Juliet Maina, Advocacy and Regulatory Manager GSMA

The theme of the 2019 AFI Global Policy Forum was Using technology for inclusion of women and youth. The forum, hosted by the National Bank of Rwanda and Alliance for Financial Inclusion (AFI), organised a break-out session on Addressing the financial needs of women in the age of innovation: the role of customer-centric data, which convened senior representatives from central banks, the private sector, and international development organisations who are working to bridge the financial inclusion gender gap.

The discussion generated various insights on the use of gender-disaggregated data for women’s financial inclusion. It also delved into some of the existing challenges around the collection of data, as well as some key considerations, such as consumer protection concerns. This blog summarises some of these learnings, paying particular attention to key data protection principles that muse be followed so as to leverage the benefits of this data.

Benefits of gender-disaggregated data

The 2017 global Findex data shows that there are 1.7 billion ‘unbanked’ people in the world, the majority of whom are women (56%). Growth in account ownership has not benefited all groups equally since 2011, with women, in particular, less likely to have an account than men. Globally, the Findex data suggest, a gender gap of approximately 7 percentage points exists; 72% of men own an account compared to 65% of women.

Gender-disaggregated data is essential in informing any gender-related policy and strategy development, implementation and monitoring.
According to the Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development’s Working Group on the Digital Gender Divide, co-chaired by the GSMA and UNESCO, gender-disaggregated data is critical to understanding and measuring the digital gender gap and informing policy and business choices that can help bridge this gap. Without the gender-disaggregated data:

  • Gender gaps and differences are masked;
  • There is a lack of proper understanding of the reasons for the gender gaps; and
  • There is a poor evidence base that can lead to inappropriate policy-making and targets.

Moreover, knowing subscriber gender is the first step towards taking action to close the gender gap as it enables relevant stakeholders to set targets and track progress. Data is critical to help operators, regulators and policy makers better understand the barriers women face when it comes to access and usage of financial and digital services.

Collecting data on women’s use of financial services can help to identify the barriers that prevent women from achieving greater financial inclusion. These barriers include issues of accessibility; affordability; relevance; usability and skills; and safety.

By developing a deeper understanding of how women use specific products, mobile money providers can improve their product and service offerings in a relevant and impactful manner. However, with the change in the data protection landscape taking place all over the world, government authorities and service providers need to take into consideration the data protection implications around leveraging this data.

The role of the government – creating an enabling environment

To address the digital gender gap there is a need for more detailed and consistent evidence in order to inform policy and practice. Specifically, it is recommended that the government should collect, analyse, and track gender-disaggregated data related to mobile and internet access and use. It is also imperative that governments research women’s access to and use of mobile, mobile services and the internet. Finally, it is important that governments publish and share data and research. For example, they should publish gender-disaggregated data in a safe and secure manner and within the limits of data protection requirements and privacy considerations.

For data to be shared freely and securely, governments need to provide assurances and frameworks around data protection mechanisms. Data that is collected, shared, analysed and published should protect and respect the privacy rights of the end-user. All over the world, counties are recognising the importance and value of trust in the digital economy, and developing or revising their data protection laws. The GSMA Smart Privacy Laws provides a guide for those involved in drafting and reviewing data privacy rules or legislation. It distils what has been learned from data privacy law implementation to date into guiding principles by which a good law can be measured. Ultimately, good data privacy laws are key to building trust and confidence in the mobile money industry, and ensuring that the end-user is protected.

The role of mobile money providers – adhering to the highest standard of data protection

The mobile industry has long recognised the importance of consumer privacy. Mobile money providers specifically recognise that with the evolution of the digital ecosystem, users are increasingly more aware of the importance of their data. The GSMA has developed the mobile privacy principles which provide the key principles that the mobile industry should adhere to. Stemming from these, we have further put together the GSMA Guidelines on mobile money data protection which focus specifically on the measures that ought to be taken by mobile money providers to ensure protection. By adhering to these key principles which represent the highest standard of data protection, the mobile industry continues to demonstrate the commitment to bridging the financial inclusion gender gap in a sustainable manner, and while safeguarding the rights of the end-user.

Table 1 highlights the key principles of data protection that mobile money providers and other stakeholders need to adhere to when leveraging data for insights that will improve the ability of the industry to bridge the financial inclusion gender gap.

GSMA Guidelines on mobile money data protection

Enhancing women’s financial inclusion and economic empowerment is critical for all markets and should be prioritised by governments. Collecting and sharing gender-disaggregated data is an essential component to bridging the financial inclusion gender gap. This requires developing an enabling environment for stakeholders to be able to improve collection and increase collaboration by sharing this type data in line with data protection and security measures that safeguard consumers’ trust and confidence in financial services. The industry is committed to continuing bridging the financial inclusion gender gap and remains equally committed to ensuring that the users’ rights are safeguarded in this process.

Originally posted on GSMA’s website