Barbados’ Minister with responsibility for Telecommunications, Senator Darcy Boyce, has told a regional digital financial services (DFS) workshop that collaboration is necessary to move the sector forward.
He delivered the feature address under the theme: Digital Financial Inclusion and the Impact on the Financially Excluded and Under-served – A Policymaker and Regulator Perspective, at the event, hosted by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), in Port-of-Spain, Trinidad, last week.
Senator Boyce said: “Digital financial services, through the attributes of digital financial inclusion, have significant potential to provide a range of affordable, convenient and secure banking services to the small and micro enterprises in the region. But we must proceed with the care that these services demand of us.”
He told participants that in order to develop the sector, it would be necessary for a number of regional organisations and technocrats to join forces.
He listed these as the ITU, the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (UNECLAC), the Caribbean Telecommunications Union (CTU), bankers’ associations, central bankers, anti-money laundering regulators, DFS technology providers, cyber security experts and consumer protection officials.
Digital financial inclusion, Senator Boyce explained, involved the deployment of cost-saving digital means to reach currently financially excluded and under-served populations with a range of financial services suited to their needs.
However, he warned: “While we get enthused about digital financial inclusion, we must make some realistic assessments of its potential in the region.“
Given the emphasis on digital financial inclusion embracing those who were excluded from the formal financial systems, the Telecommunications Minister argued that research was needed to consider how much of the Caribbean was financially excluded and from what services and why.
Another area of concern for the region, he said, was the extent to which some people were not well served by the existing financial services systems. “In assessing the value of digital financial inclusion in the region, we must therefore also ask ‘how much of the region is financially under-served and in what areas?”
This, he stressed, was important if the offerings in digital financial inclusion were going to improve and expand the level of services provided to those who were currently under-served.
Senator Boyce told participants: “To enable the continued growth of digital financial inclusion, the capacity of the telecommunications infrastructure has to be sufficiently large, be available everywhere, grow fast enough, be always consistent in its quality everywhere and be provided in cost packages that make it affordable to everyone who needs to use it. This will be a particular area of concern for policy makers and regulators.”