Digital financial services can help bridge the gender gap in account ownership and access to credit by decreasing the cost of access to financial services and bypassing constraints imposed by social norms and limited mobility. Digital financial services can also contribute to women’s empowerment and autonomy by increasing their control over their financial resources. Data and insights from Global Findex have shown that digital financial services, including mobile money, have contributed to a marked increase in women's access to financial services in many economies in recent years (Global Findex 2017). Digital technology can enhance women’s ability to control and access financial services, including remittances and wage payments, through the use of debit/credit cards, mobile phones, and other digital channels. Digital infrastructure, including digital IDs and biometric verification, can facilitate customer on-boarding and customer due diligence, often major barriers to access to finance.
In environments where women are less likely than men to own assets that could serve as collateral for credit, the World Bank Group has successfully piloted the use of psychometric testing. (See box below: Improving Access to Credit for Women Through the Use of Alternatives to Collateral.) Analysis of big data, including data accessed through mobile phones and utility bills, can improve understanding of entrepreneurs’ cash flow, character traits, and networks to assess credit default risk and predict the likelihood of loan repayment.
Mobile money and e-Wallets have been game changers in a number of developing countries, by bringing formal financial services within the reach of a majority of the population for the first time. Kenya is a global leader in mobile money, with the M-Pesa products that offer a phone-based money transfer service, payments, and microfinancing services.
Access to the M-Pesa mobile money system has been adopted by at least one member in 75 percent of households and is estimated to have lifted 194,000 (2 percent) of households out of poverty, with a greater impact on women (Suri and Jack 2016). The relative impact of mobile money versus more traditional bank accounts for women’s financial services varies among countries.