(This post was first published on Ericsson’s M-Commerce blog)
In 2014, we saw solid indicators that governments are taking financial inclusion seriously. It is increasingly seen as a tool for improving poor people’s lives, and we witnessed concrete progress in many countries around the world.
On the importance of financial inclusion as a key governmental objective, I’ll use the examples of India and Pakistan, where I have been recently involved – among other countries – but many countries are taking similar and ambitious measures.
In the last six months of 2014, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) eliminated major regulatory barriers to digital financial inclusion, clearing the way for a big expansion in digital financial inclusion in 2015-16. These include:
- Payments Bank regulations: RBI issued new regulations that allow companies with significant distribution expertise (including mobile network operators) to offer deposit accounts, payments, and cash-in/out services as a stand-alone business.
- RBI also removed the Know-Your-Customer (KYC) requirement that customers must provide proof of their current and permanent address for opening a bank account.
- The bank also partnered with India’s telecoms regulator to require mobile network operators to provide access to banks’ USSD channels for mobile banking.
Also in 2014 the Indian Prime Minister Mr. Modi launched the Jan Dhan Yojana (JDY) financial inclusion scheme with the goal of achieving 100% financial inclusion by January 2015. The program is a big opportunity to digitize India’s government payment flows. Indeed, in support of JDY, Prime Minister Modi embraced the Aadhaar digital identification system and 720 million Aadhaar numbers have now been issued.
We also saw encouraging developments in Pakistan, where the Finance Ministry and State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) took several major steps to expand digital financial inclusion:
- The National Database & Registration Authority (NADRA) and SBP signed an agreement to reduce NADRA’s biometric verification fees for mobile accounts. SBP agreed to harmonize biometric KYC across mobile accounts and SIM cards.
- Finance Minister Ishaq Dar gave a major speech announcing the government’s commitment to digitize government payment flows, join the Better Than Cash Alliance, and chair an Inter-Ministerial Council on Financial Inclusion.
Financial inclusion is a journey and 2015 will be another important step to completing the mission. I hope that we will soon see the first countries embark on a coordinated “all hands on deck”, multi-sector and multi-player program to connect, one by one, the hundreds of millions of people whose lives will be changed by relying on digital and safe payment and financial tools.
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