Safaricom Introduces “Innovative” M-Pesa Services for the Visually Impaired

Joseph Ogutu - Safaricom
Joseph Ogutu (Director – Strategy, Safaricom(now former)) walks with a member of Kenya Union of the Blind

Safaricom has this morning announced the coming to life of M-Pesa IVR (Interactive Voice Response) Solution that is aimed at the visually impaired. Safaricom’s “innovation” is aimed at driving financial inclusion further. The service will allow Safaricom customers to access their M-Pesa services by dialing 234 from their phones and interacting with the system.

As exciting as this sounds, currently the service is only available for querying your M-Pesa balance but Mother Green says they will be gradually adding other M-Pesa services on this platform.

The biggest challenge that the visually impaired face is fraud when they have to share their M-Pesa PINs every time they transact. M-Pesa IVR solution aims to solve this problem. Here’s how the service works; After dialing 234, one will be required to select option 1 which is M-Pesa Services then select option 5 for the M-Pesa balance. The system will then require you to input your M-Pesa PIN in order for it to read your balance to you – All that requires one to interact with the system visually unless one is using a feature phone and they can then probably dial using the physical keypad without being able to see it.

So we got clarification from Safaricom that the visually impaired already know how to input their PIN without seeing their phones, the challenge was, they didn’t know when to input the PIN since they didn’t know the M-Pesa sequence and that’s where IVR comes in – to dictate the sequence to them.

Safaricom says, “Previously, visually impaired customers transacting on the service have had to depend on the assistance of other persons to make transactions. This has exposed them to the risk of being defrauded in the process and also meant that they sometimes have to reveal their M-PESA PINs to other people.”

The problem M-Pesa IVR solves is that one will be able to confirm their M-Pesa balance before and after transacting, which is good but it leaves a lot to be desired. I cannot help but wonder what Safaricom would do if they went all in and implemented Voice Recognition into M-Pesa IVR. Their heart is in the right place but the current implementation of M-Pesa IVR Solution is wanting.


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