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Technology: While Building the Technology Infrastructure Rails, Consider the Passengersa

Technology is fast changing the landscape of financial services, and in dramatic ways, as the financial services industry builds the 'rails' that enable payment and transaction access. But providers, regulators and support institutions need to ensure that the financial services that follow provide value and quality to the passengers who climb aboard.

Our Assessment

Why It Matters

Without new developments in technology, there would be no financial inclusion movement today.

Technology is propelling inclusion in three main ways. First, and overwhelmingly the focus of most financial inclusion discussions, technology is creating cheaper financial service access, delivery, and transaction processing. Ultimately everyone, everywhere will be reached.

Second, technology is changing how credit decisions are made and who can get credit, through innovations in underwriting based on data analytics (discussed in the FI2020 Progress Report on Credit Reporting) and other innovations such as pay-as-you-go technology and various forms of peer-to-peer (P2P) lending. These shifts may provide access to many new borrowers, and ultimately, it is hoped, at lower interest rates.

Third, technology is changing the way financial services providers interact with their clients. The controversial movement from a “high touch” to “low touch” approach has substituted technology for human-to-human interaction. Ironically, though, at this stage, we are seeing more, not fewer, human interactions because of the surge in agent banking. And with cheaper and more sophisticated technology, possibilities emerge for richer interactions that build customer capability, trust, and loyalty, while enabling providers to understand customers in greater depth (discussed in the FI2020 Progress Report on Financial Capability).

Most of the myriad financial technology (fintech) innovations that are springing up around the globe are variations on one of these three themes, but other innovations include back-office processes, biometric identification, and a newly developing trend known as “regtech,” which leverages technology to make regulation smoother.

The more we learn about what’s happening in the field of technology for financial inclusion, the more we’re convinced that it will take us into a brave new world. However, we need to ensure that brave new world works well for customers.

The more we learn about what's happening in the field of technology for financial inclusion, the more we're convinced that it will take us into a brave new world. However, we need to ensure that brave new world works well for customers.

Progress to Date: Faster than a Speeding Bullet
Progress Index Score: 7

Workers the world over are fast laying the rails for technology-enabled financial services: they are installing good old ATMs, signing up banking agents and merchants equipped with point of sale (POS) devices, designing SMS-based transactions using cell phones, and finally, enabling online transactions through apps on smartphones and tablets. The task of building the distribution network for financial transactions and linking it to several billion people has captured the imagination of many, making the World Bank’s plan to spread transaction accounts to everyone by 2020 seem almost inevitable.

All the main transaction channels (except bank branches) are on a steep growth path. There are now about 2,200 adults per ATM worldwide, and, if recent trends continue, this ratio will fall to about 1,500 adults per ATM by 2020 (see figure below). The number of banking agents today is somewhat lower than the number of ATMs, but within the next one to two years the lines will cross and there will be more agents than ATMs. Together they will move the financial inclusion sector from a figure of roughly 1,200 people per access point to something closer to 600 people per access point.

Source: Author calculations based on IMF FAS (2014) and World Development Indicators (2014). Population weighted, with projections based on three-year moving average.

Source: Author calculations based on IMF FAS (2014) and World Development Indicators (2014). Population weighted, with projections based on three-year moving average.

 

And that doesn’t begin to consider transactions through mobile devices or the Internet. Although successes with mobile money have so far been greatest in East Africa, if mobile phones become the dominant transaction channel, the access point ratio tumbles from one access point for every 600 adults to one access point for everyone, given that there are already more mobile phones in use than adults in the world. The Gates Foundation is betting that almost everyone in the developing world will have a mobile money account within 15 years. And by then, most people will handle their own Internet-based transactions, a shift already well on its way in the developed world and now beginning to penetrate emerging markets. There are half as many broadband connections to the Internet today as there are cell phones, but smartphones and tablets are spreading quickly with inexpensive new models.

