Technology works for getting poor people’s problems fixed – we just have to get it right

|

This page in:

© Sarah Farhat/World Bank

One of the encouraging signs that I pick up whenever I travel is the difference that technology is making to the lives of millions of marginalized people. In most cases it’s happening on a small, non-flashy scale in hundreds of different ways, quietly improving the opportunities that that have been denied to remote communities, women and young people for getting a foot on the ladder.

And because it is discreet and under the radar I dare as an optimist to suggest that we are at the beginning of something big – a slow tsunami of success. Let me give you some reasons why I believe this.

Aissata lives in Ganyah, a remote village in Guinea that was hit hard by the Ebola crisis. She invests part of a monthly cash transfer in a microfinance scheme with other women, which they use to grow vegetables to sell at the market. This helps to feed her children and send them to school. Aissata’s family’s life prospects have literally been transformed by technology – because without it the social registry which has opened up these possibilities would not be able to reach her.

From Guinea to Chile, Turkey, Djibouti, Pakistan and Indonesia, social registries are helping connect people to public services - social protection, health and financial inclusion - and in the process prioritizing the poorest. And the invisible technology platforms on which these registries are constructed save millions of dollars caused by pre-digital errors.

Pakistan’s social registry now includes 85 percent of the population. It serves 70 different programs and has contributed to savings of US$248 million. In South Africa a similar process saved US$157 million. In Argentina, linking 34 social program databases to unique identity numbers revealed eligibility errors, saving $143 million over eight years.

Two billion people work in the global informal economy, where so many employees lack social protection. In low-income countries social insurance is virtually non-existent and even in upper-middle income countries it reaches only 28 percent of the poorest people. Yet mobile and digital payment ecosystems are creating new opportunities.

In India innovations like the ‘unified payments interface’ are bringing the cashless economy closer to the poor. Micro-insurance platforms and ‘nudges’ are being used to incentivize people to make flexible, voluntary and cashless contributions. With government top-ups, informal workers get coverage.

75,000 girls and women in rural and remote areas of Zambia can choose how they receive digital payments through a bank, mobile wallet account or a pre-paid card. And in West Africa there is an ambitious plan to provide 100 million digital identities by 2028, with coverage including nomads, the homeless, minorities and people living in active conflict zones.

In Indonesia a ‘Family Hope’ cash transfer program has reached ten million poor households, expanding to the remotest eastern corners of the archipelago to meet human development goals. In Lebanon our partnership with the World Food Program is helping strengthen coordination with humanitarian systems and enabling food assistance via an electronic card targeting the poorest Lebanese households as well as Syrian refugee households.

As more people move into the ‘gig’ economy even in developed countries, we should consider how social protection programs might offer new opportunities for informal workers to take their benefits and services to-go, irrespective of their employer. The World Bank’s 2019 World Development Report is diving deep into this and other aspects of the future of work.

Technology is making it possible to reach excluded people, even as more aspects of the physical economy move to the virtual world.  This inexorable trend cannot be resisted. It has huge potential to build on the massive strides made in recent decades towards a fairer world – but for this to happen we must get it right.

The World Bank is in the lead when working to ensure the technology that is reshaping our future delivers social inclusion for everyone, especially the people most at risk of being left behind.  The proof of that is the 85% of our operations portfolio that we are committing through 92 social protection and jobs projects.

Join the Conversation

Sushil Chandran
June 30, 2018

<p>Technology should be harnessed to the benefit of mankind and our faster propagation of best practices is enabled by these initiatives. Hope world leaders extend it full support.</p>

Mr William Dare
June 30, 2018

<p>Wonderful. I'm happy to be part of this program in our country, Nigeria. I floating an NGO for the purpose of reaching the grass root in the area of agriculture. I registered over 25000 people under Social Exchange Market microfinance bank and thank them for the good job they are doing. We this great job I believe the actives poor in our Nation we be reached.</p>

Rocío Lagos
June 29, 2018

La tecnología es una oportunidad de inclusión y equidad en especial para las mujeres, por experiencias con población vulnerable se encuentra que ellas a través de este medio a actualizan y rompen esquemas de violencia psicologíca, económica y física.
Les encanta las trafeerencias monetarias co medios financieros dinero plástico o que sea redimible en supermercados donde difícilmente han podido llegar.
Importante sería diseñar mecanismos financieros asequibles que mejoren la inclusión financiera de estas poblaciones.

DOUG MAYORGA
June 29, 2018

INTERESANTE TEMA QUE ME GUSTARIA INVITAR ALGUN CONFERENCISTA PARA LA CONFERENCIA GLOBAL DE MUNICIPALIDADES RURALES Y VULNERABLES, ESTE PROXIMO 12 Y 13 DE JULIO EN EL HOTEL MELROSE GEORGETOWN EN LA CIUDAD DE WASHINGTON DC

Anonymous
June 29, 2018

Hola buenas tardes mi nombre es Santos Jaime DNI 12. 997. 331. Y estamos trabajando en un proyecto innovador de Prevención! Arguello. Córdoba Argentina. Esta muy buena la noticia.

Sushil Chandran
June 30, 2018

Technology should be harnessed to the benefit of mankind and our faster propagation of best practices is enabled by these initiatives. Hope world leaders extend it full support.

Mr William Dare
June 30, 2018

Wonderful. I'm happy to be part of this program in our country, Nigeria. I floating an NGO for the purpose of reaching the grass root in the area of agriculture. I registered over 25000 people under Social Exchange Market microfinance bank and thank them for the good job they are doing. We this great job I believe the actives poor in our Nation we be reached.

Alejandro Pacheco
July 02, 2018

Excelente trabajo, si en Latino América se presta atención a este proyecto, los avances serian extraordinarios. Desde nuestro sitio web www.elnuevoentrepreneur.com impulsaremos estas iniciativas interesantes. Sin duda la educación es un papel fundamental para el avance de este proyecto. Cuenten con nosotros si Uds lo consideran necesario.

Pedro Jaimes
July 02, 2018

Excelente post!

Gloria
July 13, 2018

Me gusta esta nueva tecnología de impacto en nuestra sociedad y que trae como consecuencia beneficios corto, mediano y largo plazo. Me gustaría formar parte de su proyecto