Tuesday, March 31, 2015

IMTFI video - What do we do?

By IMTFI Graduate Research Assistant, Nathan Dobson

The IMTFI team with the help of Steve McCord, a freelance videographer, have made an introductory video to our work. We are really quite proud of it so please send it to your friends and family and click, click, click to get the number of views up.

December was an especially busy month for the IMTFI team as we shot the video around the time of the sixth annual conference. Steve set up shop in our offices for a few days before the conference in order to capture some of our work. He took pictures and film of us in action and gathered data on our archives and collection of money artifacts. The excellent production of the film speaks to the amount that he learnt about us in a short space of time.

There have already been a number of exciting developments since the video. Graduate student researcher, Stevie Rea has made a roundup blog post bringing together different strands of the interviews that he conducted over the course of the conference. The videographer, Steve McCord has since been invited by a number of our researchers to do collaborative projects with them in their fields. And the video has already been viewed and shared by researchers and interested parties from Borneo to Birmingham. So sit back and enjoy the show!

To see other IMTFI-related videos visit the IMTFI YouTube site.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Interactive Webinar Recap with Professor Kusimba and M-Changa

In a truly interactive webinar with live questions and live polls, the NetHope Payment Innovations team hosted IMTFI Fellow Professor Sibel Kusimba and CEO Kyai Mullei & Rajan Trivedi from the Kenyan startup M-Changa on a panel titled, “Mobile Money, The Social Network Effect, and Philanthropy - Recent Research from Kenya and Product Innovation From M-Changa.” The webinar recap "A Glimpse into Future of Mobile Money Societies in the Global South" and recording of the webinar are now available.
Presentations by Professor Kusimba and M-Changa.

Professor Kusimba offers an anthropological perspective with her research. She found that the use of mobile money in western Kenya is evenly split among three categories: urgent needs, everyday expenses, and social payments. She was surprised to discover that some of the most profound emotions people have were closely connected to sending mobile money.

“What really struck me was just how important mobile money is not just as an economic support network or practice, but as an important cultural and social practices as well. People use these remittances of mobile money to express their close relationships – especially to people who are geographically dispersed,” she said.

Professor Kusimba offered an illuminating metaphor for the fusion of traditional culture with mobile money. She observed a coming of age celebration in which the boy used his phone to receive donations from friends and family in addition to traditional gifts (e.g. livestock, prepared meal prepared) – an interesting mix of the traditional practices combined with new mobile money practices used to bring the family together.

“What this says to me is that people don’t necessarily want to stop doing what they’re doing and do something new, rather, they want to keep doing what they’re doing, but they want new capabilities and new, better, more efficient ways of doing what they’re already doing and value,” she said.

Read more on the NetHope roundup and listen to additional research insights that build the impetus for financial inclusion tools like those provided by M-Changa, an end-to-end mobile fundraising management platform that takes M-PESA to the next level and allows users to create and manage fundraisers using mobile phones and SMS.

Monday, March 23, 2015

IMTFI at UNCTAD's Expert Meeting on the Impact of Access to Financial Services (Part 2)

United Nations, Geneva, Switzerland (Photo by Ndunge Kiiti)
By IMTFI researcher Ndunge Kiiti

Day 2: Business models and remittances
The sessions on Day 2 focused on innovative business strategies and extensively on remittances.  Presenters shared business models from Brazil, Nigeria, Bangladesh, and Canada, whilst representatives from numerous global institutions, including the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the International Labour Organization (ILO), provided strong arguments about how remittances intersect with financial inclusion, especially the importance of literacy and education. It was sobering to realize how much is transacted in remittances to developing countries: $436 billion in 2014 and $540 billion by 2016, according to the World Bank (2014). In many countries, remittances are such a key part of economic growth. It was no wonder these two sessions raised a lot of issues… and passion. The passion was not only evident from the speakers but it was seen through the UN translators that were interpreting all the sessions in all UN languages-English, French, Spanish, Chinese, Russian, and Arabic.

