CUNA NEWS NOW
ASUNCION, Paraguay - Two credit union technology experts traveled to Paraguay in October to assess Paraguayan credit union trade association Central de Cooperativas Nacionales del Paraguay (CENCOPAN) and the country's credit union regulator.
Larry Miggler, vice president of information systems, Postal CU, Woodbury, Minn., and Steve Schaefer, technical officer for Latin America and the Caribbean, World Council of Credit Unions Inc. (WOCCU), traveled to Paraguay Oct. 23-29.
CENCOPAN, four credit unions and the Instituto Nacional de Cooperativismo (INCOOP), Paraguay's regulator of credit unions and all other cooperatives, were assessed by the duo.
Miggler and Schaefer presented a two-hour workshop on the U.S. credit union movement's use of technology at the end of the visit.
"This trip was a great opportunity for me to go somewhere in the world and play a small part in developing the credit union movement," Miggler said. "It was interesting to visit another country and find out how credit unions operate 7,500 miles away from home, and as it turns out, they're run very much like they're run here."
The Minnesota Credit Union Network (MnCUN) and CENCOPAN began developing a relationship in fall 2003 through WOCCU's Partnership Program. Advancing technology in Paraguay is one of the three main objectives that the two groups. The Partnership Program provides funding for the activities.
On the first day of the trip, Miggler and Schaefer met with the employees of CENCOPAN to learn about the organization and technology overall in Paraguay.
They spent the next few days visiting Cooperativa Mercado No. 4 Ltda., Cooperativa Universitaria Ltda., Cooperativa Reducto Ltda. and Cooperativa Nazareth Ltda. At each credit union, Miggler and Schaefer talked with general managers, information technology staff and members, evaluating the general status and need of technology.
Miggler said the biggest hurdles for country- wide internet usage are slow connection speeds and high cost, making it difficult for some Paraguayan credit unions to justify the time and expense. "In the U.S. there are hundreds of technology vendors dedicated to credit unions, and they don't appear to have as much specialization in Paraguay," Miggler said, adding that the implementation of new software technology in Paraguay generally involves hiring a programmer to do customization, which increases the cost.
Miggler and Schaefer also explored implementing other WOCCU initiatives such as shared branching and the International Remittance Network (IRnet).
"We are thrilled with the Minnesota Credit Union Network and the support they have given to Paraguay," Schaefer said. "We see this as a very fruitful partnership."
World Council of Credit Unions is the global trade association and development agency for credit unions. World Council promotes the sustainable development of credit unions and other financial cooperatives around the world to empower people through access to high quality and affordable financial services. World Council advocates on behalf of the global credit union system before international organizations and works with national governments to improve legislation and regulation. Its technical assistance programs introduce new tools and technologies to strengthen credit unions' financial performance and increase their outreach.
World Council has implemented more than 290 technical assistance programs in 71 countries. Worldwide, 57,000 credit unions in 103 countries serve 208 million people. Learn more about World Council's impact around the world at www.woccu.org.