“Over 2.5 billion adults do not have access to a formal bank account, most of them in developing economies,” said ITU Secretary-General Hamadoun Touré. “Internationally standardised mobile money platforms will increase financial inclusion to the benefit of socio-economic development worldwide.
Touré said digital financial services are capable of improving the delivery of basic financial services to millions of people. “Standards will drastically reduce costs to service providers and their customers, thereby opening the door to remote and underserved communities.
“The extraordinary impact of mobile money solutions in developing countries has highlighted that ICT is at the heart of innovation in financial services. What is lacking is an international standard that will allow interoperability between different operators.”
Rodger Voorhies, director of the ‘financial services for the poor team’ at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, said: “Poor people lead incredibly complex financial lives. Cut off from even the most basic banking services, they are trapped in a cash-based system that is risky, expensive, and inefficient – a system that prevents them from buffering against risk and investing in their futures.
“Having a strong partner like ITU working to advance financial inclusion in developing countries and emerging markets by harnessing the power of digital technologies will be instrumental in helping to create opportunities for people to build better lives.”
The ITU focus group, which is open to participation by any interested party, will develop an international standardisation roadmap for interoperable digital financial services, as well as a regulatory toolkit to help national policymakers and regulatory authorities encourage the adoption of these services.
It aims to identify the technology trends in digital financial services expected to emerge over the coming years and how the roles of various stakeholders in this ecosystem will evolve in response. The work will encompass technical requirements as well as questions surrounding policy and regulation, consumer and fraud protection, and the business models able to drive sustainable growth of the nascent mobile money industry.