First, the units of analysis seemed to be the individual and families when discussing remittances within the diaspora. Again, I had numerous questions—some of them similar to the day before. What about associations and networks within the diaspora that are often sending remittances back to their countries? In terms of financial inclusion, what should a literacy curriculum look like? What does it entail? What are the support systems that build on the training or education? How do we differentiate ‘marketing/advertising’ of financial products and services versus education? Is there generally sufficient commitment to invest the resources needed to ensure sound education, especially those that benefit marginalized communities? Beyond the education-related questions, transactional costs of remittances and their most impactful use were extensively debated. It was also during this session that there was a call for a transformation or a ‘revolution’ of the private sector from a more profit-driven model to a more social responsibility model. The role of Small and Medium Size Enterprises (SMEs) within the business model was also discussed.

Day 3:  The need for regulatory reform as new technologies emerge
The final day highlighted how new technologies could strengthen access to financial services and shed some light on trade agreements and regulatory reform as defined both in the private and public sector. Emphasis was on how inclusion must have a socio-economic perspective not only based on supply and demand. These sessions continued to raise many aspects in relation to financial inclusion: cost of new products; ecosystems; partnerships—traditional and non-traditional; interaction with banks; financial transparency; consumer protection; financial service levels vs. platforms; criteria for lending licenses; capacity building of service providers; financial vs. social costs; cultural aspects; gender issues; and many others. 

The conclusion was more of a charge to everyone present. There is a need to focus on the Basel Agreement to ensure international banking regulations that promote financial inclusion. Programs and policies must be sensitive to socio-cultural issues ensuring contextualization. Global partnerships that facilitate harmonization and standards especially through coherent policies and programs must be encouraged. Overall, we must all find ways in which we commit to making financial inclusion a reality rather than a theoretical concept in our research, programs, and policies, which is also a key emphasis in all of IMTFI’s work.  

Summing Up
So, what did I really get out of the conference? A wealth of information, knowledge, and networks—new relationships for future partnerships. But also a key lesson: IMTFI must continue to be present in these types of settings and forums. The research that IMTFI supports  enriches these global conversations. Why? Our research emphasizes the importance of qualitative work. It contributes many practical and relevant aspects to the dialogue, guiding policy and practice to promote financial inclusion. Additionally, these forums enrich and empower IMTFI and its researchers by providing current knowledge through diverse participants from around the globe.

To read Part 1 of this post, click here. You can also read Ndunge's UNCTAD reports here: Defining Empowerment and Vinya wa Aka.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

IMTFI at UNCTAD's Expert Meeting on the Impact of Access to Financial Services (Part 1)

Ndunge Kiiti (right) discusses mobile money services for vulnerable Kenyan populations at UNCTAD
By IMTFI Researcher Ndunge Kiiti

The Importance of Presence: Being There
"Remittances;" "Transparency;" "Policies and Regulation;" "Fostering Innovation;" "Financial Inclusion;" "Literacy;" "Culture;" "Transaction Costs." These were selected words I heard repeatedly at the forum - "Expert Meeting on the Impact of Access to Financial Services," organized by UNCTAD and held in Geneva, Switzerland in November 2014. I was grateful for the opportunity to represent IMTFI and its research network in the session - "Highlighting Remittances on Development: Economic Empowerment of Women and Youth," and to be present during this very important conversation at the United Nations.

