Coming to the end of the year, we have many things to be thankful for at iBUILD Global. Our mission continues to be focused on providing a digital platform through which middle and low-income households in Africa can access housing finance, find vetted contractors, manage construction, and pay for supplies and services. Since incorporating last year and making the split from Builders of Hope, we have made tremendous strides in the development of our application and active piloting in preparation for our launch in Kenya.
I am especially thankful for the support we are currently receiving from Habitat for Humanity to do a pilot case study in Nairobi, Kenya. The support from Habitat for Humanity’s MicroBuild fund to do the case study is an invaluable opportunity for us to create detail documentation of our pilot user experience, refine marketing strategies, and ensure we have made the proper preparations to scale across the Kenyan market. To learn more about the MicroBuild Fund, click here.
So what are we doing?
The purpose of the pilot study is to determine how best to position iBUILD’s launch into the Kenyan market for households at the bottom of the pyramid. More specifically, the study is focusing on how iBUILD can be used to connect stakeholders across the housing value chain to enable market systems. This is directly linked to Habitat for Humanity’s “Build Assets, Unlocking Access” initiative to deliver housing support services to low-income households. We are positioning iBUILD to fill this gap in the market by making housing support services more affordable and accessible through iBUILD. Complementary to this, we are facilitating the disbursement of housing microfinance loans through the iBUILD platform to show the traceability of funds for each stage of individual home construction projects. As a consequence, our users are able to use the platform to receive quotes and hire qualified contractors to complete their work as well as receive the disbursements from their housing microfinance loans.
What is the team doing?
Meet Aggrey, Susan, Kelvin, Moses, and Rick! Led by Aggrey, they are our first Kenyan iBUILD ambassadors and the ones carrying the torch on a daily basis. It has been exciting and rewarding to watch them work with our users, complete training sessions, and watch them plan for further user recruitment. We have been able to arrange an ambitious team with a blend of experience spanning housing microfinance, architecture, construction management, construction work (e.g. masonry), IT operations, application design, and monitoring and evaluation (M&E).
The case study they are executing is broken into 4 phases: preparation, user-assisted training (UAT), monitoring, and analysis. Phase 1 (Preparation) was completed during November and was focused on training the ambassador team, preparing the data collection tools, and on-boarding our financial institution partner in the case study, Premiere Credit. Overall, phase one was a success, and the team identified a peri-urban area in Nairobi with Premiere Credit to focus on customer and contractor recruitment. Phase 2 (UAT) is in progress now and has the team conducting in-person training sessions with customers and contractors participating in the case study. Phase 3 (Monitoring) will occur during January, February, and March. During this period customers will be using their loan funds from Premiere Credit to hire and pay contractors to do construction works at their homes through the iBUILD platform. Finally, Phase 4 (analysis) will occur during April and all the information and feedback previously collected will be consolidated into a final report. This report will be used to demonstrate iBUILD’s marketability, the necessary changes that need to be made to the design, and how best to plan for large-scale deployment in Kenya.
What is the Progress to Date?
The team has a week left of UAT and they have already completed sessions with 24 customers and 15 contractors. They are well on their way to meet their target of 30 customers and 15 contractors before the end of December. Using Google forms, the team is collecting profiles on all participants with information related to their age, household size, technology use, mobile money use, construction needs, and their overall feedback. This is then being cataloged with videos of the sessions, photos of the sessions, and screen recordings of their interactions with the iBUILD platform. The team is continually distilling this information to identify common user design flaws, bugs, and suggested marketing/ customer support model feedback from the users. We have already received lots of interesting customer feedback. For example, we had a request to have iBUILD ambassadors do site validations of work completed by contractors on the iBUILD platform for a fee. Multiple users have stated they would be willing to pay 2,000-5,000 KES ($25-$50) per site inspection. We had always assumed this would not be something the customers would be willing to pay, but it seems like something we will want to consider in our business model moving forward. As we move into Phase 3 (Monitoring) in January, we are hoping to uncover many more similar insights from the active use of the iBUILD platform.
What is it like day to day for our staff?
The field is where our ambassadors live at the moment. Sessions with users (whether they are contractors or customers) are usually scheduled a few days in advance, and our ambassadors are typically meeting them either at a construction site, close to their home, in group sessions, and sometimes even our offices. The ambassadors conduct the UAT sessions in tandem with one guiding the user and the other taking notes along with photos and videos of the session. After a long day of interviews, they generally retire back to our office on Kindaruma road in Nairobi to log the sessions and catalog the data.
I have been incredibly impressed by the relationships Aggrey, Susan, Kelvin, Moses, and Rick have been able to develop with the users during the UAT phase. Every now and then I get an entertaining story from their sessions. See below for one of the stories from this week:
“I had a contractor that became so excited about the app and was looking forward to start using it. I explained to him the app is in incubation period and planned launch was January. He called me early this week and said, ‘Hey Moses. I am looking at my phone right now and have been stuck for a while looking for the IBUILD app and I want to log into my account. I have some friends of mine I want to show.’ He was disappointed when I reminded him that the app is still under development and is not yet accessible from app store till January.”
– Moses Ndegeh, Junior iBUILD Ambassador
The team of ambassadors is preparing now for the monitoring period of the case study beginning in January. We will conduct a limited release of the iBUILD app via the Google Play store in January in Kenya. From that point, our UAT users will start using iBUILD to get quotes and hire vetted contractors, monitor construction, and pay for the works completed. In addition to the UAT users, our ambassadors will be setting a goal to onboard an additional 5 customers and 5 contractors a week over the three months of the case study’s monitoring phase. Our ambassadors will be checking with all users at least once every two weeks and cataloging the feedback. At the end of this three months (end of March), we will then move into our analysis phase and the necessary activities required to expand the user base beyond the case study pilot. We are grateful for Habitat for Humanity’s support and can’t wait to see what the New Year holds for iBUILD!