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New data from InterMedia breaks down the impact of demonetization on financial inclusion across gender, locality, income levels, account types, and more. 

> Posted by Nadia van de Walle, Senior Research Manager, Financial Inclusion Insights, InterMedia

(click to enlarge)

Demonetization had a strongly positive effect on financial inclusion, leading to increases in account registration and active and advanced use of registered accounts, according to our data. Perhaps surprisingly, given some of the discussion in the financial inclusion community over the last year predicting demonetization increasing electronic payments, these account registration increases were mostly among bank accounts rather than mobile wallets.

InterMedia’s fourth annual Financial Inclusion Insights (FII) survey was underway on November 9, 2016 when approximately 85 percent of the banknotes in circulation in India were invalidated by the policy known as demonetization. The invalid notes had to be deposited in a bank or exchanged for new ones at banks and other financial institutions. The timing of demonetization in relation to InterMedia’s activities presented an opportunity for us to measure the impact on financial inclusion using a panel survey of 1,600 randomly selected individuals in the states of Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, and Rajasthan. These respondents were first interviewed for the FII survey roughly one month prior to Nov. 9, and then re-interviewed seven months later.

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> Posted by Nadia van de Walle, Senior Research Manager, Financial Inclusion Insights, Intermedia

The State Bank of Pakistan’s (SBP) National Financial Inclusion Strategy (NFIS), launched in May 2015, set an ambitious goal of expanding access to financial services from 10 percent of adults to at least 50 percent by the year 2020. Intermedia’s newly-released Financial Inclusion Insights (FII) data suggests that, as of 2016, Pakistan’s progress was not yet on a trajectory to get to 50 percent. It also suggests ways Pakistan could improve the rate of progress.

FII’s new 2016 Pakistan Annual Report and Survey Data finds that financial access rose only incrementally, from 15 percent to 16 percent, in 2016. More than 45 million more adults would need to take up a formal financial account for the country to achieve 50 percent financial inclusion as defined by the NFIS. Further, even if access is improved, registration and regular use of accounts may lag and prove a steeper climb. The percentage of adults holding registered accounts with a full-service financial institution did not increase at all over the last year, measuring 9 percent in 2015 and 2016. Similarly, active registered users over the same period remained unchanged at 8 percent.

However, these figures could be improved if the gap between the formal products on the market and Pakistanis’ actual, day-to-day financial needs and preferences is addressed, FII data indicates.

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> Posted by David Tuesta, BBVA, and Sonja E. Kelly, CFI

A Spanish-language version of this post follows the English-language version.

YOU are a beneficiary of data. The materials in those shoes you are wearing were chosen over other materials because of data on cost, durability, and consumer opinion. When you go to the supermarket, you can easily find the chocolate bars because data told company marketers that if the chocolate bars are at the front of the store, consumers will be more likely to buy them. When you use public transportation, the fare you pay is based on data on the cost of the system and estimates of how many riders there will be.

Some people think data is boring. For those people, we say “tough luck.” Data is inevitable. Data provides the information on which economic decisions are based. More data provides more knowledge, information and transparency, helping all economic agents make better decisions, and through this, increasing society`s welfare.

It is no wonder, therefore, that data is critical for financial inclusion, as the financial services industry expands its focus toward harder to reach and lower income populations. The data we have on consumers helps to better understand how quickly financial inclusion is catching on and to tool financial services products appropriately to different market segments. Data at higher levels helps too: information about financial services providers is essential for regulators to monitor the market. Data matters, and it will shape the path of financial inclusion.

Last month at the invitation and of the Inter-American Development Bank we met at the IDB’s Washington, D.C. headquarters with a group of people from many institutions across the financial services industry from large international organizations to small research institutions to global banks to take stock of what data is out there, how much information could be available, how it can best be used, and how data efforts can be improved. There have been strong efforts to improve data from the demand side (customers), such as the Global Findex. Despite many data collection initiatives on the supply side (providers), there are still gaps that could be important for improving and evaluating convenience and
accessibility of potential financial services for those who are unbanked.
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> Posted by Peter Goldstein, Director of Foundation Relations, InterMedia

The Financial Inclusion 2020 project at the Center for Financial Inclusion at Accion is building a movement toward full financial inclusion by 2020. Accordingly, this blog series will spotlight financial inclusion efforts around the globe, share insights coming out of the creation of a roadmap to full financial inclusion, and highlight findings from research on the “invisible market.”

I recently looked over CGAP’s strategic priorities for the next five years, and one really resonated for me: understanding demand to effectively deliver for the poor. That’s because much of the work we do at InterMedia focuses on helping funders and implementers of digital financial inclusion understand people’s needs and priorities. We attempt to identify triggers and barriers to customer use and help providers activate the triggers and sidestep the barriers in product design.

At a basic level, understanding people is about listening to them, but in ways that prompt meaningful and relevant comments from those intended to benefit from financial inclusion. We aim to go beyond simple data points to identify the underlying reasons that, say, someone might use mobile money transfer services instead of hand delivery, or prefers to store their savings in cash rather than in a bank account or on a phone.

Our work in Tanzania provides good examples of how a few carefully targeted conversations can reveal valuable insights about the user experience. The Tanzania Mobile Money Tracker project ran from late 2011 through 2012 and was based on quarterly consumer surveys, consumer focus groups, interviews with mobile money agents, and “mystery shopping” in agent stores. The combination of these elements provided us with a 360-degree view on the user side of the equation.

In the process, we noticed mobile money users talking about paying for registration, and non-mobile money users saying they did not want to use the services because they heard it was expensive to register. This was intriguing, because registration is supposed to be free! We looked for additional information on how common it was for mobile money users to pay, how much they were paying, and why they might have been paying. Our mystery shoppers found that in many cases the agent asked for TZS500 as a “registration fee” and another TZS500 for a new SIM card. The latter is valid if the customer did not already have a SIM or needed to upgrade an existing card.

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> Posted by Jeffrey Riecke, Communications Assistant, CFI

The stage is set for large-scale financial inclusion expansion in Uganda, including amongst those at the base of the pyramid, according to a new report by InterMedia. Compiling the results of over 3,000 household surveys, Mobile Money in Uganda: Use, Barriers and Opportunities examines the uptake, use and market potential of mobile money services throughout the African country.

In order to participate in mobile money banking services, the only hardware an individual needs is an active SIM card – a data storage card used in mobile devices. They don’t even need their own phone, if they can use someone else’s phone when needed. The report finds that the accessibility of such hardware is widespread. Of the surveyed households, roughly two-thirds had at least one person who owned a mobile phone and an active SIM card. What’s more, over half of the country’s unbanked households and households living below the poverty line were deemed able to access a mobile phone and own a SIM card.

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The views and opinions expressed on this blog, except where otherwise noted, are those of the authors and guest bloggers and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Center for Financial Inclusion or its affiliates.