Policy Brief: Making Digital Public Infrastructure Work for Women

August 24, 2023

The World Bank Global Findex Database 2021 reports a gender gap of 6% in account ownership across developing economies. While it is encouraging to see the gender gap fall from 9% over the last ten years, women still constitute a significant proportion of the unbanked population in low and lower middle-income countries.

Global evidence across countries shows that leveraging core components of the overall financial ecosystem including payment infrastructure, digital identity, and data exchange in tandem with existing banking networks, provide an impetus to advance financial inclusion while also increasing usage and adoption of financial services. These core components or infrastructure enablers are referred to as Digital Public Infrastructure (DPI).

The cross-cutting issue of gender and women’s economic empowerment along with DPI has been considered a vital theme of the India 2023 G20 Presidency. This encompasses promoting the expansion of financial services among unserved and underserved populations, of which women are a significant segment.

Many women face a number of challenges in terms of lack of formal identification, lower digital financial capability, limited access to smartphones, mobile network, women agents and formal credit, and socio cultural issues impacting their path to economic empowerment.

The onus of addressing these challenges falls on various stakeholders in the ecosystem including government, regulators, Financial Service Providers (FSPs), civil society and others. All can play a powerful role in prioritizing DPI and technological innovations that can level the playing field. The following brief comprises suggested policy recommendations that leverage DPI to enable and advance women’s economic empowerment through financial inclusion.

This policy brief was a collaborative effort between Women’s World Banking employees, namely, Ajit Agarwal, Policy Lead South Asia, and Francesca Brown, Director of Global Policy and Advocacy.