WASHINGTON, July 1 (Xinhua) -- Digitalization increased financial inclusion between 2014 and 2017, with Africa and Asia leading the way, a new study released by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) showed.
Technology is changing the landscape of the financial sector, increasing access to financial services in profound ways, according to the study, authored by Ratna Sahay, Ulric Eriksson von Allmen and others.
According to the study, Ghana, Kenya, and Uganda are front-runners in Africa. In comparison, the Middle East and Latin America tend to use digital financial services more moderately.
In most countries, digital payments services are evolving into digital lending, as companies accumulate user data and develop new ways to use it for credit worthiness analysis, according to a related IMF blog, which noted that marketplace lending, which uses digital platforms to directly connect lenders to borrowers, doubled in value from 2015 to 2017.
While so far concentrated in China, Britain, and the United States, it appears to be growing in other parts of the world, such as Kenya and India, according to the blog.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, technology has created new opportunities for digital financial services to accelerate and enhance financial inclusion amid social distancing and containment measures, the authors said, noting that low-income households and small firms can benefit greatly from advances in mobile money, fintech services and online banking.
While the pandemic is set to increase use of these services, it has also posed challenges for the growth of the industry's smaller players and highlighted unequal access to digital infrastructure, they argued.
To tap the high potential of digital financial services in the post-COVID era, many factors need to fall into place, including equal access to digital infrastructure, greater financial and digital literacy, and the avoidance of data biases, they said.