Knowledge in the Field

The digital finance sector, born about a decade ago, has gained significant momentum in recent years. With the goal of building a strong foundation and informing decisions with facts, FiDA regularly scans and synthesizes learnings from across the field. So far, we have identified over 500 of the most relevant and important documents from the practitioner, policy, and academic research communities.

We have taken this database, which we will publish in its entirety in the coming months, and “sliced” it by 16 broad, durable themes. Each theme is comprised of a set of questions which must be addressed to advance the digital finance sector and to promote meaningful financial inclusion.

The “Snapshots” below capture current understanding about the topic in question, highlight “notable new learning” and call attention to implications for future research and investment. We will update these 16 themes annually based on activities in the digital finance space — with the objective of serving as a resource for those trying to tackle the most challenging problems in the space.



Which financial needs can be (and should be) addressed by DFS?

What we know Digital finance deployments, and therefore access to financial services, continue to grow Across the developing world, digital finance services (DFS) are being implemented to serve the financial needs of various underserved and/or unbanked customer segments. From the launch of the first mobile money service in 2001 to the 277th service in 2016, […]

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Which attitudes, behaviors, experiences, and beliefs influence digital finance adoption?

What we know It is one of the most durable challenges in the global economy: converting a prospect into a customer. This stems from the challenge of identifying and understanding unique needs and behaviors within a social system. While Snapshot 1 focused on understanding needs, this Snapshot focuses on attitudes and behaviours that influence the […]

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How do clients use digital finance in daily life and daily practice?

Introduction The digital finance industry is doing a good job of tracking access to, and adoption of, digital financial services across the developing world—especially from a mobile money perspective. 1 While there are still many barriers to adoption (see Snapshot 1 and Snapshot 2), low-income individuals are continuing to sign up, year-on-year, for the variety […]

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How do advances in digital finance interact with dynamics of exclusion?

Introduction Worldwide, 2 billion people lack access to formal financial services. The financial inclusion agenda is committed to including this population within the formal financial system. In an ideal world, the digital finance community could design and deploy products, services, programs, and policies specifically designed to appeal to the excluded — to connect the unconnected, […]

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How can advances in UX help meet user needs and enhance user engagement?

What we know To attract and maintain new users, digital finance (DF) providers have strived to lower the barrier to entry at every point of interaction. This is particularly true of the technological interfaces (applications) that customers use to conduct financial transactions. DF providers largely believe that easy to use applications can persuade customers to […]

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How can users begin to keep value digital, longer?

Introduction Clients “keep value digital” by saving, storing, or circulating it within the digital ecosystem. Both saving and storing digital money involves keeping value digital, but these behaviors have different end goals. While saving involves putting money aside in a dedicated savings account, storing money refers to holding digital money within a digital wallet. Digital […]

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What are the roles of intermediated and shared use?

What we know For reasons ranging from lack of digital skills to cultural constraints, it is common practice for some individuals to rely on others in order to utilize certain technologies and technology-enabled services. As both Burrell and Rangaswamy show,1 shared, community, and intermediated use of technology are common and essential aspects of rural life […]

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What is the commercial landscape of digital finance?

What we know Although the landscape of digital financial services (DFS) is broader than mobile money, mobile money spearheaded and serves as the foundation of the digital finance revolution we are witnessing today. As of 2016, there were 277 live mobile money deployments across 92 markets, including two-thirds of low-income and middle-income countries.1 Moreover, registered […]

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Best practices in big data analytics

What we know The Partnership for Finance in a Digital Africa (FiDA) hopes to catalyze digital financial services (DFS) that are tailored to user needs, varied in terms of services offered, easy for customers to use, and woven into people’s daily lives. To be successful, providers must develop a deep understanding of customer needs and […]

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What makes a successful commercial partnership?

What we know Delivering digital finance typically requires a complex web of partnerships and coordination. A digital finance provider—whether a bank, a mobile network operator (MNO), or another third party—has to coordinate with a payment service provider that brands and sells the service to the public, a bank to hold the float account and safely […]

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What ecosystem improvements will unlock investment in digital finance?

What we know Investment has been a persistent challenge in developing the digital ecosystem Building the operational foundations of DFS can be prohibitively expensive. One of the challenges to growth in digital finance has been underinvestment due to a combination of stringent regulatory environments, internal constraints faced by service providers such as the high commercial […]

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Building the infrastructure for a healthy digital finance ecosystem

What we know Digital financial services is an evolving industry so the ecosystem supporting it must also continue to evolve The next-generation of financial services (NGFS) will only thrive if the ecosystem infrastructure is robust, reliable, and dynamic. A robust and reliable infrastructure builds trust with consumers, and a dynamic infrastructure is flexible enough to […]

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The opportunities for and threats to the growth of digital financial services

What we know The digital ecosystem is the collection of organizations, individuals, and policies that interact in complex ways to enable and deliver digital financial services. It continues to evolve and transform due to its modularity, economies of scale and scope, and dynamism.1 While predicting exactly what lies ahead is difficult, there are clear signs […]

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What is the role of regulation in digital finance?

What we know Enabling regulation is critical for the success of digital financial inclusion The shift to a digital ecosystem brings new entrants, technologies, and innovative business models—it also brings new challenges to policymakers and regulators who want to manage the risks to stability and integrity without stifling innovation.1 For more traditional digital finance providers—such […]

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Approaches to determining the impact of digital finance programs

Introduction How do we know what’s working? The number of digital finance products is growing rapidly, yet our knowledge around the client level effects of these products does not reflect this growth or diversity.1 Moreover, it is difficult to find relevant comparisons and run experiments for products and services as complex as those of digital […]

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Digital Finance Impact Evidence Summary

Between November 2016 and May 2017, we screened Digital Finance studies for contributions to the evidence on the effect of Digital Finance on individuals, households, and communities. This cumulated into the development of an Evidence Gap Map (EGM) for Digital Finance. At the time of writing, we have identified 40 Digital Finance impact studies from […]

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