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Deep dive into Digital Financial Inclusion

In this futures deep dive, we built on the chapter on digital financial inclusion and further explored how digital is surpassing current physical, political, and systemic obstacles for financial inclusion. Together, we imagined a desirable future and ways to realise it to ensure that digital financial inclusion is indeed inclusive, equitable and safe. 

"We need inclusion in formal financial institutions to facilitate digital livelihoods. Many local solutions do not allow for cross border transactions."

"How do we balance national security concerns with unprofitable client access to digital e-wallets and interborder remittances and tracking? "

"To what extent are we willing to alter our model/approach, removing ourselves from the centre? This would mean that we would become a channel and advocate for conducive environment rather than a spokesperson or ‘voice of’ the displaced."

Desirable future 

The desirable future we co-created in this deep dive, is a future in which: 

  • Everyone has access to digital infrastructure and services they need. 

  • The individual is gatekeeper of their own data, and they have access to the information on how their data is used and an ability to make choices based on this information. New structures ensure safety and confidentiality of individual’s data. 

  • Forcibly displaced do not have to pay for services with their personal data or on basis of profitability. 

  • Profitability is rethought beyond money. institutions have implemented the triple-bottom-line approach. 

  • People are reached in a profitable way in diverse languages, literacies, cultures. 

  • National security considerations don’t override the design of services as they are designed in a human-centric way. 

  • FDPs are part of existing systems rather than parallel systems. 

  • The humanitarian sector has taken up a new role in delivering services. 

  • There is one biometric digital currency. Ownership can be proven across borders. This is enabled by blockchain technology. 

Bridging tomorrow and today

For this desirable future to be realised, we need: 

  • NGOs to work as facilitators rather than direct providers or unquestioning accepters of exploitative or unduly risky DFI. 

  • Acceptance that it's beneficial for refugees to be economically active. 

  • State-private sector-public/humanitarian and development actor collaboration and common understanding 

  • Conducive enabling environment, legislative and incentive structures for private actors in the financial inclusion space. 

  • States prioritising protection and provision, rather than profiling, policing and punishing. 

  • Acess to mobile internet and smartphones with subsidized data costs. 

  • Self-sovereign Digital IDs that are available on demand for all people. 

  • User-centred design of financial products for the BoP.

Identifying avenues for change: What can we do today? What can we do together? 

To create a conducive enabling environment and legislative and incentive structures for private actors in the financial inclusion space, we need to: 

  • Strengthen the willingness and ability to relinquish traditional ways of working for INGOs. We need to shift our role (grounded in humility) and not be the voice of the displaced, but make sure they have a voice regardless. This would mean that we would become a channel and advocate for conducive environment rather than a spokesperson or ‘voice of’ the displaced. We need to ask ourselves to what extent are we willing to alter our model/approach, removing ourselves from the centre. Can we move to a facilitative approach? 

  • Use our collective power in pursuit of common interest (e.g. confronting the know-your-customer requirements for refugees). 

  • Break siloes, not having parallel structures/environment for refugees. 

  • Address the power imbalance between respective stakeholders. 

To make self-sovereign Digital IDs available on demand for all people, we need to: 

  • Engage in effective lobbying and find avenues where we can drive change towards states and governments. 

  • Make the finance case for digital IDs. 

  • Raise awareness of the economic benefits of displaced populations. 

  • Encourage greater interoperability. 

To promote user-centric design of financial products for bottom-of-the-pyramid users, we need to: 

  • Work with and start from what is already in place (what devices/equipment/skills/situations). 

  • Work with true direct involvement of users/clients, and actively think about incentives as part of user-centred design. 

  • Challenge assumptions and think framers and find ways leave them behind. 

  • consider (and disaggregate) design processes based on different clients groups / 'personas' 

  • Find ways to address those who have more access and skills. 

  • Test live and be ready to take risks and work with insights. 

  • Define who is the user and ask if we should design for non-users. 

  • Think broader about services and products beyond solely financial services. 

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