Every year it costs Pacific people living abroad over $100 million to update some numbers in a database. These are important numbers — they represent money being sent to the Pacific islands, money that allows children to go to school, families to buy food, and relatives to get medical treatment.

The transaction cost of these payments (also called remittances) are amongst the highest in the world. It is more important than ever that Pacific people get a fair deal given the fact that the World Bank expects these payments to decline in the wake of COVID–19 due to a fall in wages and employment of migrant workers. At Springload we know technology designed with a human centred approach improves lives. We’re exploring technology that can make sending money across the southern seas a simpler and cheaper experience.

When transactions aren't transactional

Sending money is often an emotional experience tied up in traditions around family—it’s not a soulless transactional process. The most common reasons cited for sending money are for groceries, school fees, funeral and wedding contributions, and medical expenses. These payments often need to be made with little time for planning so reliability, speed, and access to collection points are often bigger factors than cost. Given the incredible importance of these payments, trust is a crucial factor. Rather than viewed as a hassle, the need to visit a bank branch and complete paper forms can actually contribute to a feeling of credibility in a remittance service provider.

Digital and financial confidence in the Pacific

Understanding the experience of families in the Pacific with little exposure to digital and financial services is difficult for many of us who now very rarely handle physical money and run our financial lives on the internet. The team at Springload have run a couple of workshops using The Digital Confidence Design Tools to learn about best practices for creating products for first time internet users. We learnt that adopting online banking or mobile money systems will mean some families need to learn new ways to manage their money and that for someone accustomed to a cash-based economy, not being able to physically see or feel the money may cause apprehension.

Designing for trust

Given the emotional and practical importance of these payments, any new digital transaction services must be secure, reliable, and designed for trust for both the workers here and the families in the Pacific. However, giving the same experience of credibility as visiting a bank branch is a tall order for a little window on your smartphone. Trust is not something that can be gained in a single moment, it’s something that must be built and sustained throughout the entire experience. Every detail of the design must feel human, cohesive, and secure. Given the reliance on advice from family and friends when choosing a payment provider, trust gained with one person can be trust gained with many.

What can be done?

We are ‘technology agnostic’ and believe there are many possible solutions such as online platforms, mobile money, or blockchain. If you are interested in helping us create innovative solutions for remittance payers, please get in touch

We are only just beginning this work now as part of our new Springlabs initiative (more on that later), because we see an opportunity to create an easier and fairer solution for Pacific people sending their money to their families.

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Let’s make the things that matter, better.