Stirring the Pot
The conference was highly anticipated with very bold objectives. Upon arrival at the meeting room, I was thrilled to realize that, in addition to participants from predominantly international organizations and academic institutions, there were over 45 representatives from member States of UNCTAD, most of them from the Global South. This group of representatives and experts brought a voice and insights that enriched the conference, especially since the meeting began on the premise that with strong policies, regulations, and programmatic initiatives to address the factors—cultural, economic, regulatory, physical, and social—which often hinder financial inclusion, we could build a stronger framework for poverty reduction. These representatives will be the ones to ensure that the outcomes of the conference are integrated into national strategies and plans. Beyond the sessions, I spent quite a bit of time discussing and debating the issues raised with numerous representatives from Malawi, Tanzania, Kenya, Cote d’Ivoire and many others. The general agreement seemed to be that we all have to do better to strengthen financial inclusion, especially for those people that our societies have marginalized. The populations that frequently came up in the discussions as the most vulnerable to, and affected by these factors, were youth, women, ‘the poor,’ rural areas, and individuals with disabilities. Two sessions were held on each of the three days of the meeting. IMTFI had compiled a handout outlining all the research studies over the years that have linked women and financial inclusion, “Snapshots of Gender and Financial Inclusion,” which I shared with the other attendees. This was extremely helpful to participants because it provided information about the practical ways that IMTFI researchers are contributing to discussions around some of the challenges that we were going to focus on at the meeting.

Day 1: How do we actually define and articulate financial inclusion in our programs and policies?  Why?
The first session, “Trends in financial services and financial inclusion,” used case studies from various countries including India, China, and Kenya. A key emphasis was on the barriers to financial inclusion and how we address these to ensure that populations, especially marginalized groups in society, are empowered. This was the forum where I presented the IMTFI funded research, “The Use of Mobile Money Services and Platforms among Vulnerable Populations in Kenya.” In this study, Jane Mutinda and I show how persons with visual impairment, both in Kenya and globally, are often discriminated against when it comes to financial services and products, especially in relation to mobile money technology. Following the session, I was a bit shocked by the number of people that commented they had not considered the integration of persons with visual impairment into their initiatives, in their particular countries. This not only confirmed our research findings but it was a recognition of how much work we still have ahead of us in addressing "financial inclusion" in a comprehensive way—ensuring everyone’s well-being is central to our policies and practices.

The second session put policy and regulation issues more in context. With perspectives from the Philippines, Mexico, India, Bangladesh, and global institutions like the World Bank weighing in, the debate was around enabling policy environments to facilitate financial inclusion. There was extensive conversation around governance at many levels—examining the role of public sector (governments), civil society, and private sector. One of the best models of a national strategy for financial inclusion strategy was a case study from the Philippines. It covered a whole range of aspects from defining who’s excluded to how initiatives like microfinance, technological innovations, and e-money can help these populations become part of the benefits of financial services and growth. This session started the ongoing discussion about financial literacy education which continued on the second day. For me, it continued to stir my curiosity and questions about financial inclusion: What do we really mean when we use the term ‘financial inclusion,’ especially since contexts vary globally?  How do we develop and implement effective models of financial literacy programs to ensure inclusion? Is there sufficient commitment to put resources into these types of educational initiatives?

Read Ndunge's UNCTAD reports here: Defining Empowerment and Vinya wa Aka.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Two Challenges to Help Two Billion Reach Financial Security: Data Collection and Merchant Solutions


Last fall, through Grand Challenges Exploration (GCE), the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation solicited applications from organizations large and small, calling for novel ways to promote universal acceptance of mobile payment systems among merchants who sell goods to the world’s poor. They are continuing to explore this challenge—and expand with a new call to action—for a second round of applications, launching today. See more from their blog post here, or go straight to the application.


Merchants play an incredibly vital role in encouraging the adoption of mobile money and driving widespread financial inclusion. If they continue to transact in cash—without access to software, systems and devices that process mobile payments—the unbanked poor will continue to follow suit. By accepting and processing mobile payments widely and universally, merchants can make the system not only viable but enticing to hundreds of millions. See more from their blog post here, or go straight to the application:

You can find application instructions and additional information at the GCE website.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Challenges facing the uptake of m-insurance loyalty-based life insurance schemes: A case study of the yuCover microinsurance scheme in Kenya

