Many of the biggest challenges in global development intersect in some way with the financial lives of low-income people: where they get their money, how they manage it, and whether it unlocks basic, lifechanging services that help them build sustainable livelihoods. Achieving universal access to clean water, for instance, entails figuring out a reliable way for millions of poor people to pay their utility bills or cover the cost of getting water piped into their homes. Can digital finance improve upon existing solutions and provide a better customer experience to make water, energy or other services that are essential for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) more widely available? These are some of the financial inclusion questions that CGAP is exploring.
Our research shows there are promising ways for digital finance to address these development challenges. For instance, pay-as-you-go business models make it possible for low-income customers to pay small amounts digitally for essential services and to finance assets like home solar systems or water utility connections. Digital payments ensure a reliable revenue stream for businesses while making it easier for customers to access a range of other digital financial services that build from their payments record. CGAP is examining financing mechanisms and business models to support innovative solutions for delivering energy, water and education.