Digital Savings Groups: The Impact of Gender in Digital Solutions to Boost Financial Inclusion

Project Duration

August 2019 - February 2020

Project Funder

FAHU Foundation and the Vodafone Americas Foundation

Project Countries

Tanzania, United Republic of

Project issues/theme

Economic Opportunity & Security, Financial Inclusion, Microfinance

Lead Project Partners

Project Concern International, now Global Communities (Prime award recipient) & DreamStart Labs

ICRW Project Director

Julia Arnold, with support from Emily Schaub


Digital financial services reach men and women where they live, work, and play—bringing banking services to customers and responding to the last-mile challenges of delivery of goods and services to the end of the supply chain. However, for many low-income people, particularly women, these services remain out of reach for a variety of reasons, including literacy, geography, and social norms.

Without access to these services, many of these people participate in informal savings groups, which provide critical access to financial services for millions globally. They also provide a context within which to introduce digital financial inclusion tools more widely. Digitizing savings groups—that is, introducing the use of mobile technology to provide support, access to formal accounts, or information to members—holds promise to improve members’ experience and reduce group meeting times and errors in record-keeping.


In collaboration with Project Concern International (PCI)—now Global Communities—and DreamStart Labs, ICRW worked with savings groups through PCI’s Women Empowered (WE) program. The research followed two sets of WE savings groups that used an application (app) called DreamSave from DreamStart Labs. The first set of groups were mature savings groups that had been recording transactions on paper for multiple years, then switched to DreamSave (“Paper-to-Digital”). The second set of groups learned the savings group model using the app from the beginning (“Born Digital”).

This study was conducted in the Mara region of Tanzania, an extremely rural area with high poverty, low literacy, and limited experience with mobile technology.


The DreamSave mobile app pilot ran from July 2019 through February 2020 with 13 groups in rural Tanzania. PCI reached 298 WE members from 13 WE groups in the pilot. ICRW’s evaluation included 183 individuals at baseline and 234 at endline. ICRW also conducted qualitative data collection, including seven key informant interviews with community facilitators of both paper-to-digital and born digital groups and six focus group discussions with three groups of born digital members and three of paper-to-digital members.


Learn more about this research and our findings by clicking on the publications below.