Inclusive digital economies that support women and men migrants and their families towards greater financial inclusion, resilience, and equality.
Financial inclusion means that migrants and their families have access to, and can effectively use, the full suite of financial services—remittances, payments, credit, savings, insurance, pensions and investments—to support them in their journeys towards improved well-being and more freedom to achieve their goals. Resilience means that they have the financial tools to prepare for, and recover from, shocks, whether those be natural disasters, interruptions to income, death or illness, violence and harassment, crop failure, or other disruptions. Equality means that migrants and their families, regardless of gender, have equal access to financial tools, tailored to their needs and circumstances, that will help them progress as far as their talents and drive will take them.
Inclusive digital economies are the overarching goal for UNCDF’s work globally. We want to equip millions of people, specifically women and girls, by 2024 to use digital services in their daily lives that will empower them and will contribute to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.
Women face unique obstacles in accessing financial services, some of which result from regulations and policies actually meant to promote financial inclusion, some resulting from discriminatory financial service practices and gender norms.
Digital financial services such as mobile money and agent banking have reached scale due, in no small part, to initiatives led by the UN Capital Development Fund (UNCDF) that have connected 18 million people in Africa, Asia and the Pacific to the financial ecosystem. It is clear to us at UNCDF that digital finance is the primary route to financial inclusion. However, financial inclusion is not the end goal; it is a means to multiple ends, including empowerment and gender equality. Meaningful digital financial inclusion has to provide outlets for low-income accountholders to engage in the economy in order to meet their daily needs and to improve their skills, productivity and marketability in the digital-economy age. To do so, we must strive to make sure no one is left with just basic voice, messaging and mobile money services; everyone should be able to access, use and benefit from a broad range of meaningful services built on digital platforms. For migrants, it starts with remittances.
“Digital financial inclusion is directly contributing to the emergence of digital economies, and vice versa.”
As a wider set of services are provided via digital platforms (in agriculture, energy, health, education, entrepreneurship) these new services are built on the rails of digital financial services. Similarly, companies currently seeking revenue streams in emerging markets, such as Facebook and Google, are turning to financial transactions as an alternative to advertising revenues. Whether digital finance serves as the basis for new services such as energy access or provides revenue streams for popular apps and products, it is at the centre of emerging digital economies and therefore digital inclusion.
Inclusion in the digital era is not a given. New technology can lead to either inclusion, exclusion or widening inequality based on how—and by whom—the technology is designed and deployed and whether it is accompanied by measures to ensure that exclusion is avoided. Although digital technologies can leapfrog traditional models of market expansion, adoption often depends on whether the intended clients understand, accept and perceive real value added from those financial and non-financial digital services.