Women make a call on their new mobile phone at a local shop in Yangon, Myanmar. Financial inclusion is a topic of growing importance in countries such as Myanmar, where advances in tech are rapidly changing the dynamics in how people access financial products. As I wrote in 2016, fintech companies are capitalizing on Myanmar's rapid development and increasing smartphone and internet penetration by offering digital financial products. Although many people in Myanmar are skeptical of traditional banking institutions, fintech startups hope to win their confidence through low-cost, user-friendly products. One such organization is Wave Money, a joint venture between Telenor, Yoma Bank and Myanmar First Investments.
Getting people access to formal financial services is called financial inclusion and it is a critical part of equitable economic development, says Jay Rosengard, Adjunct Lecturer in Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School.1 Research shows that by lowering transaction costs and helping spread risk and capital across the economy, financial inclusion improves the livelihood of individual families and spurs local and national economic growth.2 Financial inclusion can be particularly powerful for women and other marginalized groups who have traditionally been excluded from the formal economy and had less control over their own finances.3
Information and communication technology (ICT) interventions are increasingly being used in developing countries to enable economic growth, employment, and empowerment. There is, however, growing agreement that the impact of ICTs in the Global South is not gender neutral but amplifies the existing gender inequalities within these countries.2,7 This is also true for Pakistan and India, where most ICT interventions deployed have largely ignored the unique needs of the female Pakistani (48.63%) and Indian populations (48.53%). Multi-country research on the impact of ICTs reveals their great potential for bringing about positive socioeconomic change and gains in economic growth.9 Similarly, studies reveal ICTs are one of the main drivers of economic growth in Asia, the Middle East, and Sub-Saharan African.3,8
We will work together to foster global economic growth, while harnessing the power of technological innovation, in particular digitalization, and its application for the benefit of all. We are resolved to build a society capable of seizing opportunities, and tackling economic, social and environmental challenges, presented today and in the future, including those of demographic change. This recovery is supported by the continuation of accommodative financial conditions and stimulus measures taking effect in some countries. However, growth remains low and risks remain tilted to the downside. Most importantly, trade and geopolitical tensions have intensified. We will continue to address these risks, and stand ready to take further action. Fiscal policy should be flexible and growth-friendly while rebuilding buffers where needed and ensuring debt as a share of GDP is on a sustainable path. Monetary policy will continue to support economic activity and ensure price stability, consistent with central banks' mandates. Central bank decisions need to remain well communicated.