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As soon as we solve the 6,000 languages problem

The following post is from Kas Kalba, President of Kalba International, Inc., a global telecom consultancy. It’s drawn largely from Kalba’s forthcoming book Mobiles We Don’t Know. In this post Kalba discusses three key obstacles impeding the proliferation of smartphones. To learn about how limited network coverage is hindering the utility of smartphones, check out CFI Fellow Leon Perlman’s recent report.    

Major languages by number of native speakers (click to enlarge)

When a highly reputable publication announces “Almost two-thirds of the human population is connected to the internet by smartphones,” it signals how loose our assumptions about technology adoption have become. This estimate, which implies roughly 5 billion users compared to the total global population of 7.5 billion, is not even close. The actual number is about 2 billion, when counting individual smartphone users—not the same as smartphones sold to date. So why is the smartphone still not in the hands of 5.5 billion potential users—or 4.5 billion if we discount a billion as under age?

If adoption of smartphones progresses at the same pace as the initial adoption of mobile phones, connecting 3 more billion people to smartphones could take 10 or more years. Even this rate would leave 2.5 billion of us without smartphones.

Based on Kalba International’s work in Africa, Asia and Latin America, we think there are three factors involved—the language gap, the income gap, and the recharging gap. This is in addition to extending internet coverage to many areas without it.

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> Posted by Center Staff

Embed from Getty Images

A schoolboy looks at an electric light bulb powered by M-KOPA solar technology, as it illuminates his home in Ndela village, Machakos, Kenya.

2016 was the hottest year on Earth since records began in 1880. For those of us who work in financial inclusion but are fearful about our lack of progress in combating climate change, the following is a spot of good news: at the recent World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in Davos, Ant Financial and the United Nations Environment Program launched the Green Digital Finance Alliance.

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> Posted by Sonja E. Kelly, Fellow, CFI

The following post draws observations from the just-released FI2020 Progress Report on Technology. See the full report to explore other topics and cast your vote on global progress in advancing financial inclusion.

Technology innovation is dramatically changing the financial services landscape—and quickly. No longer are simple 2G/SMS-based payments the talk of the financial inclusion community. Instead, a range of platforms and products and services promise that as we move into the future, the costs of providing services will be lower, and the base of the pyramid will be within reach for mainstream financial services providers.

The world in which these innovations are mainstreamed is one where the agent network concerns we have today will be gone. In the cash-lite or cash-free world that technology providers are seeking, there will, in fact, be few to no agents, as people will receive money electronically and spend it electronically without ever converting it to cash. When is the last time you went to a banking agent?

Consider the following innovations that allow important financial transactions to take place without a detour through cash. (For a more comprehensive list of innovations, see the FI2020 Progress Report on Technology.)

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> Posted by Center Staff

The following post was originally published on the CGAP Microfinance Gateway.

In follow up to the Financial Inclusion 2020 Global Forum in October, Susy Cheston, Senior Advisor at the Center for Financial Inclusion (CFI), shares key takeaways from the event and what the ongoing impact of this gathering will be leading up to the year 2020.

The Financial Inclusion 2020 Global Forum was a new event in the industry. Why did CFI organize this event?

Our overall goal for the FI2020 Global Forum was to put forward a vision of full financial inclusion for all by 2020, bringing together the leaders from the private and public sectors who can make that vision a reality. Part of the premise was that these different stakeholders don’t often talk with each other, and that there was value in enabling people who ordinarily work on separate aspects of financial inclusion to hear from each other and become more aware of how their own work fits into the broader picture.

Full financial inclusion by the year 2020 is an audacious goal. Did participants agree it was an achievable one?

Very much so. Participants were very optimistic, especially in light of recent innovations in technology, product development, and regulation.

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> Posted by Arielle Salomon, Account Manager, Entrepreneurial Finance Lab

Providing financial services to entrepreneurs is a challenging operation in developing countries where small businesses may be isolated in a rural village without reliable roads or internet coverage. Service providers must pay the high costs of employing staff to reach out to remote villages while capturing limited revenue from small-scale products. Yet entrepreneurs in these regions need tools like credit and insurance to make investments and grow their businesses as just as do their counterparts in more developed regions.

Mobile phones are changing the financial landscape helping to expand the possibilities of service models. With novel mobile solutions to bridge the financial access gap, innovators can provide entrepreneurs with new tools and opportunities to support their businesses.

Here are a few cutting-edge models rendering financial services more portable:

Portable Bank. Opportunity International (OI) is putting its bank on wheels. With a portable bank that offers savings, loans, and other such financial services regularly circulating within walking distance of clients’ farms or small businesses, entrepreneurs do not have to miss out on business to trek to the bank. OI is developing these portable bank branches in locations around the world. OI also offers electronic wallets that allow customers to make deposits on mobile phones. With this cashless solution, the bank reduces both the risk of client theft/robbery and also the likelihood of staff fraud. OI’s electric wallets are currently in use in Malawi and seven other African countries.

Portable Credit. The Entrepreneurial Finance Lab (EFL) is helping banks, MFIs, and other partners improve operations with portable technology. Not only can loan officers complete credit applications electronically on a mobile phone or tablet, but they can also collect photos and the precise location of their clients with the use of mobile GPS. With near-real-time scoring of the EFL Tool, an application that captures the ability and willingness of customers to repay a loan, banks have the opportunity to pre-approve clients on the spot. The improved efficiency of automated data collection and credit assessment decreases service turnaround time and increases credit access. The EFL Tool has been used in over 20 countries to date and has processed over 50,000 credit applications. Read the rest of this entry »

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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.