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Weekly Wire: The Global Forum

Roxanne Bauer's picture

These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.
 

The Transformative Impact of Data and Communication on Governance: Part 3
Brookings Institution
How do digital technologies affect governance in areas of limited statehood – places and circumstances characterized by the absence of state provisioning of public goods and the enforcement of binding rules with a monopoly of legitimate force?  In the first post in this series I introduced the limited statehood concept and then described the tremendous growth in mobile telephony, GIS, and other technologies in the developing world.  In the second post I offered examples of the use of ICT in initiatives intended to fill at least some of the governance vacuum created by limited statehood.  With mobile phones, for example, farmers are informed of market conditions, have access to liquidity through M-Pesa and similar mobile money platforms.

Cashing in: why mobile banking is good for people and profit
The Guardian
Using digital finance to tackle development problems can improves lives, and offer innovative companies handsome rewards. Whether it is lack of access to water, energy or education, development professionals are well versed in the plethora of challenges facing billions of people. The traditional approach to solving these problems has been to think big – in terms of the millennium development goals, government aid programmes, or huge fundraising campaigns. But there are dozens of startups and larger companies with innovative ideas who are approaching these challenges in new ways using digital finance.

Policies to foster mobile banking development

Eva M. Gutiérrez's picture

Mobile banking (m-banking) — the use of mobile phones to conduct financial and banking transactions — represents a key area of financial innovation in recent times. Mobile banking allows banks’ customers convenient access to a variety of banking functions, and increases efficiency.  Customers can access funds in their bank accounts at all times through mobile phones, and transaction costs are driven down. Even when individuals have access to bank accounts with low fees, m-banking can reduce the opportunity cost of financial transactions.

Mobile banking has also been identified as a potentially significant contributor to financial inclusion by the G-20. While half the adults worldwide do not have access to formal bank accounts, it is estimated that more than 2 billion of those unbanked already own a mobile phone. Unbanked individuals cite difficulties in obtaining a bank account such as living too far away from branches, not possessing necessary documents, or high banking costs.  All such barriers to finance can in theory be overcome through a pivot in business model that is supportive of m-banking.

M-banking has flourished both in developed and developing countries in various forms in response to structural characteristics. The model of providing financial services through a mobile phone linked to a bank account is referred to in the literature as the additive model. The use of m-banking in developed economies often follows the additive model. This contrasts with the practice of using m-banking to target the unbanked - the transformative model. Under this model, non-banks issue electronic currency to offer costumers payment services and value storage services.

Bring in the tech nerds to help expand financial inclusion

Ignacio Mas's picture

(image: Sean Graham, Flickr Creative Commons)

It has become mainstream to think that digital technologies will have a significant role to play in addressing the financial inclusion challenge in developing countries. This may be so, but if all we in the financial inclusion community do is merely add the mobile phone (or the smart card) to our stock of dearly-held beliefs, we will accomplish little. Technology will not work additively; if technology-based models work it will be because they will have changed pretty much everything. I’m not saying that everything will change: I’m just saying that that should be the bet.

Longreads: Can Graphene Drive the Green Economy?, Women and Mobile Financial Services, With River Blindness ‘You Never Sleep’

Donna Barne's picture

Find a good longread on development? Tweet it to @worldbank with the hashtag #longreads.

 

LongreadsA video about a “scientific accident that may change the world (or at least your battery life)” went “viral” in February.  Researchers at University of California, Los Angeles, found a way to make a “non-toxic, highly efficient energy storage medium out of pure carbon using absurdly simple technology,” says ReWire. The “graphene” battery is being touted as capable of “super-fast charging of everything from smartphones to electric cars,” according to ReWire. Responding to Climate Change (RTCC) asks whether the technology holds promise as a way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. “Replacing heavier materials in vehicle manufacture with graphene, particularly in aircraft can lead to substantial fuel savings,” says RTCC.  Gizmodo anticipates how graphene could transform the gadgets of the future.

The Rich Role of Mobile Phones in Financial Inclusion

Ignacio Mas's picture

The mobile phone has become a useful tool in tackling the  financial access deficit in many countries. M-PESA in Kenya has shown that adoption curves typical of new information-based technologies (radio,TV, mobiles, internet) can be applied to  financial services. Yet M-PESA-like mobile payment schemes have only scratched the surface of what is possible. The typical mobile money user still uses it only a couple of times a month.

In a recent paper, Colin Mayer of the Saïd Business School at the University of Oxford and I argue that the real power of mobile will come when it is seen not only as a mechanism for reducing access costs but also for building new types of banking experiences. Indeed, the agenda needs to shift from access to use.

Triggering Disruptive Innovation in Retail Banking in the Digital Age

Ignacio Mas's picture

See what a profound transformation the internet is producing in information-based sectors. Newspapers are under threat from online news sources and blogs. These same web destinations are becoming less relevant as people simply lift and filter the information they want using RSS feeds. The music CD is being unbundled as customers buy individual tracks online. These songs get remixed and re-distributed across an ever-growing number of online content repositories. Books are increasingly digitized, and customers can now sample content and search for information across entire libraries.

The internet is a destroyer of digital products but a great creator of new kinds of customer experiences. Power has shifted to users: it’s no longer about the packages of content suppliers want to sell but about the content mash-ups users want to consume. Providers’ best response is to try to extract more customer information with each interaction, and use that to deliver even more relevance and convenience to their customers. Think Google and Apple and Amazon: the new corporate battlefield lies in the control of the user interface and the customer intelligence system that supports it.

Yet there is one information-based sector that seems deaf to the great sucking sound of the internet: banking. What is banking but managing information of who has what financial claims on whom? For banking, the internet truly is still just another channel. Sure, it has added transactional convenience, but has it changed how banks talk to us?

Low Cost Banking: How Retail Stores and Mobile Phones Can Transform Access to Finance

Ignacio Mas's picture

More than 3 billion people in the world today don’t have access to savings accounts. Many of these 3 billion fall below the less-than-$2-per-day benchmark of the world’s poorest people. Why are banks not doing a better job to help them manage their financial lives?

The problem is largely one of cost. Providing financial services to the poor is prohibitively expensive for banks. Each time a client stands in front a of a teller’s window it costs most banks from $1 to $3. If poor clients make transactions of $1 or $2, or even less, banks won’t be able to support the costs.

It’s also too costly for the poor. Most poor people, especially those in rural areas, live far away from bank branches. Let me give one example of a woman in Kenya. The nearest branch may be 10 kilometers away, but it takes her almost an hour to get there by foot and bus because she doesn’t have her own wheels. With waiting times at the branch, that’s a round-trip of two hours – a quarter or so of her working day gone.  While the bus fare is only 50 cents, that’s maybe one fifth of what she makes on an average day. So each banking transaction costs her the equivalent of almost half a day’s wages.