China's pilot of 500,000 banking agents show significant promise for financial inclusion. Allowing these agents to offer a greater variety of services, such as taking deposits and opening new accounts, could lead to faster growth and more usage.
Digital technologies are changing the financial inclusion landscape worldwide by revolutionizing access to finance, connecting hundreds of millions to formal financial services for the first time. Financial market regulators, supervisors and overseers are racing to keep pace with these developments.
In my (Chinese) New Year blog post of 2012, I predicted significant changes during the year of the dragon. I was not disappointed for sure. From a personal perspective I moved back to East Asia after several years of absence, and it was hard to recognize the region given the pace of development. In the last ten years poverty in East Asia has fallen from close to 50% down to 35% and economic growth has been relatively high compared with the rest of the world. Some of the most notable change has taken place in China, and in Myanmar more recently.
China's Alibaba Group is not only the world's largest e-commerce company, but it is also an innovator in microfinance. Alibaba leverages big data to link rural villages with the goods, sales channels and financial services they need to grow their businesses.
More and more policymakers are now recognizing that financial exclusion is a risk to political stability and impedes economic advancement, and that financial inclusion measures can complement, not undermine, financial stability, financial integrity, and consumer protection.