The rapid spread of rails for technology-enabled services, together with the proliferation of fintech innovations, account for most of our decision to award this area a 7 out of 10, our highest Progress Score.

Another factor contributing to that high score is the enthusiasm for technology-enabled models among governments eager to promote financial inclusion. The Indian government has begun to move its large program of cash transfers into biometrically linked accounts, following similar shifts in many other countries. The Alliance for Financial Inclusion and the International Telecommunications Union sponsor working groups of regulators from around the world to promote enabling regulation for digital financial services. And at the national level, dozens of countries are crafting similar regulations. China, for example, is counting on innovation in technology to provide on-ramps for hundreds of millions of people.

Global investment in fintech has more than quadrupled in the last year, growing from $3 billion in 2013 to over $12 billion by the end of 2014. This explosive growth in fintech start-ups and new ideas is emblematic of the new ways that people are saving, investing, and managing their money. While fintech firms will unlikely replace traditional banking services, they certainly are challenging the status quo. Goldman Sachs estimates that the financial services providers that operate in fields susceptible to disruption by fintech generate annual global revenues of $4.7 trillion and profits of $470 billion.

The promises are big and the stakes are high, but we cannot justify a higher score because so much remains unfinished and there are many unanswered questions. Moreover, the impact so far is uneven, particularly regarding the base of the pyramid or BoP customer segment. While the sheer number of access points is rising, the coverage of rural and remote areas in many countries, especially the poorest, remains weak. There also remains a gender gap in the use of technology-enabled models. Myriad creative fintech start-ups abound, but scale is elusive. A few other big unanswered questions check our enthusiasm: Are the new channels and services adequately secure and private? Is access leading consistently to use? While technology promises lower costs for providers, will it lower prices for clients, too?

The future of financial inclusion will certainly be technology-enabled. Today the world is in a state of disequilibrium, with financial technology challenging the status quo. The new equilibrium – probably years away – will be more nimble, more inclusive, and more cost-efficient. It is difficult to predict, however, who will benefit – and what the risks will be for customers and institutions.

Today, there are about 1,200 people globally per access point. By 2020, there will be only 600 people per access point thanks to ATM and agent growth.

There are half as many broadband connections to the Internet today as there are cell phones, but smartphones and tablets are spreading quickly with inexpensive new models.

Global investment in fintech has more than quadrupled in the last year, growing from $3 billion in 2013 to over $12 billion by the end of 2014.

Everyone’s Been Working on the Railroad

In 2007, the M-Pesa initiative launched in Kenya with the slogan “Send Money Home,” ushering in a wave of innovation around the world and providing an expanded vision of what is possible in terms of reach and cost.

Source: Gregory Chen, CGAP (2015)

Source: Gregory Chen, CGAP (2015).

 

Fast-forward to the Mobile World Congress in 2015, when Nokia unveiled a $29 smartphone with a 29-day standby battery life. Targeted at consumers in many emerging markets, the phone signals a shift in smartphones from a customer base that is exclusively high-income to one serving the general population. This shift opens the possibility of app-based service delivery.

A Rail-Building Agenda

Today’s rail builders are hard at work on several challenges. The current agenda for building delivery channel infrastructure includes the following:

Expanding the connectivity infrastructure. This crucial process occurs largely beyond the financial inclusion world, as mobile network operators expand their phone and Internet coverage or upgrade existing services to higher capacity. This part of the agenda is essential for reaching rural and remote areas and very low–income countries. It is also essential for the transition from SMS/USSD–based services to Internet-based services.

Expanding and strengthening agent networks. It is ironic that current technology-enabled models depend on large networks of humans (agents) to perform cash-in/cash-out transactions, and many companies are focused on building and managing agent networks. As these agents who perform banking transactions are still an emerging phenomenon, the rules governing safe and fair agent network operation are a prime subject for regulatory attention.

