Like most CEOs, I’m used to taking in data and using it to build an informed picture of the future. That’s how I give advice to our clients, and it’s how I plan the way forward for Telepin. Early in 2020, my team and I wrote down some of those predictions and included them in our new eBook for mobile money business leaders.
But as 2020 developed, the data I rely on grew more complex and volatile. The sheer scale and speed of the COVID-19 pandemic and its impacts, both economic and humanitarian, have demonstrated how quickly our world can veer from one version of the future to another, and how even the most educated predictions contain a wildcard factor that is, in its nature, difficult to account for.
With that in mind, I’d like to revisit a few of the predictions that we included in our eBook, with the goal of sorting out how these last ten months have impacted mobile money operations around the world.
The pandemic only makes this need more urgent. We know that women have taken a harder financial hit than men as a result of COVID-19. We need innovative solutions designed to bridge that gender gap and connect more women to basic financial services. How has that played out during the pandemic?
The results are mixed. In Pakistan, for example, the government acted quickly to harness mobile technology as a means of delivering financial support to its citizens. The trouble is that their system requires individuals to have both a national ID and access to a mobile phone—a requirement that puts women at a steep disadvantage in a country where less than 30% of women in poverty own a mobile phone (compared with more than 70% of men), and many don’t own a national ID.
For this prediction to bear out, we need more than just the right technology. We need new and improved systems and policies designed to remove the barriers that prevent women from participating in mobile money initiatives.
This challenging year has left us with two critical lessons.
The first is a reminder of how little we control. The second is a response to the first: we may not be able to control the future or see it with pixel-perfect clarity, but we can be ready for it by designing flexibility and resilience into tomorrow’s technology.
That’s where mobile money shines. By its very nature, it’s a solution built to thrive in areas where other solutions fail or cannot reach. We may not know the future, but we know that solutions like this one will be an essential part of it.