Lessons from the BoP 8: Assumptions of contextual knowledge questioned to lower barriers to acceptance

Quite a few people, all quite wellknown in their fields, mostly from high tech industries, have said the equivalent regarding the BoP – "just give them the technology and they'll figure everything else out, look how creative they are etc" when it comes to introducing new products and services.

And, with world class researchers and user centered designers, they can create some great works of art, technologically speaking, that you couldn't argue with as being well designed for the BoP. However, there's a step further that's missing, the one after the introduction of the technology. And that is what I call the mysterious fuzzy factor ;p

Basically, we need to start from scratch when considering the basic user profile for whom to design said product or service for – not in terms of features, looks and style – more basic than that, which is what is your target audience's contextual knowledge of that general product category?

Let me give you an example, its a generalized one that attempts to describe the basic gap in contextual, immersive knowledge (kinda like the "dialing phone number by muscle memory home" thing where we couldnt actually tell you the number without counting our fingers) between the great majority at the base of the social and economic pyramid and mainstream consumer culture across the globe. 

Lets start with financial services alone, since that's a topic that's been buzzing around my little corner of the interwebs of late – mobile money in all shapes, forms and brands, all aimed at the underserved (not undeserved ;p). You and I, for the most part, if we're reading and writing on here, know how what is expected of us when a cashier type person hands us a little device with our credit card sticking halfway out of it and the flashing signal seeking answers from us. Or what – more or less – to do at an ATM regardless of whether the two languages offered are suomi and Svenska and we ourselves are stuck with Hindi and English. Imagine if it were kanji?  Or the difference between a credit card and a debit card and just how helpless you are as a traveller without one?

So, anyway, the point is that if there is a vast swathe of people that were hitherto unbanked, it could be said that they were also lacking in many of the subtle nuances of information and knowledge we process everyday. We must not assume that this knowledge exists – true, many in these demographics we consider the "BoP" may have had exposure to many of these things we take for granted, but there is a greater likelihood, once you combine the challenges of isolation rural residents face, that this contextual knowledge is missing.

Now, framing your future design solution in this way, how would you go about designing a new product or service for the BoP?

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