Microinsurance refers to insurance for individuals with low incomes, giving poor people the ability to manage risks in their lives. Essar Telecom Kenya launched under the brand "yuMobile" in December 2008. It is the fourth largest mobile network operator (MNO) in Kenya with a subscriber base of 2,659,647 as of June 2012 (CCK, 2012). They offer services which include voice, SMS, mobile data, mobile money transfer (yuCash), and electronic mobile top up. They are also the latest entrant in microinsurance with "yuCover." yuCover is a loyalty-based insurance scheme that rewards yuMobile subscribers with a life insurance scheme dependent on their airtime usage. In 2012, the operator introduced to its subscribers monthly life and disability coverage based on their expenditures on the network, but the uptake remains low. 
This study explores the challenges facing the uptake of the yuCover microinsurance scheme in Kenya, and recommends mechanisms to mitigate these challenges. The research design that was adopted for this study is a descriptive survey. The population of the study was yuMobile subscribers while the accessible population was made up of 2,000 yuMobile subscribers sampled from the entire yuMobile subscribers’ population, which was stratified according to the location of the relationship centers. 
Registered subscribers who spend at least US$1.20 per month receive insurance coverage for themselves in the event of natural death or permanent disability. The more customers spend, the higher the insurance coverage they receive. In the event of a natural death or permanent disability, the subscriber’s family member registered on the insurance plan is required to report it along with the deceased’s death certificate to redeem the policy. Yu MNO partnered with Jubilee Insurance Company and Micro-Ensure to launch a loyalty-based insurance scheme with renewable monthly life and disability coverage based on the amount of airtime that they recharge each month. Jubilee insurance is the underwriter of the coverage, underscoring the growing convergence between MNOs and financial services companies, most notably banks. 
Distribution channels 
Distribution channels independent of the MNO--like churches, travel agencies, and self help groups--are essential in bringing microinsurance closer to the uninsured poor population. The yuCover scheme is a direct sales venture and uses mobile technology as the only distribution channel. This leads to low personal interaction about insurance between the insurer and clients. Clients can get information about insurance through the MNO’s unstructured supplementary services data (USSD) enabled menu. This leaves the uneducated, informal population and those who do not own mobile phones excluded from the scheme. This distribution channel is limited to the yuMobile operator and the underwriter. The MNO has little direct contact with clients, which has presented a challenge for the insurer to make sure that clients understand the product. 70% of yuMobile respondents confirmed that they did not have any idea or understanding about the service and 89% reported that they did not understand it well, even though the MNO has USSD-enabled menu where customers can get insurance information. 
Perception, attitude, resentment and insurance culture 
(Photo by the authors)
There is lack of insurance culture--the characteristics of a population as defined by an arrangement in which there is a guarantee of compensation upon the occurrence of an event--in Kenya. This is partly due to negative perceptions about insurance as a financial tool. Clients still perceive insurance to be a luxury service for the elite classes. This might be attributed to lack of proper information on the importance of insurance and lack of trust in insurance companies. 
Regulatory framework 
The Insurance Act (Laws of Kenya, Chapter 487) is the statute that regulates the Kenyan insurance industry. The Association of Kenya Insurers (AKI) self-regulates insurance policies and practices while the Insurance Regulatory Authority (IRA) has been mandated to supervise and regulate the insurance industry. The professional body of the industry is the Insurance Institute of Kenya (IIK), which deals mainly with training and professional education. The IRA and AKI have worked very hard to support microinsurance in Kenya by drafting bylaws that encourage the formation, uptake, and best practices of microinsurance. The regulatory framework has clear rules and regulations, thereby creating good conditions for yuCover market penetration. 
Lack of trust 
Lack of trust results in latent demand for insurance and plays a major role in the uptake--or lack of uptake--of yuCover. This lack of trust is characterized by nonpayment or slow payment of claims. There is misleading information that goes around from friends to relatives about the negative attributes of insurance which discourages subscription and thus hampers the uptake and penetration of microinsurance products. 
(Photo by the authors)
Marketing will help overcome the misperceptions of poor clients concerning the risks and benefits of insurance. Good marketing strategies will make poor households knowledgeable and aware, which in turn will create trust encouraging them to take up yuCover. yuCover’s marketing strategies were not clear, and it was evident that they have not reached their target population, i.e. poor households. 
Insurance Premium and Pricing 
70% of respondents believed that insurance premiums are exorbitant. Due to this perception, it was established that respondents didn’t seek insurance even if it was virtually offered for free, such as a complimentary service for using another product. Regardless of yuCover being loyalty-based, prospective subscribers still thought and felt that insurance premiums were expensive. No matter the pricing, it was observed that the target population has not built the culture of taking up insurance in general.  
Demographic factors 
Gender plays a significant role in the uptake of yuCover. Male respondents tend to take insurance more than their female counterparts as indicated in Table 1 below. Also, persons above 35 years of age have taken up yuCover more than the youthful 18-34 year old group, as illustrated in table 2. It was further observed that the youthful clients have several mobile numbers and constantly switch between several MNOs to look for attractive offers (e.g. internet bundles, cheap calling rates, and SMS). One interesting observation was that there was virtually no interest in insurance related products within this age group. 
Product Design and Diversity 
Clients liked the idea of bundling and diversifying risk events that occur often, e.g. burial, sickness, and crop failure. They thought that yuCover compels customers to join or subscribe to services that they don’t intend to use. The design of yuCover is not clear to the intended clients. To meet their clients' needs, yuMobile ought to design products that are financially and actuarially sound, and that will provide value to their customers. 
(Photo by the authors)
Low Demand 
Due to societal norms and beliefs, the respondents felt that taking yuCover was like projecting their eventual death and cursing themselves to encounter disability. For example, the disability coverage engendered lots of superstitious confusions and beliefs, resulting in yuMobile excluding this coverage from its package (Prashad et al 2013). Lack of diversity, trust, and awareness as well as poor perceptions have contributed to low demand of the yuCover scheme. These issues, among other factors, have suppressed consumers’ need for yuCover and micro insurance products in general. 
It can be concluded that the uptake of the yuCover scheme is still low as a result of inadequate: knowledge and awareness of the product; literacy and education of microinsurance in general; and product design and constrained distribution channels. Since the product is agent-less, reaching the target population is not an easy task. Alternative distribution channels need to be explored, and new product varieties need to be developed that impact the target population since the product has largely not benefited the intended population. 
Read the full report here.

