By Binjal Shah
Mobile Banking has already established itself as the technology of the future, and isn’t far from completely taking over conventional banking. Thus, the gender gap in access to technology is a real problem, and overcoming it would mean scaling real heights economically, for developing nations like ours.
Life without financial services is unimaginable to us- but women go through everyday life hoarding their life-savings under pillows and mats, living in constant dread of robberies and thefts by outsider or even her own husband. Transferring money to a relative or friend means transferring actual money- a risky exercise. And with the lack of bank accounts and a legitimate financial footprint, procuring loans to make life easier is a far-fetched fantasy.
Digital financial services have been heralded as a breakthrough- because they facilitate banking, and will allow over 2 Billion of the World’s poor to open their first bank accounts, and give them a chance to participate in the global economy. Women make for half the world’s population. Many are the even economic actors of a family- especially in our rural areas- so they must not be isolated from the economy. Eliminating gender biases and giving them access to advancements in technology is hence, crucial.
Modi’s advocacy for taking financial services to villages is no secret- with his Jan-Dhan Yojana. And for villagers who don’t even have access to banking, cell-phones could act as the perfect nexus. Imagine how much they would benefit- and in turn, our overall economy would benefit- if we enable them to optimize the use of their own cell phones.
Take Bangladesh for instance- services like BKash are changing the way the country does business. Yet, only 44 percent of women own cellphones, and furthermore only 13 percent have used mobile money, compared to 72 percent men owning phones and 33 having availed mobile money.
And these trends persist universally: In low- and middle-income countries, a woman is 21 per cent less likely to own a mobile phone than a man. In Africa, West Asia and South Asia, the gap is even greater. This gap will give rise to a gap in making financial services available to women, too.
Women are at the centre of building prosperous communities and economies: because reports suggest that women spend money differently from men. They spend 10 times of the percentage of income that men spend, on healthcare, nutritious food and education of their families. Hence, the benefits of making financial services available to a woman will get transferred to her entire family.
Thus, it is worth studying why the gender gap in technology and digital banking exists- and how overcoming it might benefit women, especially women entrepreneurs by including them in the formal economy. The World Bank is set to release the Global Financial Inclusion Database, or Global Findex report this month, which might answer some questions.
Governments, NGOs, and the private sector are working together to break barriers and formulate creative financing options and policies to help make cellphones more affordable for women, and digital banking more popular. A Somali mobile money service called Telesom ZAAD registered a 40 percent increase in women clients, after they instated a female staff to engage with female customers.
To pull a woman out of the shrinking cash economy,and empower her financially- first, she must be encouraged to bank, and second, be enabled to bank easily. In that regard, by placing a cellphone in her hand, you are placing the power in her to contribute to, and subsequently change the landscape of the global economy.
Original Source: Business Standard
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