Blog: Our focus on Financial Inclusion
New data and trends on the adoption of The Digital Lifestyle™ in Latin America make it clear our responsibility as a Mobile Network Operator lies beyond connecting people. To drive a growing digital economy on the back of greater connectivity we must also overcome barriers and promote broader financial inclusion, so more people will benefit. Ronald Alvarenga, Head of MFS Latin America, reports.
(July 2016): According to the GSMA, the global trade association that represents mobile phone operators worldwide, more than half of all Latin Americans who have access to mobile network services do not use mobile broadband – that is the equivalent of 360 million people.
More than half (55 per cent) of the population also has no access to bank accounts or to digital payment methods that would allow them to access the digital world.
These statistics alone suggest enormous opportunities as we look to grow our business responsibly in the region.
They indicate, as well, the challenges we face as we work towards greater inclusion in our markets: the widening gender gap in digital technology (according to the GSMA, 200 million fewer women than men now own a mobile phone in low and middle income countries worldwide); a lack of digital literacy skills; the lack of locally relevant content, and the need for more affordable products and services.
Since 2013, we have been leveraging our Mobile Financial Services (MFS) to promote both digital and financial inclusion at the same time.
By using our Tigo Money platforms to disburse state salaries or monetary aid on behalf of NGOs such as the World Food Program (Honduras) or Habitat for Humanity (El Salvador), we are giving many beneficiaries a powerful first experience of digital technology.
Many of our customers have quickly learned not only how to receive money (locally and internationally), but also to pay bills, pay for digital and physical goods, access insurance products, and apply for credits through partnerships with financial institutions.
Financial and digital inclusion is also one of the key priorities for governments and regulators in the region.
Therefore, we encourage more support from them in order to have more Fintech-friendly policies in place that will promote and incentivize the use of e-money, and thus, increase the digital ecosystem.
This in turn will reduce the dependency on cash and its related costs.
Customer demand for mobile money services is considerable.
Worldwide, there are 20 MFS operators with around one million active users. Tigo has five of them – including three in Latin America – Paraguay, Honduras and El Salvador.
Our Tigo Money brand has grown rapidly and across all our markets we now provide MFS to more than 11.2 million customers, which represents 18 per cent of our customer base.