Connecting consumers. The race is on to sign up customers for basic transaction services. This occurs mainly as banks, mobile network operators, and others compete to expand their coverage, but governments also play an important role, as they have opportunities to create rapid mass sign-ups by converting from cash-based government benefit payments to payments performed electronically. Aadhaar, India’s national biometric ID program, is one of the best-known examples (see “Biometric Identity through Aadhaar”). And increasing merchant acceptance of these services, so consumers can use electronic payments for everyday purchases, is a necessary next step in making it worthwhile for customers to connect.

Enabling the fast track: government-to-person payments. The World Bank is relying in part on the promise of government-to-person (G2P) electronic payments to achieve its goal of connecting all consumers. Governments are the biggest payment generators in the world, with annual global volume predicted in 2010 at about U.S. $40 trillion, and they have strong incentives – improved efficiency, lower cost, reduced corruption – to switch away from cash. The Gates Foundation predicts that using digital rather than cash payments can significantly reduce costs. South Africa, for example, saw its costs of delivering social transfers drop 62 percent when it went digital. But the big promises have yet to yield the truly significant success stories: according to the World Bank, electronic payments would allow governments to give an additional 160 million people access to a bank account.

Source: Global Findex (2015).

Source: Global Findex (2015).

Getting the regulatory framework right. As governments increasingly move from initial regulatory frameworks into second-generation revisions and improvements, issues continue to command attention, such as supporting interoperability (without discouraging entry) and developing robust consumer-protection regimes that can adapt to changing technologies.

BIOMETRIC IDENTITY
THROUGH AADHAAR

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India has rolled out the world's largest biometric ID program, named Aadhaar (meaning "foundation"). Through the program, each individual is assigned a 12-digit unique identification number (UID) after submitting their fingerprints, iris scans, name, date of birth, and address.

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IMPORTANCE OF REGULATOR
COMMUNICATION

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Effective regulation of mobile payments requires cooperation between telcos and banking regulators. Two international working groups have emerged to better define the role of different regulatory bodies.

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Fintech and the Environment for Progress

Tech-enabled payments are step one toward full financial inclusion. Subsequent steps involve using those platforms to deliver loans, savings, insurance, remittances, and financial capability-building in new ways. The examples here illustrate just a small part of the amazingly rich and active fintech innovation sector. Examples range from initiatives of major global companies to promising new start-ups.

Life Insurance

In Pakistan, users of Easypaisa mobile money services access life insurance for free. Telecommunications company Telenor partnered with Adamjee Life Insurance to launch Easypaisa Khushaal in 2012. If subscribers maintain an average monthly balance of 2,000 Pakistani rupees (U.S. $19) in their Easypaisa mobile accounts, they are automatically covered for life and accidental death insurance at no extra charge, including coverage of risks related to riots and terrorism. The higher the balance in a mobile account, the higher the coverage. It is often an uphill battle to convince low-income customers to buy insurance. Easypaisa Khushaal addresses this dilemma by integrating insurance into existing mobile money accounts, eliminating the costly marketing and sign-up processes. The service also incentivizes customers to save.

Livestock Insurance

In India, Tata AIG offers livestock insurance to low-income farmers and uses mobile devices to lower costs and reach scale. When the company switched from a paper-based to a mobile-based enrollment process, it reduced enrollment time from 15 days to 30 minutes. Settlement times for claims have also decreased, as have transaction costs associated with issuing insurance policies. These innovations have allowed Tata AIG to increase volume more affordably and efficiently.

Low-Fee Remittances

The global remittance market is expected to reach $700 billion by 2016. However, in 2014, the global average cost for transferring remittances was 8 percent – a burden for low-income families who rely on remittance income. But this may soon change. Start-ups such as TransferWise, WorldRemit, and Azimo have mobile apps through which users can send remittances at fees as low as 1 percent. Companies like PayPal are increasing their global consumer base, and charge 3–4 percent on international transfers. Customers who were offered mobile cross-border remittances in West Africa responded by rapidly adopting the service. Orange Money offered transfers between its own customers across Cote d’Ivoire, Mali, and Senegal, while MTN and Airtel created a bilateral agreement to serve the Cote d’Ivoire–Burkina Faso corridor.

