• Digital Single Market

    Mastercard

    Ann Cairns: How we are leveraging digital technology for financial inclusion

    On the sidelines of the European Business Summit The Digital Post met Ann Cairns, MasterCard's President of International Markets, to discuss how digital technologies are making a difference in fighting the exclusion from financial services.   Th [read more]
    byThe Digital Post | 13/Jun/20168 min read
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    On the sidelines of the European Business Summit The Digital Post met Ann Cairns, MasterCard’s President of International Markets, to discuss how digital technologies are making a difference in fighting the exclusion from financial services.

     

    The Digital Post: What are the main activities or initiatives on financial inclusion which MasterCard has launched?

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    Ann Cairns: At MasterCard, we are committed to reaching people previously excluded from financial services and as part of this we have pledged to reach 500 million new consumers worldwide by 2020.

    This means providing solutions that allow them to participate in the formal financial system. We have made good progress. And we fundamentally believe that technology, fintech and electronic payments are powerful tools to ensure we achieve that goal.

    We have many initiatives worldwide, including several in emerging economies.  For example, we have a partnership with the Social Security Agency in South Africa to issue 10 million biometric enabled social security Debit MasterCard cards.

    The key feature of these cards is that the biometric functionality enables the Social Security Agency to ensure only qualifying grant recipients collect the grants.

    A landmark public-private collaboration with the Egyptian government we announced last year aims at financially including 54 million citizens.

    We worked with the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology, Ministry of Finance and the Egyptian Banking Corporation to roll out a digital ID programme that link citizens’ national ID to the existing national mobile money platform.

    Financial exclusion is not just an issue in countries with emerging economies, it is a big challenge for many Europeans as well. There are many parts in Europe where vast parts of the population simply have no access or do not use formal financial services.

    MasterCard commissioned a 10 -market online survey to understand European consumers’ perceptions of financial and digital inclusion, through the lens of gender inclusion.

    The results of the survey showed that while almost half of consumers in Europe feel that there is a somewhat high or high level of financial inclusion in their country, less than one in four (22%) agree that Europe is the most financially and digitally (24%) inclusive region in the world.

    MasterCard has partnered with many public authorities to launch systems to encourage financial inclusion. For example, we helped the London Borough of Brent to develop a new prepaid card programme for social benefits. The scheme ensures the money is being used by the right people and provides cost savings to the Council and consumers.

     

    TDP: How can we leverage digital technology for financial inclusion?

    AC: We see the future moving in the direction of the Internet of Things.  As we made progress with financial inclusion we started to see that digital identity was actually something that was being used by governments around the world to roll out and register people, and also to include them in society. This is how we started to see inclusion as much broader than just financial inclusion and how it encompasses digital and gender.

    Innovation is a key element for moving to a digitally inclusive society: MasterCard fully supports innovation and entering of new payment methods. The key to achieving inclusion lies in digital payment programmes. In order to deliver on consumers’ and merchants’ expectations for ever better ways of connecting the two MasterCard is continuously looking into new technologies and opportunities that can make that happen.

    Public authorities also have a huge role to play. By switching their payments, be it social disbursements, salary payments or any other kind of payments onto electronic platforms, they can not only gain efficiencies for themselves but also make a significant contribution to bringing people into the financial mainstream.

    Mobile payment platforms have also served as an opportunity to incorporate more individuals into the formal, existing financial system. While many people still do not have access to a bank account, more than 1 in 3 people in the world (2.6 billion) will be using smartphones within the next two years. And mobile phone and tablet users will be making almost 200 billion transactions annually by 2019[1].

    For example, earlier this year MasterCard ‘s HomeSend venture expanded its agreement with the Vodafone Group for M-Pesa – the mobile phone service which allows people with no bank account to send and receive money, top up their phone and enjoy other services all through their mobile phones. Globally, M-Pesa now reaches 25.3 million users (including users in Europe, for example in Romania and Albania).

     

    TDP: MasterCard has just published a new study on financial inclusion. What are its main findings?

    AC: MasterCard commissioned a 10 -market online survey to understand European consumers’ perceptions of financial and digital inclusion, through the lens of gender inclusion.

    The results of the survey showed that while almost half of consumers in Europe feel that there is a somewhat high or high level of financial inclusion in their country, less than one in four (22%) agree that Europe is the most financially and digitally (24%) inclusive region in the world.

    Other key findings include:

    –  Fewer than half of Europeans (49%) believe there is a high level of financial inclusion in their country.

    –  The vast majority of Europeans (79%) believe men have a higher degree of financial and digital inclusion than women.

    –  88% of respondents stated equal opportunities for Europeans in terms of access to financial and digital products, irrespective of gender, are vital for an open and inclusive society, but only 66% agree they have equal access themselves.

    The results demonstrated that, in general, digital and financial inclusion were experiencing a very similar perception issue. So as the EU looks to build a true digital single market in Europe in which people can interact and transact cross-border as seamlessly as in their own country, we need to focus on tearing down the real barriers and ensure that everyone can reap the benefits of a more inclusive world. The Digital Single Market needs to be built with the consumer or end-user in mind.

     

    TDP: Digital inclusion is still an issue also in several EU countries. Do you see governments committing enough to fixing the problem?

    AC: What we see is that the perception of digital inclusion is comparable to inclusive growth. We believe that digital exclusion usually triggers or is triggered by other kinds of exclusion, such as financial or gender exclusion. The assumption that financial exclusion and in turn digital exclusion is a problem solely in developing economies alone could not be further from the truth. We found that roughly 90 million people in Western Europe are still underserved.[2]

    If we look at Europe – the European Commission has done some great work on financial inclusion in recent years. The EU Payments Account Directive was adopted in 2014 and provides for the right for all EU citizens to open a payment account that allows them to perform essential operations, such as receiving their salary, pensions and allowances or payment of utility bills etc.

