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.
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.