How can technology improve the situation of the poor, provided it supports this revolution?

On each of my travels, I see that technology is improving the lives of millions of marginalised people. In most cases, the changes are barely visible, they happen on a small scale and in a multitude of ways. Technology is silently helping people in remote areas, women and young people emerge from their exclusion. And because this phenomenon is discreet and goes unnoticed, I dare to hope that we are only at the beginning of a slow and nevertheless profound revolution. Here are the reasons for my optimism.

Invisible but trusted technology platforms

Aissata lives in Ganyah, a remote village in Guinea that was hard hit by the Ebola crisis. She invests part of the allowances she receives each month in a microcredit scheme set up with other women, in order to grow vegetables and sell them on the market. She can thus feed her children and send them to school. Technology has literally transformed the future prospects for Aissata’s family, because without technology, she could not be on the register of social beneficiaries.In Guinea, but also in Chile, Turkey, Djibouti, Pakistan and Indonesia, social registers connect individuals with public services (social protection, health and financial inclusion), while giving priority to the poorest. . And the invisible but trusted technology platforms these registries rely on save millions of dollars from the days when digital didn’t exist.

Two billion people in the world work in the informal sector

Pakistan’s social registry now covers 85% of the country’s population. It includes 70 different programs and saved $248 million. In South Africa, a similar process avoided the loss of $157 million. In Argentina, linking the databases of 34 social programs with unique identification numbers uncovered numerous errors in beneficiary eligibility, saving $143 million dollars over eight years.Two billion people in the world work in the informal sector, generally without social protection. In low-income countries, social security coverage is almost non-existent, and even in upper-middle-income countries, only 28% of the population benefits from it. 

However, mobile and digital payment ecosystems are creating new opportunities.

In India, innovations such as the Single Payment Interface (UPI) system are making it easier for the poor to access cashless transactions. Microinsurance platforms and soft incentives serve to encourage individuals to contribute in a flexible, voluntary and cashless way. The State pays supplementary benefits which enable informal workers to be covered.In Zambia, some 75,000 girls and women living in rural and remote areas can choose to receive digital payments to a mobile bank account or prepaid card. West Africa aims to provide 100 million digital identities by 2028, including to nomadic populations, the homeless, minorities and people living in conflict zones.

In Indonesia, “Family Hope”, a cash transfer program, covers ten million poor households, even in the most remote areas of the east of the archipelago, in order to achieve human development objectives. In Lebanon, a World Bank and World Food Program partnership is strengthening coordination with humanitarian aid and enabling food aid operations through an electronic card targeting the poorest Lebanese households as well as Syrian refugees.

The World Bank is a leader in working

At a time when the “  gig economy” is gaining ground, including in developed countries, solutions must be found to ensure that social protection programs offer informal workers the possibility of accessing benefits and services, regardless of their employer. In its 2019 World Development Report (a), the World Bank takes a close look at these aspects of the future of work.Technology is making it possible to reach the excluded, even as more aspects of the physical economy go virtual. It is impossible to resist this inexorable trend. 

 It Offers.considerable opportunities to capitalise on the significant advances made in recent decades towards a fairer world, but to achieve this, we must accompany this movement.The World Bank is a leader in working to ensure that the technology shaping our future contributes to the social inclusion of all, especially those most at risk of being left behind. .  And as proof: 85% of the funding allocated to its 92 projects in the social protection and employment sector are devoted to this issue.

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