Published: 11 January 2017 at 11:00
State welfare programme has improved the status of women while cutting corruptionResearch carried out in Pakistan indicates that mobile phone banking can help alleviate poverty, improve women’s rights through financial and social inclusion and reduce corruption in developing countries.
“The transition from cash-based to digital payments was really due to pressure from international agencies which had invested in the programme. While some political actors resisted the shift to mobile banking, it led to increased accountability and governance, and a reduction in administrative and transaction costs. Financial inclusion was really only a secondary objective for BISP.
“However, from the perspective of women, mobile banking provided flexibility and convenience to cash the full amount of grants at various locations such as banking agents, ATMs and point-of-sale machines via a secure PIN known only to the beneficiary. This eliminated the practice of politicians or postmen demanding bribes for delivering the cash payments at home.
“BISP is also responsible for women’s empowerment through social and political inclusion. Women were issued with national identity cards that were mandatory to register with BISP and to eliminate identity theft when cashing payments. This not only boosted their social standing and authority in their households but also granted political freedoms through assisting their rights to exercise their vote in elections.
“However, my study also found that the majority of women were illiterate, so they encountered digital and financial hurdles. Also, other infrastructural constraints, such as weak mobile signals and power outages in their homes, affected mobile phone usage. Women were also dependent on more literate family members or friends for reading text messages to notify them of payments.”
“Many governments, NGOs and international agencies working in similar environments may learn lessons from this study and switch to digital payment channels to disburse a wider variety of government-to-person payments to promote financial inclusion in underserved communities.
Providing wider access to financial services to those that are currently marginalised improves socio-economic standing and wellbeing in impoverished households."