There has been a significant rise in bank account ownership around the world from 51% to 69% between 2011 and 2016.

Global Findex Database.

In 2017, in regions that serve as home to millions of NBUs, the ownership rates were even more impressive — 71% for East Asia and Pacific, 70% for South Asia, and 43% for the Middle East and North Africa regions.

Having access to a financial account is, in itself, the first step toward broader financial inclusion. It opens up gateways for individuals to participate in their economy, from basic payments transactions and sending or receiving money to saving, borrowing, or lending to the more complex investment activities. However, as the World Bank Group has found, “access” does not always translate to “usage,” which is the real measure of an inclusive economy where anyone with a transaction account can participate in financial transactions. In NBU countries, that participation is stifled by different challenges.

For the likes of Brazilian economist Marcos Túlio Ramos, the challenge lies in the traditional financial institutions’ insufficient and outdated credit models, something that Marcos took upon himself to find solutions to. He formed a consultancy firm that focused on addressing what he regards as an “imbalance in information in the credit decision process, which caused high failure rates in institutions and the frustration of many clients.” When he started offering his assistance online, the start-up EasyCrédito was born — a platform that connects people who need credit with companies that offer loan financing and card options based on an algorithm that analyzes each profile and increases the chances of consumers having their credit approved. (Read his story here).

Link to Youtube Video (Visible only when JS is disabled)

Google for Startups Residency Program.

In 2016, Marcos Túlio Ramos’ startup, EasyCrédito, was selected for the Google for Startups Residency program. EasyCrédito connects people who need credit with companies that offer loan options, financing, and cards from an algorithm that analyzes each profile, increasing the chances of approval.

Fintech startup success stories like Marcos’ are instrumental in closing the digital divide because they are an example of how providing open, innovative sandboxes to various economic and tech players enable them to build services that address needs of the NBUs, and especially the NIUs, who may not be familiar nor comfortable with the traditional financial systems but have the capability to be involved in financial activities through digital means using their mobile phones. After all, mobile computing has changed and is still changing every aspect of our lives, and the world of finance is no different and is, in fact, already at the inflection point.

Opening up financial systems to embrace the likes of EasyCrédito as well as interoperable technologies like real-time payments systems, would help expand financial activities to more individuals and businesses, and especially to the NBUs.

Closing the divide in a digital economy also requires deepening partnerships between governments and businesses, which then enables all of us to freely innovate and provide the right technology to meet the needs. We saw this in our groundbreaking experience working on the digital payments space in India in 2017.

In 2017, The Indian economy was over 90% cash-based and had a huge population outside of the financial system, and the Indian government was eager to promote digital payments and financial inclusion through a newly developed payment infrastructure called Unified Payments Interface (UPI).

We partnered with the Indian government and other financial institutions to launch Tez, now Google Pay, our first digital payment platform that is now available in other countries like the United States and Singapore. Today, people use Google Pay to do everything from sending money home to their families to splitting the check for dinner. We have seen how Google Pay impacted digital payments in India with many users coming from not just the cities but all over the provinces far from the center, and we continue to see its impact in other countries with more small and medium businesses and merchants able to receive payments easily and securely from their loyal customers.

We used our market knowledge, engineering expertise, and available infrastructure to introduce digital payments that relied on national payments rails. But what truly worked in our favor was the partnership with the government and banking partners.

Our experience has shown us that country-initiated financial inclusion strategies yield a tremendous amount of impact that accelerates its reach among those who need it most. We believe that in order for other countries to replicate India’s success, providing infrastructure where third parties can initiate and innovate is strongly recommended. This kind of partnership drives participation from multiple sectors that transform the entire ecosystem.

We have seen what partnerships can do in opening up even the most traditional systems to transformative innovation, and that’s why we joined the Mojaloop Foundation along with partners like the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Rockefeller Foundation, Coil, and ModusBox. The Mojaloop Foundation aims to provide an open-source software called Mojaloop, designed to overcome barriers that slow down digital financial services and promote financial inclusion. This initiative helps tie together a growing yet fragmented array of private digital financial services in Africa and elsewhere.

The goal is to support national payments systems with Mojaloop to connect many different banking and payments systems in a way that would enhance the value of existing digital payments services rather than compete with them. We want to help facilitate this openness and interoperability because expanded digital payments could also boost the global economy.

A 2016 McKinsey study concluded that widespread and affordable digital finance tools could grow the economies of developing nations by 6%, or a total of $3.7 trillion, by 2025. That would be the equivalent of adding another Germany to the world economy.

Digital finance tools could grow the economies of developing nations by 6% by 2025. The equivalent of adding another Germany to the world economy.

2016 McKinsey study

Providing Mojaloop technology is only part of the solution, though.

Building systems also requires navigating national regulations and red tape, training staff, and making sure new financial tools are accessible to people who need them. In addition to the software, the Mojaloop Foundation connects experts with countries and development agencies to tackle problems and help guide government policies that promote privacy and other user-protection measures.

“More affordable, accessible digital financial services are still needed to close the financial inclusion gap,” said Paula Hunter, executive director, the Mojaloop Foundation. “With the launch of the Mojaloop Foundation, our initial Sponsor members will serve as active contributors to achieving our financial inclusion mission. Mojaloop open source software, its collaboration community and convenings will continue to serve as a path forward for organizations creating interoperable payments platforms to connect all digital financial providers and customers within an economy.”

“At Google, we believe that financial institutions, governments and technology companies need to work together if we want to empower people to be financially capable. In joining other Sponsor members in building the Mojaloop Foundation, we are providing ways for all of us to work together to advance financial inclusion that will transform lives — that means seeing that people understand digital money, have access to it and manage it with confidence, and use it to make their lives better. That, to us, is what it means to make technology open, accessible and helpful for everyone,” said Mojaloop Foundation founding Sponsor member Adama Diallo, head of partnerships for Google’s Next Billion Users Initiative in Africa.

Connecting underbanked populations with a means of taking part in the emerging digital economy, particularly in places like Africa, is a tremendous advantage for novice internet users and the proliferation of mobile tools.

Just as important to mobile connectivity is what people can do once connected with technology. One of the most exciting advancements is financial connectivity, which, when expanded to achieve financial inclusion, ensures that everyone can participate in the economic system.


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