The power of digital is everywhere in modern society – transcending borders and cultural barriers. More than 1 in 3 people in the world will be using smartphones within the next two years and, by 2019, almost 200 billion transactions a year will be made via mobile phones and tablets.
But, as most of us become increasingly connected, it is crucial that certain people are not left behind. Although innovation is helping close the gap between the technologically included and excluded, the reality is that work remains to be done.
Even in Europe the figures are quite stark. EU statistics show that almost 1 in 5 Europeans have never used the internet. Meanwhile findings from a recent MasterCard survey in ten countries indicate that 78% of Europeans do not believe that Europe is the most financially inclusive region in the world.
What needs to be done to ensure everyone can benefit from the digital economy? At MasterCard, we place a lot of value on ‘inclusive growth’ and we see first-hand how financial and digital inclusion are closely interlinked. We have committed to bring 500 million new consumers worldwide into the financial mainstream by 2020. And we fundamentally believe that access to technology and electronic payments solutions are the real lever to achieving this goal.
We cannot do this alone. We are working with public institutions, other businesses and civil society organisations to combat financial exclusion. For example, in the UK we are working with local authorities to help citizens gain quicker and more secure access to welfare payments through prepaid systems.
The policy solutions lie at local, national and transnational level. This week, for the second year running, I had the opportunity to attend and speak at the European Business Summit in Brussels where business representatives and policymakers have the chance to share perspectives.
The central theme of the discussion I was involved in is the EU’s strategy to create a true Digital Single Market in Europe. While I fully support the overall aim of this strategy, the principle of inclusiveness needs to be built into policy initiatives across a range of different areas. It is imperative that this Digital Single Market is built from the consumers’ perspective and with their needs in mind.
The digital revolution is already underway. Prioritizing digital inclusion and giving people greater access to the financial system needs to be at the heart of its future development.