With the emergence of these competing business models, established players such as Western Union and MoneyGram have reduced their fees. Cornelis Heesbeen, CEO of Auxfin, a remittance service, predicts that by 2020 there will be no fees for remittances.

P2P Payment Apps

Social media companies, including Facebook, for U.S. users, and WeChat, China’s most popular messaging app, have launched no-cost person-to-person payment services, allowing users to send payments to friends for free. On Chinese New Year it is customary to give friends and family red envelopes full of cash and gifts. Last year, WeChat offered virtual red envelopes via its payment service and recorded more than 1 billion transactions.

While most social media–linked services require a bank account, a growing number allow payments between people without a formal bank account. Emerging P2P services include Pingit/Paym (United Kingdom), SnapCash, LendingClub, and Prosper (United States), LinePay (Japan), KakaoPay (Korea), Alipay (China), and PingPay (India). Internet-based P2P services perform functions similar to SMS-based mobile money transfers, but their interfaces are more user-friendly.

Pay-As-You-Go Utilities

Large up-front costs makes solar home systems too expensive for off-grid, low-income customers, unless they get a loan. To sidestep the need for credit, some companies are using pay-as-you-go leasing technology on top of mobile payments. For example, with M-Kopa in Kenya and Mobisol in Tanzania and Kenya, customers pay daily-use fees via M-Pesa. If payment is not received, the company can turn off the system remotely through the embedded pay-as-you-go device. According to CGAP, as of 2014 there were at least 25 companies selling solar systems with this technology in Africa, Asia, and Latin America.

Digital Savings and Loans Using Big Data

Consumer savings and loan platforms like M-Shwari and M-Pawa are changing the accessibility and ubiquity of very small, non-collateralized loans. Launched by Commercial Bank of Africa and Safaricom in Kenya in November 2012, M-Shwari taps into the personal histories of poor and unbanked customers regarding their telephone use and mobile money activity to make credit-scoring decisions, using M-Pesa for carrying out transactions. By the end of 2014, M-Shwari boasted over 20 million cumulative loans. M-Pawa is the same partnership’s offering in Tanzania. Through M-Pawa, customers receive micro-loans starting at 1,000 Tanzania shillings (U.S. $0.50) on their phones through their M-Pesa accounts. Launched in May 2014, the service had reached 1 million subscribers by December 2014.

Loans for SMEs

Kopo Kopo and NeoGrowth provide cash advances with no collateral to retailers at times when merchants need cash most. Innovations like CapitalFloat and LendingKart in India provide flexible, instant loans to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). While many of these innovations are in their early stages, if successful they may begin to reach the “missing middle” SMEs, with finance at lower cost.

P2P Lending

P2P lending services have taken off and expanded rapidly, particularly in China, led by CreditEase, Lufax, China Rapid Finance, and DianRong. At the end of 2014 there were an estimated 1,575 P2P platforms operating in China, up from only 50 in 2011, and 103.6 billion yuan (U.S. $16.7 billion) in outstanding loans issued via online platforms.

Online ROSCAs

An estimated 1.5 billion people globally participate in rotating savings and credit associations (ROSCAs). They provide a simple, informal method for people to save money and receive loans, although traditional ROSCAs can be unreliable and subject to management problems. Kitty10 is a mobile app that offers a possible remedy, allowing ROSCAs to manage their finances, maintain an electronic history of transactions, and easily make decisions (such as those dealing with loan amounts and repayment terms). It gives financial tips and can even build credit histories for members. Magadarsi is an India-based financial services provider known as a chit fund that uses the Internet to support ROSCA operations. Magadarsi allows users to sign up online and pay installments through online banking on its website. This removes the requirement that ROSCAs meet in person, thereby saving members’ time each month. It also allows for ROSCAS to reach a much larger scale in terms of growing their membership.

