Published on All About Finance

New Global Findex data shows big opportunities for digital payments

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We're delighted to release the 2017 Global Findex, the third round of the world's most detailed dataset of how adults save, borrow, make payments, and manage risk.

Drawing on surveys with more than 150,000 adults in more than 140 economies worldwide, the latest Global Findex features new data on fintech transactions made through mobile phones and the internet. It also provides time series updates for benchmark financial inclusion indicators.

The data shows that financial inclusion is on the rise globally, with 1.2 billion adults opening accounts since 2011, including 515 million in the last three years alone. That means 69 percent of adults globally have an account, up from 62 percent in 2014 and 51 percent in 2011. We see that Fintech, or financial technology, plays a progressively greater role in countries like China, where 50% of account owners use a mobile phone to make a transaction from their account. Compared to 2014, twice as many adults in Brazil and Kenya are paying utility bills digitally.

Mobile technology continues to accelerate financial inclusion in Sub-Saharan Africa. Since 2014, mobile money penetration has nearly doubled, to 21 percent, while financial institution account ownership barely changed. The 2017 Global Findex also heralds mobile money's spread in West Africa, where mobile money ownership spiked in countries like Burkina Faso and Senegal.    

All of this is good for development. By helping people make investments in their education, health and businesses and manage shocks, financial inclusion can serve as a stepping stone out of poverty. Yet inequality in financial inclusion stubbornly persists.

Worldwide, men are still 7 percentage points more likely than women to have an account, as was true in 2014. The income gap — also unchanged since 2014 — is even bigger. And 1.7 billion adults worldwide remain unbanked.

The good news is that we have more detailed data than ever on how to promote financial inclusion. To reveal opportunities for increasing ownership and use of accounts, we spliced Global Findex variables with Gallup World Poll data on ownership of mobile phones and access to the internet.

It turns out that over one billion of the 1.7 billion unbanked adults own a mobile phone, potentially offering easier access to digital financial services. And many of these adults already receive routine transactions in cash. For example, 100 million unbanked adults receive government payments in cash, and 67 million of them have a mobile phone. Apparently not everyone was thrilled with our old website. We heard your concerns, and took the opportunity to revamp it from top to bottom. At our new homepage, you can easily download the Findex dataset, working paper, and underlying data for all our maps and graphs. While you're at it, check out the 2017 Little Data Book, a handy compendium of key Global Findex variables organized by country, region, and income group. Or stop by the bookshop and pick up a hard copy. Microdata will be available in the fall.

We hope researchers, policymakers, and journalists will dig into the data. Be sure to follow us on Twitter @GlobalFindex and get in touch if you have any questions.


Asli Demirgüç-Kunt

Former Chief Economist, Europe and Central Asia Region

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