Global unbanked population decreases with proliferation of biometrics and cell phones

The number of people around the world with bank accounts has increased by 7 percent from 2014 to 2017, reaching 69 percent of all adults, driven by the proliferation of cell phones and biometrics, according to new research from the World Bank.

The World Bank’s Global Findex Report shows that only 51 percent of adults possessed bank accounts in 2011, a number that rose to 61 percent in 2014. The increase from 51 to 69 percent represents 1.2 billion more people with bank accounts than only six years earlier.

The success of the Aadhaar program has been one of the main factors in the increase, with the number of Indian’s possessing bank accounts doubling to 80 percent in the last six years. The deadline for linking bank accounts with Aadhaar was recently extended indefinitely, pending a Supreme Court decision on the program’s constitutional validity.

Mobile money accounts in Sub-Saharan Africa nearly doubled, to 21 percent, further increasing financial inclusion in the region even as traditional bank account ownership rates remained flat.

“In the past few years, we have seen great strides around the world in connecting people to formal financial services,” World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim said. “Financial inclusion allows people to save for family needs, borrow to support a business, or build a cushion against an emergency. Having access to financial services is a critical step towards reducing both poverty and inequality, and new data on mobile phone ownership and internet access show unprecedented opportunities to use technology to achieve universal financial inclusion.”

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