Increasing Financial Capability

The three innovations we highlight below all incorporate integrative technology into the delivery of services to increase financial capability (see also the FI2020 Progress Report on Financial Capability). We would like to see more of these!

  • Juntos promotes savings through partnerships with financial institutions in Colombia and Mexico, with plans for expansion to the Philippines and Tanzania. Juntos allows banks to create a personalized dialogue with customers via SMS to encourage them to save and reach financial goals. Juntos’ messages inform customers about how much they have saved (or spent), remind them of their goals, and comment on events in the customer’s life. Juntos claims that its service results in 33 percent higher active client rates and 50 percent higher average savings balances.
  • Tigo’s Su Dinero (“Your Money”) app is provided free to Tigo customers in Colombia. Microfinance Opportunities supplied its financial capability content, tailored to the Colombian context. DAI and Souktel support the program, which operates through Facebook’s Internet.org phone app. Tigo has about 7 million subscribers in Colombia, meaning that these free financial capability resources are now at the fingertips of millions of people.
  • RevolutionCredit, an online lender in the United States, offers online courses and videos to increase financial literacy, and when customers take a course or watch a video, it is recorded in their client profile. The idea behind tracking these activities is to identify consumers who are less risky borrowers. RevolutionCredit does not aim to replace credit scores. “It’s really more of a booster,” says founder Zaydoon Munir.
Regional Variety

Some of the major factors fueling technology-enabled change are region- and country-dependent. An innovation that is met with wild success in one market may fall flat in another. Mobile money has taken off in Africa, particularly East Africa, in part because the region’s sparse banking infrastructure left major gaps that cell phone service could address. Moreover, the focus on money transfer has built upon existing social relationships. In a place where neighbors and families often help one another with their financial needs, mobile financial services provide a better way to accomplish a socially important task.

Latin America’s story continues to be more about agent banking. The model began in Brazil, where agents have long been allowed to conduct transactions on behalf of financial institutions, and it has now spread throughout the region. In Mexico, for example, Grupo Bimbo has installed over 75,000 point of sale terminals in small mom-and-pop shops, allowing customers to top up airtime, pay bills, and make debit or credit card payments. Bimbo is planning on continuing to empower these shops, 700,000 of which are part of their distribution network. More recently, however, mobile models have shown signs of growth. GSMA reports that Latin America is the fastest-growing region in mobile money uptake, and outperforms other regions in percentage of active accounts. Paraguay, Honduras, and El Salvador, where banking infrastructure is not as robust as in some of the larger countries of the region, feature in the top 15 markets globally for mobile money penetration.

In East and South Asia, where connectivity is high and technology costs are low, innovations in Internet and app-based banking have emerged. Through the flexibility of Internet technology, CreditEase, Lufax, Tunadai, China Rapid Finance, and DianRong offer platforms for P2P lending. Alibaba developed Alipay initially for customers purchasing goods through Alibaba, but the payment platform has since expanded to include 65 financial institutions, more than 460,000 Chinese businesses, and 300 worldwide merchants. In Taiwan and China, where traditional ROSCAs have been in place for centuries, online platforms heighten convenience and safety for informal group banking in an increasingly cashless economy.

But Has Access Led to Use?

But technology-enabled business models are not all rainbows and roses, and Government to Person (G2P) payments are a great example. While governments and international organizations alike agree that an electronic G2P system is more efficient, there is a question of whether it increases use of financial services. If the only change is that a recipient of social welfare payments shifts her collection point from a truck in her village square to an ATM in the same village square, do electronic G2P payments really make a difference? While G2P payments have high potential for expanding inclusion, unless individuals use their newfound access in everyday life, they only fulfill a portion of their potential.

Source: Author projections using both a three-year moving average and a line of best fit, based on GSMA (2015). Note: Active use refers to one transaction within 90 days.

Source: Author projections using both a three-year moving average and a line of best fit, based on GSMA (2015).

