How ITU is partnering to boost digital financial inclusion

“There are 1.7 billion people, adults today, who do not have any access to financial services, and the same people, or 1.2 billion [of them], have a mobile phone” said Bilel Jamoussi, Chief of the Study Groups Department for ITU’s Telecommunication Standardization Bureau, at the Financial Inclusion Global Initiative Symposium held in Cairo this week.

This represents a huge opportunity to bring financial services to the unbanked, but it is important that regulators from both the finance and technology sectors have a conversation to create a new enabling environment for financial services, he said.

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The ‘Financial Inclusion Global Initiative’ (FIGI), a partnership led by ITU, the World Bank Group and the Committee on Payments and Market Infrastructures, and with financial support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, aims to advance research in digital finance and accelerate digital financial inclusion in developing countries.

“We have three implementation countries: Egypt, Mexico, and China. And we have three working groups: one on electronic payment acceptance, [another] on … digital ID, and [another] on security infrastructure and trust, led by the ITU,” said Mr Jamoussi.

“The idea is to really continue the momentum, share the knowledge, and provide policymakers, ministers, telecom regulators, and central bank governors with the tools that they can use.” – Bilel Jamoussi

He explained that after about a year and a half of in-country implementation, a lot has been learned about country-specific needs.

“The working groups have developed solutions to secure the transactions providing quality of service…. The idea is to really continue the momentum, share the knowledge, and provide policymakers, ministers, telecom regulators, and central bank governors with the tools that they can use … to enable financial inclusion in their countries.”

At the event, 14 teams competed in a hackathon to develop solutions to provide financial services to the poor at very low cost.

Mr. Jamoussi explained that the outcome of the Symposium would ideally be a set of tools and recommendations that policymakers can use to create change in their countries, as well as allow technologists to gain a better understanding of the technologies they can further develop to increase the trust in these financial transactions.

He emphasized that a key element for people to move from cash to digital financial services is psychological — whether they trust the devices to send or receive money.

The more we show that technology is secure, that the user is adequately identified and authenticated, and that the transactions are safe with adequate quality of service, the more people will trust in the solution, he said.

 

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