Many of us are relying on digital connections to sustain our work, finances and social lives during COVID-19 and it’s restrictions yet over four billion people around the world remain digitally excluded. They are predominantly women, living in rural areas in low-income countries. Many live in areas that have mobile network coverage and a majority (estimated 80%) have access to a mobile phone but they lack the knowledge and resources to access digital channels effectively.
Through local partnerships, we provide people with access to the essential financial services and training needed for them to build and grow sustainable businesses. The COVID-19 lockdowns, restrictions on activities and uncertainty, has created extreme difficulties for the small scale informal economy, especially for small-scale farmers and micro-enterprise owners. As the effects of COVID-19 take their toll on local economies, digital financial services can play an important role in supporting micro-entrepreneurs.
Research led by Emma Riley at the University of Oxford’s Department of Economics, in partnership with Opportunity International, is examining whether mobile banking services can assist women entrepreneurs in Ghana in managing their finances amidst the COVID-19 crisis. Mobile banking gives remote access to savings and other financial services using a basic mobile phone, it also facilitates social distancing, allowing fewer trips to the bank and reduced cash handling.
The study uses pre-recorded voice messages to provide information on mobile banking to female clients in Ghana. Across ten voice messages sent weekly, the key features, functions and benefits of mobile banking are highlighted in a way that an illiterate population can easily understand. By randomly assigning female clients to receive these voice messages, we can examine the impact of the messages and understand how mobile banking affects important financial outcomes for these women, such as savings and management of business cash flow, and social distancing behaviours, such as reducing physical trips to the bank.