 

A recent University of Chicago study found that the conditions for the success of mobile money are very context-specific, and those countries with services that limp along for years are not likely to ever see explosive growth without significant ecosystem changes. Furthermore, half of the people globally who use mobile money already have an account at a financial institution. Customers whose only access is mobile-based make up about 1 percent of the global population.

For some technology-enabled business models, there is also the question of profitability. Take psychometric testing, which develops credit scores by matching interview-derived psychological profiles with big data on borrower behavior. While the technology may be cool, there is scant evidence that testing identifies good prospective borrowers and increases credit availability for clients. Mobile money itself remains unprofitable in most instances – those deployments that have reached breakeven are anomalies. While much research asserts that mobile money can be profitable, it remains to be seen whether profitability will be the standard or the exception.

Unlocking Interoperability

Three years ago our working group on technology-enabled business models reached an overwhelming consensus that there is an enormous opportunity for more interoperability in the industry. We have more supporting data that this remains the case, along with more examples of where interoperability is working. For mobile network operators, industry-led interoperability has been shown to have a significant impact on the number and volume of transactions. When Tigo and Airtel created bilateral interoperability in Tanzania, they saw an immediate tenfold increase in the volume of off-net transactions.

Source: GSMA (2015).

Source: GSMA (2015).

 

Interoperability, however, looks much different depending on regulatory approach (and indeed what exactly is meant by “interoperability”). Tanzania has relied on a web of bilateral relationships to move interoperability forward, and this system has advantages in that providers must see the business case for interoperability instead of following a mandate. Indonesia is pursuing a similar provider-level strategy. In Pakistan, interoperable ATMs have been a priority for the government, and a national bank switch was created to facilitate bank-level interoperability. In Nigeria, policymakers are partnering with the Gates Foundation to create a national central switch that all financial services institutions can use. This approach relies on providers participating once the platform is built. The banking association in Peru is building an interoperable platform that includes banks, telecoms, and other providers.

Multi-stakeholder coordination and buy-in (not hard mandates) are essential for the success of interoperability, as a viable system must be derived from a proper balance of interests and incentives.

M-PESA WAS STEP ONE

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M-Pesa led the way in SMS mobile payments with its 2007 launch of its "Send Money Home" campaign. Click on the link below to see the original ad.

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INTERNET FINANCE
IN CHINA

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In places where connectivity is high and smartphones are ubiquitous, experts predict that populations will skip using the SMSbased mobile wallet and jump right to more complex apps, Internet-based services, and channels. This may be the future of high growth in financial inclusion, one in which people rely almost exclusively on technology. China is possibly the leading example.

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G2P BENEFIT PAYMENTS: OPENING AN
ACCOUNT IS THE EASY PART

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Experts who work on moving government-to-person (G2P) payments to electronic' platforms overwhelmingly agreed that opening accounts and delivering funds is straightforward. What is difficult, however, is designing products that increase use of financial services.

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Customers whose only access is mobile-based make up about 1 percent of the global population.

Multi-stakeholder coordination and buy-in (not hard mandates) are essential for the success of interoperability, as a viable system must be derived from a proper balance of interests and incentives.

What Happens to Customers?

There remains a question of whether and how technology can increase the quality of interaction between providers and clients. Those who pose this question argue that low-touch, automated financial services strip interactions within financial services of the essential human element. Citing the example of KGFS, a financial institution that IFMR operates in rural India, Bindu Ananth, CEO of IFMR, points to the importance of branch staff in helping to steer a person toward the products that they need, much as a doctor would prescribe a medication. The KGFS model combines sophisticated technology on the back end with the face-to-face interaction its designers believe must remain a cornerstone of client relationships. Start-up Juntos offers a counter example. Juntos provides its partner financial institutions with electronic platforms that conduct SMS-based client conversations in a friendly and client-tailored manner to help build loyalty and nudge customers toward prudent financial behavior (see the FI2020 Progress Report on Addressing Customer Needs and the FI2020 Progress Report on Financial Capability).

