Safaricom’s Lipa Mdogo Mdogo program was launched several months ago, introducing a payment scheme that allows customers to purchase smartphones in small, manageable increments over an extended period.
The program, aptly named ‘Lipa Mdogo Mdogo,’ has proven to be an affordable option for many individuals.
Initially, there were concerns about how this payment model would be managed, but it has now come to light that Safaricom enlisted the help of Google, the owner of Android, to develop an app that restricts access for users who default on their payments.
The payment amounts for the program can be as low as KES 20 per day, making it accessible to a wide range of people who would otherwise find it challenging to afford expensive smartphones.
This affordability factor allows more individuals to enjoy the benefits of owning a smartphone without incurring exorbitant costs.
Known as the Device Lock Controller, the app gained significant attention online after it was unintentionally uploaded to the US Google Play Store.
Its purpose is straightforward: it enables credit providers, specifically Safaricom in this case, to manage the devices financed through the program.
Currently, the app is exclusively available through this channel and nowhere else.
Google has expressed its commitment to complement Safaricom’s device portfolio with low-cost smartphones, although these devices have yet to make their debut in the market.
Google’s involvement in the initiative is noteworthy, as they developed the app and facilitated the adoption of Android Go, a lightweight version of their smartphone operating system, for the devices.
Now, let’s delve into how the app operates:
Customers are required to make daily payments for their devices, with the costs starting as low as KES 20 per day.
In the event of a missed payment, the app employs a three-phase lockout system:
- On the fourth day after the repayment deadline, Safaricom locks the phone, thereby restricting its use.
- If the customer continues to default on payments, a second ban is enforced on the seventh day. At this stage, the defaulter is unable to make outgoing calls or send SMS messages.
- If a default extends to 30 days, the customer is blacklisted and disqualified from accessing subsequent device loan facilities. Furthermore, their information is forwarded to the credit reference bureau (CRB) by the operator.
As of now, the app has garnered slightly over 100 installations on the Google Play Store.
This relatively low figure raises questions about whether Safaricom will actively promote the service to onboard additional customers who are unable to afford smartphones.
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