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Philippines offers insight into future of mobile banking and the poor

James I Davison's picture

It’s now evident that people in developing countries have access to the internet and mobile phones like never before, which (as I recently wrote about) may lead to increased economic growth, job creation and good governance. A huge piece of this broad puzzle is mobile banking, and utilizing mobile phones to bring financial services to people who wouldn't otherwise have access to banks ("unbanked").

A new study, released last month by the Consultative Group to Assist the Poor (CGAP) and GSMA, estimates that there are more than one billion people worldwide who are unbanked, yet have access to mobile phones. And by 2012, that number is expected to grow to 1.7 billion people.

Part of the study focuses on survey information from mobile money users in the Philippines. The country, which has two leading mobile banking companies (Smart and Globe) and 1.6 million previously unbanked users, can offer insight into the issue, according to the study. Some of the survey’s findings, which are highlighted here, indicate that most mobile banking users in the Philippines use it to send and receive domestic remittances. Microfinance Analyst Mark Pickens shares some other key findings on the CGAP blog:

  • One-half of mobile money users in the Philippines were previously unbanked.
  • Most of unbanked non-users know telephone company brands better than bank brands, and they often view mobile banking as easy.
  • Still, only 21% feel mobile banking is a product for them.

Aside from these findings, Pickens points out in an earlier blog post that a big goal is to help mobile phone operators work toward offering new and “more sophisticated” services to mobile banking customers. The report also insists that these phone companies should base these offerings on the needs and lives of poor, unbanked consumers.