The Case of Prospera Digital: Part 2

Digital tools and data driven strategies to transform the largest social program in Mexico

UNICEF Innovation
La Casa del Migrante, a catholic shelter that supports migrants near the Lechería Train Station, in the municipality of Tultitlan, State of Mexico.
18 November 2015

Prospera is a nationwide program that benefits more than 30 million Mexicans in poverty. Every two months, the head of the beneficiary household—over 95% are women—receive (CCTs) from the governments’ program under the condition that their children attend school regularly and take their children to visit the clinic. As a result, Prospera has improved school enrolment and children nutrition rates in the country.

Did you know that Prospera is the largest social program in Mexico and the second largest CCT in the world? It has been extensively studied and rigorously evaluated by independent academic institutions. Studies show that the program has a positive impact in 1) school enrollment and education levels, 2) improvements in nutritional status, 3) better health prevention, and 4) reduction of income poverty in rural areas.[1]

Because of this, UNICEF Mexico is implementing Prospera Digital to use new data-driven tools and mobile technologies to promote digital and financial inclusion of Prospera’s 7 million household beneficiaries.

In August 2015, Prospera and the National Bank for Savings and Financial Services (BANSEFI) started delivering the Comprehensive Financial Inclusion (CFI) program for Prospera beneficiaries. CFI provides financial education, savings programs, access to micro credits and insurance, as well as additional financial services to Prospera beneficiaries. The program´s objectives are 1) reducing the financial inclusion gap, 2) providing better financial conditions, and 3) reducing economic vulnerability. CFI is being offered to more than one million Prospera beneficiaries during 2015 and expects to cover the entire 7 million beneficiaries by the end of 2016.

The financial education component of Prospera Digital will utilize the automated two-way SMS communication to reinforce the financial education channeled through the CFI program, and to foster best practices of the complementary financial products such as credit and savings programs. This component seeks to have an impact on savings reserves, on the number of beneficiaries reaching their savings goals, and in general to increase knowledge-based financial decision-making within Prospera beneficiaries.

Berenice, 9, Jaqueline, 9 and her sister Maria Francisca, 7, play with a doll in San Francisco Xochiteopan, Puebla state, Mexico
Berenice, 9, Jaqueline, 9 and her sister Maria Francisca, 7, play with a doll in San Francisco Xochiteopan, Puebla state, Mexico

The pilot will include between five and ten thousand Prospera beneficiaries in over 600 communities and will start in the first semester of 2016.

Currently, for more than 5.5 out of the 7 million Prospera accounts, monetary transfers are delivered in cash directly to beneficiaries every two months, representing over 70 billion pesos every year (~$4.3 billion dollars).

This entails huge transactions costs for both governments and beneficiaries. After piloting content delivery, the financial component will also involve electronic delivery of cash transfers through mobile phones in order to reduce costs and risk of cash delivery, and to allow women to receive their cash transfers more safely and at their convenience.


Scaling up successful data-driven interventions

The implementation of the pilots in the two previous components of Prospera Digital will establish Mexican government actions on mobile innovation as a medium to deliver both useful and timely content, and financial transfers using mobile technologies.

By the first semester of 2016, up to 7 million Prospera beneficiaries and their families, which represent more than 30 million Mexicans, will be routinely using mobile phones to receive information on a variety of topics designed to increase their social and economic development.

Additionally, different government agencies may use technologies such as RapidPro more efficiently to successfully deliver their programs and better address individual needs.

An international partnership to innovate the largest social program in Mexico

Prospera Digital is being implemented with the collaboration of a world-class team that includes the participation of diverse Mexican federal government agencies: the Ministry of Social Development, the Office of the President of Mexico, and the Ministry of Health besides international experts in diverse fields that include: the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), Behavioral Insights Team (BIT), the Autonomous Mexican Institute of Technology (ITAM), the University of Chicago, Qué Funciona para el Desarrollo AC, Ideas42, the MIT Media Lab and mobile operators.


[1] Studies and impact evaluations are available: