraud, which allows agents to investigate before proceeding with the transaction.

Timely Reminders

Agents are prompted at key moments in a transaction to collect or give cash to their customers to prevent fraud from both sides.

Error Detection

Alerts that make the agent aware of duplicate transactions, or transactions sent to a number multiple times.


Imagine if agents could play a role in preventing fraud in the system.

Accessible, Protected Transactions

Transaction History hosts an infinite and searchable list of an agent’s transactions. A deeper dive into each shows the status of each transaction, and provides a clear call to action to investigate the it if something goes wrong.


Imagine if agents were the conduits of transparency & accountability with MNOs.

Help Line

A direct line of communication to the MNO Service Centers that allows agents to trouble shoot problems for themselves and customers through an effortless conversational interface.


Imagine if agents were empowered to build on their good relationships.

Customer Book

Agents can capture more information and notes about each customer, pulling information from Facebook or Whatsapp, and their mobile money accounts.

Agent Float Exchange

What if agent networks had immediate access to each other as reliable sources of float and cash exchange?

Road Map

Here’s what’s ahead for this stream of work.

Minimum Viable Product

Basic transaction features that must be part of the first release.

Cash in and Cash Out

More efficient work flows that respect the mental model of how agents want to authenticate transactions, enter information and interact with customers.

Bill Pay / Deposit

Allows agents to facilitate transactions from one account to another. In addition, this workflow could discourage direct deposits by facilitating easier agent-assisted P2P transactions.

Transaction History

Brings clarity to commissions and incentive structure, help agents keep track of balances, and track transaction status in case of customers experience issues.

Fraud Detection

Smartly identifies numbers that are associated with fraud as a preventative alert.

Value-Creating Features

Advanced features that will significantly create value for agents and customers.

Split Fees

Brings transparency to fee structure and fee breakdowns, and empowers customers with more paying options.

Contacts Book

Allow agents to build relationships with recurring customers,

Game-Changing Features

Features that will fundamentally shift the way people work and use mobile money.

Float Exchange

Links agents who need float with agents who need cash, and facilitates the exchange between parties. More balanced agent lines means more availability for customers throughout the day.

Loyalty Program

Allows agents to recognize recurring customers, incentivize loyalty, and introduce new product offers based on customers' profiles.


These are key to success.


The Agent App addresses concerns experienced by all Ugandan customers and agents, agnostic of network affiliation.
Financial services as well as mobile voice and texting services have become interoperable long ago. How might we evolve mobile money to be universally usable by all customers? Interoperability has the potential to reduce adoption barriers, increase transaction volume, and market share to all network operators.

Designing Light

In order to ensure the App can run in inexpensive smartphones and operate in a constrained network infrastructure, we must design light for data, network, and hardware.

Examples of designing light for data is to cash data locally, utilize compression, optimize data fetching and pushing, and build in asynchronous requests. Designing light for the network includes wi-fi offloading, low-bandwidth rendering, and optimizing network and server interactions. Hardware-minded design includes minimizing RAM, battery and storage, and adapt for different device classes.

Zero Rating

MNOs have the ability to "whitelist" domains for free use, much like a USSD number. This enables an agent to run a completely HTTP-based Smartphone App without using data. Even traditionally cloud-based features, such as maps, could be served from a whitelisted domain. Alternatively, the app could “wrap” certain parts of a USSD menu, automatically dialing menu options in the background.

Data Privacy

Some of our features are based on information exchange between agents and other agents, as well as agents and customers. Users must be guided at every step to understand and feel comfortable about the implications of sharing personal information. Also, privacy policy must be reinforced to protect users in case violations occur.

Keep Exploring.