News Flash: New Push to Boost Financial Inclusion

Governments back US$255 million plan to increase usage of mobile money and digital ID

The UK and French governments are supporting a US$255 million campaign spearheaded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to increase access to mobile money services and digital bank accounts in the developing world, particularly for women. The funds will be used to help governments, mainly in Africa and South Asia, to strengthen regulation, promote interoperability of competing mobile-money services and to implement digital identity programmes, according to a report in the Financial Times.

The report says the UK and France have pledged a total of US$45 million and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation will invest a further US$73 million provided other G7 nations contribute the rest of the funds. In an interview with the Financial Times, Melinda Gates said she expects the remaining funding to be secured this year.  “The mobile phone and the digital bank account give us opportunities we just did not have a decade ago,” she added. “And yet, these accounts — if we don’t do something about this and if the G7 doesn’t focus on this — won’t get into the hands of men and women at the same rate.” The report says the UK government supports digital identification schemes of the sort rolled out in India where the government’s Aadhaar programme has made it easier for people to open bank accounts or to receive government subsidies.

India is now considering using Aadhaar to underpin a system of personal health records and health applications, according to a report by The Indian Express. The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare committee has proposed the development of a personal health identifier (PHI) to maintain a personal health record. The PHI would contain the names of patients and those of their immediate family, date of birth, gender, mobile number, email address, location, family ID and photograph, according to the article. “While Aadhaar assures uniqueness of identity and provides an online mechanism for authentication, it cannot be used in every health context as per the applicable regulations,” the committee’s report cautions. “The design of PHI, therefore, must allow multiple identifiers (chosen from the specified types of identifiers) for designing the structure and processes relating to PHI.”

For more information, please see the Financial Times article and The Indian Express article