Good data illuminate our world. It can make invisible markets visible. This is why the application of data to promote evidence-based financial inclusion policy is vital.
There will be increased focus on the quality of financial services
There has been much focus on improving access to financial services in the recent past, and these efforts are starting to pay dividends. The World Bank’s 2014 Findex report illustrates 62 percent of adults worldwide have an account at a bank or another type of financial institution, or with a mobile money provider. The same report outlines 13-percent growth in account penetration in developing economies between 2011 and 2014.
It appears this momentum will continue, and policymakers are poised to increasingly ask for data on the quality of financial services offered.
Increased interest in sex-disaggregated data
In line with the growth in access, focus on understanding specific segments of the population will increase. There will be demand and a push toward disaggregating data by specific groups; most prominently by gender, which is the basic variable to segment the population. There is a gap in the availability of sex-disaggregated supply-side data at both the global and national levels. Good data is needed to properly diagnose the state of financial inclusion for women, to understand their financial inclusion behavior and needs in order to design appropriate policies and financial services. Good data is also important for later evaluating the impact of these policies.
Developing national data frameworks
There is an increased appreciation of developing comprehensive national data frameworks to support financial inclusion strategies. Such frameworks also outline clear roles and responsibilities for the multiple stakeholders involved in collecting, analysis and use of financial inclusion data. Technology is increasingly available and affordable to enable such complex data systems. There has been increased demand for support, both technical and financial, in developing and managing such systems—something I anticipate will continue.
Technology availability and cost will enable GIS mapping for financial inclusion to spread
Geo-spatial mapping provides a visual display of otherwise bland financial inclusion statistical data creating a potent and easy-to-understand overview of a country’s financial inclusion landscape. The use of GIS mapping is being driven by the need to understand unreached groups and reveals unseen markets. The availability of comprehensive sub-national data makes geo-spatial mapping all the more possible. It is an intelligent investment that leads to smarter policies and better product development by the market. As we move forward, the cost of not investing in geo-spatial mapping is becoming too high—especially when the alternative is choosing to remain in the dark.
The use of financial inclusion indices to quantify the state of financial inclusion of a country will become more commonplace
As more data become available, countries will be looking for easier ways to explain that data. Interest in indices will grow as a means to capture information on several dimensions and distill it into a single number.
Qualitative data collection
It has been a trend and growing practice among countries to undertake national surveys in recent years. While most of these have been quantitative studies, there has been an increased interest in qualitative data collection to understand specific population segments, explore ‘unknown unknowns’, and for better and more specific design of financial service products to reach the last 2 billion unbanked citizens worldwide.
These trends, if they continue, are positive developments in data and measurement for financial inclusion. Data is going to remain a priority focus area for financial inclusion in the coming few years. We will see the use of data stretch and expand to cover all sizes, shapes and social groups.
High satisfaction with the topic area and high demand for it in the future, coupled with the fact that few institutions have taken the opportunity to implement it, signifies there will be a great chance to expand the role of data and measurement for financial inclusion in the near future.