Friday, March 13, 2015

GSMA State of the Industry Report

Find out all the fun facts on mobile money in the GSMA State of the Industry report:

- 299 million registered mobile money accounts globally at end of Dec 2014.
21 mobile money services with over one million active accounts. 
- 10% of mobile money services are delivered primarily over-the-counter.

And much more...

"Today, the GSMA Mobile Money for the Unbanked (MMU) programme releases its 2014 State of the Industry Report on mobile financial services. Published annually, the report provides industry practitioners with insights into the important developments taking place in mobile money, mobile insurance, mobile savings and mobile credit..."

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

IMTFI and Financial Inclusion Research: Reflections, Connections, and What's Next

By IMTFI graduate research assistant Stephen C. Rea 

At IMTFI's sixth annual conference in December 2014, I had the opportunity to sit down with several past and present research fellows to discuss their experiences with IMTFI, as well as timely issues in financial inclusion. Although they come from different institutional and disciplinary backgrounds, did research in different places, and examined different technologies, communities, and financial practices, five common themes emerged from our discussions: comparative work across different scales; collaborations and partnerships with a wide range of actors; qualitative research as a complement to quantitative analysis; IMTFI's role in helping to build a global network of researchers; and rethinking financial inclusion. 

Vivian Dzokoto (Photo by Steve McCord)
Looking at financial inclusion projects alongside the different social, cultural, and infrastructural contexts is crucial to understanding why an approach that may work in one community fails to take hold in another. “A lot of the discourse on mobile money is—of course—about M-Pesa,” Vivian Dzokoto told me. “And then you look in other African markets and you realize that the behaviors are not the same, the attitudes are not the same, the potential is not the same, and so it's very important not to assume that one size fits all.” Comparative work can help elucidate some of the contingencies and unexpected obstacles that, for example, a new mobile money service might encounter, and therefore help financial services providers rethink their strategies. 