Client protection is an integral part of ensuring quality of services, and is already prioritized in the most forward-thinking organizations. Segments of the technology-enabled ecosystem have adopted industry standards for client protection, such as the GSMA Code of Conduct and the Client Protection Principles promoted by the Smart Campaign. However, technology brings new risks to clients not yet fully integrated into client protection policies. Unsolved questions include who owns the data generated, how the data are secured, the proper recourse when things go wrong, and whether “know your customer” regulations exclude too many low-income people, confining them to the informal sector (see the FI2020 Progress Report on Client Protection).

Call to Action

In this brave new world of disruptive technology, we have entered a time of disequilibrium. While this is healthy, it raises risks. The future financial inclusion ecosystem that we envision from today’s vantage point delivers services through mobile channels using smart phones and tablets. While this future is arriving at different times in different economies, to ensure that an effective ecosystem develops, most players in financial inclusion must take key actions. Here are just a few of those actions we believe to be essential for creating a future that delivers meaningful financial inclusion.

Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) will need to provide a stable, trustworthy infrastructure for the delivery of financial services. This includes connectivity that allows for a data-rich generation of user interfaces. MNOs will also need to seek the kinds of agreements that enable interoperability both among MNOs and between MNOs and other delivery channels. Finally, MNOs should ensure that they live up to the GSMA’s newly-proclaimed Code of Conduct for protecting consumers.

An urgent task for financial service providers is to develop the agent networks and merchant acceptance environments that allow digital financial services to penetrate everywhere – and to increase the knowledge of how to operate agent networks securely and with high customer service standards. This means industry standard-setting and supervision needs to keep up with the risks of new opportunities for fraud, breaches of data privacy and security, or other concerns about consumer protection. A particular challenge we would like to toss out to providers is to use the rich customer interface of smart phones and tablets to create dialogue with customers that both contributes to their financial capability and enables providers to learn more about their needs.

We hardly need to call for action from Fintech companies – their innovations and experiments are already flooding in. We therefore can only urge them to continue, keeping a strong eye not just on their short term business success, but also on how they can contribute to building a more inclusive industry, moving the customer base from early-adopters to BoP customers and maintaining attention to the needs of customers.

Regulators and policy makers need to respond to technology changes with the “test and learn” stance that allows first movers the prospect of successful innovation, while keeping the overall system safe. As this stance requires frequent, ongoing dialogue with providers, it also requires a shift in internal culture for many regulatory bodies.

Finally, investors and support organizations have a responsibility to keep an eye on the digital divide, ensuring that the benefits of technology are available both to smaller and poorer countries, and to the more frequently excluded segments of the population.

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The Somaliland Story

In the last five years, Somaliland has moved ahead in terms of mobile money uptake and use. One of the poorest countries in Africa, Somalia is not often considered a likely source of innovation. Somalia, and specifically the region of Somaliland, has low literacy and low government capacity. Regulation has historically been either unenforceable or nonexistent.

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Are Women Left Behind in Mobile Financial Services?

One of the potential benefits of mobile financial services for women is the shorter average travel distance to carry out a transaction. In cultures where women tend to stay near their home or neighborhood, mobile financial services can be a significant value-add.

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Contributors

Contributor
 

Lead Author

SONJA KELLY

Center for Financial

Inclusion at Accion

This report draws on insights gained through interviews with industry experts and comments by
reviewers. These contributors are gratefully acknowledged below, but we want to make clear that
the positions expressed are our own. The opinions in this report do not necessarily reflect the views
of the contributors nor do we intend to imply any endorsement by the institutions they represent.

We express our thanks to:
Elisabeth Rhyne, lead contributor and editor, Center for Financial Inclusion at Accion

Click here for the complete list of contributors to the FI2020 Progress Report.

For a curated list of resources on Technology, check out the FI2020 Resource Library.

For an up-to-date collection of blogs on Technology, check out the CFI blog.