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Mobile banking for financial inclusion in Pakistan

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posted on 2023-08-30, 14:27 authored by Atika A. Kemal
Whilst the digitisation of government-to-person (G2P) payments, or government social cash, is becoming increasingly significant for governments to advance financial inclusion in developing countries, the role of mobile banking (m-banking) to promote this agenda remains under researched. The extant literature available on m-banking was delimited to person-to-person (P2P) payments that examined m-banking through an economic or technological lens from providers’ perspectives. Hence, in this study, I have used the Duality of Technology (DoT) as a socio-technical lens to analyse m-banking innovation from both providers’ and users’ perspectives. The methodology used was a case study of the Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP) in Pakistan that disbursed G2P payments to poor women only. The study aimed to investigate the influence of the external and internal institutional forces on the social construction of m-banking, how m-banking enabled and/or constrained programme managers and women beneficiaries, and the effects of m-banking on the institutional properties of poor households for structural transformation, or financial inclusion in BISP households in Pakistan. Primary data was collected from key participants located in the m-banking pilot sites of Islamabad and Rawalpindi in Pakistan. In total, 33 semi-structured interviews were conducted with BISP managers, women beneficiaries, bankers, mobile operator and international agency staff, and 2 focus groups were organised with women beneficiaries. Additionally, secondary data was drawn from company reports, official documents and formal and informal media sources. The qualitative data was thematically analysed, and the data collated from multiple sources and methods established the validity, credibility, trustworthiness and reliability of the conceptual outcomes in the case study. The findings, interpreted through DoT, disclosed that m-banking was socially constructed to meet managerial objectives, and being socially-embedded in the BISP context, it was transformative in enabling managers to achieve transparency, visibility, security and efficiency in delivering G2P payments. From women beneficiaries’ perspectives, m-banking provided flexibility and convenience to receive full payments, but embedded certain socio-economic, technological and human constraints that restricted their access to and usage of financially inclusive services that limited financial inclusion. However, owing to women’s empowerment and social change, social inclusion was perceived to be progressively transformative. Although the findings informed the DoT framework, we conclude that the Information Communications and Technology for Development (ICT4D) discourse was deterministic for beneficiaries, unless combined with the Capabilities vision. As contribution to the study, we shed light on how m-banking may be redesigned to embed resources to expand women beneficiaries’ capabilities and skills, in addition to, providing access to financial resources for steering micro-entrepreneurial activities. Also, financial and digital training should be imparted to beneficiaries to advance the inclusion agenda in Pakistan.



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