Comparison is also helpful for getting a better sense of the myriad actors and interests in financial inclusion efforts at different scales. “I think I've become more curious,” Anatoly “Jing” Gusto explained, “trying to know more and hear more stories, both from indigenous peoples from my country as well as experts from different parts of the world.” In other words, one of the most valuable things about comparing scales is putting voices alongside each other—like those of indigenous groups and of central bankers—that otherwise might never be considered together.

Anatoly "Jing" Gusto (Photo by Steve McCord)
All of the researchers emphasized how their involvement with IMTFI had afforded them opportunities to collaborate with people and organizations working on financial inclusion inside and outside of academia. Jing shared that his experience allowed him to interact with institutions as disparate as the Alliance for Financial Inclusion, the Better Than Cash Alliance, and the Central Bank of the Philippines. “One of the takeaways for me when I attended the Alliance for Financial Inclusion's Global Policy Forum,” he continued, “was that there's a need for evidence-based policy formulation. A lot of our policymakers probably still need help in terms of finding what we can call a human-centered kind of policy that can produce the right program or right intervention for the target beneficiaries. And the research studies that are being carried out by people here in the IMTFI can guide them in terms of really knowing how people think, and really seeing the pros and cons of past and maybe future policies.” 

Erin Taylor agreed, explaining how IMTFI researchers' participation in policy discussions can provide a much needed “on the ground” perspective: “We were talking with a senior economist in a government institution the other day and he said to me that he's always sending consultants out to the field, and while they come back with these amazing stories about what people are up to—pretty pictures and everything—they don't tell him why people behave the way they do.” IMTFI researchers can bring their practical and theoretical expertise to partnerships with policymakers, the financial services industry, telecommunications companies, NGOs, and more to help fill these gaps in knowledge about people and their financial practices. But it's not just a one-way street; as Erin pointed out, “I think it's really important that we use things like the IMTFI's research network and branch out more broadly beyond our own disciplinary perspectives or our own sectors that we work in, in order to share information and knowledge. Otherwise how are you going to improve the research that you do?”

Qualitative research
Deepti KC (Photo by Steve McCord)
IMTFI prides itself on funding research projects with strong qualitative components. The hope is that ethnographic research will complement statistical analyses in helping to illuminate connections that could easily be overlooked. Deepti KC has extensive professional experience with doing quantitative work, but her IMTFI-funded research allowed her to work with qualitative methods for the first time. “I was spending time with women, and suddenly they were not just respondents for me,” she remembered. “They were human beings, they were people with emotions and they had their own lifestyles. Before that, I think I had more sympathy for the poor, but after this experience I don't have sympathy: I am more empathetic towards them! Because who are we to tell them what is right and wrong?”

Ana Echeverry said that qualitative research is “what really points to new findings, to new ways of analyzing problems.” She continued, “When you see people in action, in their environment, facing challenges in everyday life, and start asking 'Why do you do that? Why not instead of doing X or Y, you chose to do this?' then people start thinking, and start bringing new perspectives into contrast. So qualitative research provides insights into how people see their lives, their way of thinking.” Vivian added that listening to people who actually use a given financial service or product is important for industry and design: “One of the themes that has come up in a lot of IMTFI work is the fact that it's very important to understand the consumer,” she said. “And in order to understand the consumer, you have to understand how the consumer thinks, what the consumer wants. Paying attention to that kind of information—in addition to what people are already doing in the world—is important in terms of designing new financial products.” Jing reiterated how qualitative work complements quantitative approaches in this respect, saying that “qualitative research methodologies allow you to hear and understand the aspirational part” or what people are trying to tell you. Without qualitative research, “the picture won't be complete, you won't really understand the problem, and accordingly you won't be able to design the right solution without seeing the complete picture.”

