June 15, 2023

Transforming Households with Refraction and Innovative Financial Technology (THRIFT)

Transforming Households with Refraction and Innovative Financial Technology (THRIFT) is an innovative program aimed at revolutionizing access to vision correction and financial services for underserved communities. The program recognizes the critical role that vision plays in people’s lives and the significant barriers that exist in accessing affordable and quality eye care services.

Through THRIFT, a comprehensive and integrated approach is adopted, combining refraction technology with innovative financial solutions. The program leverages advancements in telemedicine and portable refraction devices to provide accessible and accurate vision screenings, prescription eyeglasses, and other visual aids to individuals in remote and marginalized areas.

Moreover, THRIFT integrates financial technology solutions to address the affordability aspect of vision correction. It introduces innovative financial models such as microfinance, mobile banking, and pay-as-you-go systems to make eyeglasses and eye care services more affordable and accessible to individuals with limited financial resources.

The program not only focuses on providing immediate vision correction but also emphasizes the importance of sustainable eye care practices. It includes capacity-building initiatives, training local healthcare providers, and raising awareness about eye health and hygiene to promote long-term eye care practices within communities.

Through partnerships with local organizations, eye care professionals, and financial institutions, THRIFT strives to create a scalable and sustainable model that can be replicated in different regions. By transforming households with vision correction and innovative financial technology, the program aims to improve the quality of life, educational opportunities, and economic empowerment for individuals and communities.

THRIFT represents a powerful combination of technological innovation, financial inclusion, and healthcare access. By addressing the barriers to vision correction and leveraging financial technology solutions, the program brings about transformative changes in the lives of underserved populations, fostering a brighter future for individuals and communities alike.

 Background of the Project:

MOMODa FOUNDATION has been selected as a partner organization for conducting the trial of ‘Transforming Households with Refraction and Innovative Financial Technology’ (THRIFT) of ENGINE studies to understand the impact of eyeglasses on expanding financial inclusion for older adults, particularly through mobile banking. This trial will examine the impact of free reading glasses to support the use of smartphone banking apps in Bangladesh among elderly recipients of Government Old Age Allowance payments.

The study will capitalize on Bangladesh Government’s plan to digitize all social safety net payments to the elderly. Along with MOMODa the THRIFT study will be implemented by Vision Spring, Good Business Lab, University of Michigan, Florida International University, BRAC James P Grant School of Public Health, BRAC University, and the University of Dhaka. Remarking on this research initiative as a testament to the collaborative spirit of the eye-care sector, the researchers expect the THRIFT results will shape financial inclusion and health policies that facilitate older adults’ participation in mobile banking and associated safety net programs.



Carrying Out the Project

THRIFT capitalizes on the Bangladesh Government’s plan to digitize all social safety net payments to the elderly by providing free glasses and training to help older adults use smartphones and improve their financial independence.

The idea behind THRIFT is simply to provide glasses and basic smartphone training to elderly recipients of old-age payments in Bangladesh. The trial will then compare the financial independence of people who receive a smartphone alongside glasses and training with a control group who receive a smartphone alone.

The study also tests the hypothesis that, by improving access to online banking, participants will experience improvements in many areas of their life, including food security, COVID-safe behaviours, and financial security. The ultimate aim of the program is for vision care to be included as an integral part when Bangladesh’s innovative program of online banking for the elderly is replicated throughout the world.

Key Features of the Project

  1.  Objectives: To measure the impacts of free vision corrected reading glasses combined with digital financial services (DFS) training to support the adoption and use of mobile banking in Bangladesh, who are recipients of digitized government OAA benefits and WA benefits.
  2. Sample Size: 400 participants who are the recipients of government digital Old Age Allowance/Widowed-Allowance payments.
  3. Outcome: this research will shape financial inclusion and health policies that facilitate older adults’ participation in mobile banking and associated safety net programs.
  4. Project PeriodFrom July 2022 to December 2023

The project is now in the preparatory phase. In this phase, several meetings have been conducted among the parties to clarify the idea of the projects and to understand the role and responsibilities of each party involved in this multi-stakeholder research. MOMODa FOUNDATION has already developed a social screening protocol and shared it with other parties for finalization.

Funding authority:

The Wellcome Trust, United Kingdom

The Chen Yet-Sen Family Foundation, Hong Kong

The Clearly Initiatives, United Kingdom


Chief Investigator

  1. Professor Dr Nathan Congdon, School of Medicine, Dentistry and Biomedical Sciences

Centre for Public Health, Queen’s University Belfast, United Kingdom.



  1. Dr Atonu Rabbani, The Mushtaque Chowdhury Professor of Health and Poverty, James P Grant School of Public Health (JPGSPH), BRAC University & Associate Professor of Economics, University of Dhaka.
  2. Dr Abu S. Shonchoy, Associate Professor of Economics, Florida International University (FIU)

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