IMTFI's research network
At the mid-point of their fieldwork, IMTFI's fellows convene at UC-Irvine to share the progress that they have made in their research. This annual conference is a chance for them to get feedback on their projects, and also to forge new connections with other researchers and interested parties. For Jing, research and networking complement each other. He told me that projects “won't be complete if you just do research and stop.” The conference provides researchers with a platform to communicate their work, and helps them build networks that they can draw upon long after the conference has ended. But without good research first—the “real meat,” as Jing put it—then it's difficult to maintain those networks. He added, “I think that having research on one side and then having the desire to connect with somebody, not only just to tell something, but in order to find something together, will make it, I think, a better story for everyone.”

Erin Taylor (Photo By Steve McCord)
It was Erin's third time attending the conference, and she explained how IMTFI's research network has grown stronger: “I think that's really important,” she said. “Now that there is consolidation, we're in a far better position to actually help each other move forward. It's really good that it's been such a longer term project rather than something that was a one off.” Vivian echoed Jing and Erin, noting that wherever she might want data to compare with her own, there was a good chance that she knew someone there already through IMTFI: “I know that if I ever need to collect data in Ethiopia, someone's there. If I need data from Botswana we have an IMTFI person there. It's nice to know that we belong to this network of people all over the world who are really interested in the same thing.”

Financial inclusion: looking forward
“Financial inclusion” was still rather novel when IMTFI funded its first research cohort, but now it is in danger of being taken for granted. As the past six years have taught us, financial inclusion can have several meanings and look rather different depending on who you talk to. IMTFI's researchers have helped promote financial inclusion as a political, social, philanthropic, business, and research agenda, and now they are drawing on their practical experiences in order to evaluate its successes and failures. More importantly, their critical reflections on what financial inclusion is and why it's important continue to drive the conversation forward.

Ana Echeverry (Photo by Steve McCord)
Ana defined financial inclusion as something that is inherently social. “Financial inclusion is not about government and the banking system designing how to get people to open more bank accounts,” she said. “It is about how I interact with other human beings, how I make my transactions with you.” In the course of her research, Deepti has begun to think about financial inclusion not in terms of access, but in terms of use. Recently, more attention has been given to issues specific to women and girls' participation in financial inclusion, something that Deepti is very concerned about. “I'm interested in understanding if financial service providers really understand what women want,” she said. “Are they just designing for the sake of designing without even understanding? We talk about financial inclusion, and we think if you open a bank account you are financially included. But if people are not using it, then you are not financially included.”

“I've really started thinking about financial inclusion more broadly as financial well-being,” Erin said. For example, a person can be excluded from formal financial services but still be relatively satisfied with the range of available informal services, and by the same token people who are already included don't always have the most stable financial lives. In other words, understanding financial inclusion is not just about expanding access, but also about improving well-being will be critical going forward. “I think if we can focus on that, we have a better chance of addressing that issue of what is good for people as financial beings, and taking it to a global perspective.”

Learn more about these researchers' work: Consumer Finance Methods: Global Approaches and Methods; Betting on Chance in Colombia;  Snapshots of Gender and Financial Inclusion; Female Financial Literacy; Jing Gusto's IMTFI blog post on AFI Global Policy Forum 2013, Barriers to Mobile Money Transfer Uptake in Ghana.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

10 barriers to boosting inclusive growth - Bill Maurer in conversation on The Guardian

On 26 Feb, IMTFI Director Bill Maurer livechatted on a panel, "Can mobile technology be a catalyst for inclusive growth?"(scroll down for full text of chat) with other mobile money experts in a Guardian series on Inclusive Growth, which is supported by MasterCard.

The idea of the chat which involved members from Policy Exchange, CGAP, TechChange, the Better than Cash Alliance, and other organizations, was to understand how mobile technology can help fight inequality and boost inclusive growth.

Here is a roundup of the "10 barriers to using mobile technology to fight inequality" to whet your appetite for more:
  1. Phone charging 
  2. Lack of personal ID 
  3. Literacy and language
  4. Lack of partnerships
  5. Focus on technology not people
  6. Gender inequality
  7. Misunderstanding local need
  8. Lack of digital skills
  9. Complex regulatory frameworks
  10. Poorer communities have been ignored