    With the Digital Single Market Strategy, the Commission is promoting technology and digital throughout the EU. As I referred to when speaking at the European Business Summit earlier this month, what is important is that inclusiveness is embedded into all digital policy initiatives. We need to ensure that the Digital Single Market is built with the citizen’s needs in mind so that it adds value to him or her.

    From MasterCard’s experience, the increased engagement of government helps drive greater expansion of financial inclusion. For example, in the UK, we are working with many local authorities who are now issuing welfare payments through pre-paid cards.

    Some of them have gone entirely cashless and processing all disbursements (e.g. welfare payments, child benefit, asylum seekers, etc.) electronically. Through these initiatives, citizens now have quicker and more secure access to their benefits. Meanwhile, we are seeing how the authorities themselves are enjoying significant savings thanks to increased efficiencies.

     

    TDP: How can the private sector help public institutions or cooperate with them on expanding digital literacy as well as digital skills?

    AC: The private sector is at the forefront of driving financial inclusion. But obviously we cannot do this alone: Public authorities have a crucial role to play. The Commission has recently consulted on various initiatives and published some very interesting proposals in areas such as e-government for example.

    We welcome the Commission’s emphasis on public private cooperation as this is an area where MasterCard is very active and where we partner frequently with public institutions.[3] The best example is the work around social disbursements onto prepaid cards.

    Although the UK is one of the more advanced markets when it comes to promoting electronic payments for government expenditure, other countries are also making good progress.

    In Italy, for example, we work with the national postal service to provide a simpler and more transparent tax collection system. We rolled-out new electronic payment terminals to help millions of Italians pay their taxes in the post office in a fast and safe way. In general, the benefits of going more digital are obvious.

     

    ((1] Juniper Research – Mobile commerce transactions to approach 200bn by 2019: http://www.juniperresearch.com/press/press-releases/mobile-commerce-transactions-to-approach-200bn-by
    [2] New Financial Inclusion Study Spotlights Europe’s Financially Excluded, Press release available: http://newsroom.mastercard.com/press-releases/new-financial-inclusion-study-spotlights-europes-financially-excluded/
    [3] For more information on our e-government activities: http://newsroom.mastercard.com/eu/photos/mastercard-government-services-and-solutions/

     

     

    Picture Credits: John Ragai
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  • Digital Single Market

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    How public libraries promote digital inclusion

    In its “New Skills Agenda for Europe”, the European Commission outlines the need to spread digital skills and fight digital exclusion and acknowledges the important contribution of public libraries. In one year, 4.6 million Europeans accessed the inte [read more]
    byIlona Kish | 10/Jun/20166 min read
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    In its “New Skills Agenda for Europe”, the European Commission outlines the need to spread digital skills and fight digital exclusion and acknowledges the important contribution of public libraries. In one year, 4.6 million Europeans accessed the internet for the first time at their public library and 2.3 million people attended digital literacy courses in libraries.

    What does it mean to be digitally literate? The European Commission has its indicators: starting from browsing, searching and filtering information, to protecting personal data and coding. From the growing need for digital skills in the workplace, to benefiting from a range of services such as e-government and online banking, a baseline of digital skills is vital to full participation in modern society.

    The danger is that with the digital revolution, we risk leaving many people behind. Nearly half of the EU has insufficient digital skills and nearly one in five people has never used the internet.

    Older people and marginalised groups are especially at risk of digital exclusion. But the issue of digital illiteracy is also systemic in education; only 30% of students in the EU can be considered as digitally competent.

    This is clearly a challenge for formal education systems. To meet this challenge, institutions like public libraries have an important role to play. There are 65,000 public libraries in the EU and 100 million people visit them every year.

    Public libraries are not just a place to read and borrow books; they are a network of open spaces where people supplement their formal education, working on their digital skills and undertaking a huge range of other educational activities.

    The data backs this up. In one year:

    • 4.6 million Europeans accessed the internet for the first time at their public library

    • 250,000 Europeans found a job thanks to internet access at a public library

    • 2.3 million people attended digital literacy courses in libraries

    The European Commission launched yesterday A New Skills Agenda for Europe,  outlining how a boost in skills could help to tackle some of Europe’s greatest social and economic challenges. A “Skills Guarantee” has been announced to help people who are long-term unemployed get back to work, and a “Skills Tool Kit for Third Country Nationals” will be rolled out to help refugees and other migrants integrate into new communities.

    An additional important element of the New Skills Agenda is the “Digital Skills for Europe” initiative, to boost the public’s competencies online and meet the objective of a European Digital Single Market.

    We need to address digital skills in schools. However, in order to reach the widest group of people possible, we must also empower non-formal learning institutions. The vital role of public libraries as free-to-access community hubs comes into particular focus when it comes to the inclusion of hard-to-reach and vulnerable groups in policies to promote education and skills.

    For example, Bozhidar Tchergarov, a blind Master’s student in Bulgaria, used his public library to learn how to use a computer and continues to attend library-run ICT training courses today. Or Filippo Gruni, a digital entrepreneur in Italy who has created a makerspace in his public library to improve the digital skills of his community.

    As acknowledged by the Commission’s proposal to the Council on the Skills Guarantee, strengthening skills in Europe “should be encouraged to involve a broad range of actors, social partners, education and training providers, employers, intermediary and sectorial organisations, local and regional economic actors, employment, social and community services, libraries, civil society organisations.”

    It is great to see the European Commission recognising the fantastic work being done to improve skills at public libraries across Europe. If you are interested in learning more about the role of libraries in digital skills development, visit us during the next EU Code Week (18-20 October) at the European Parliament, where Public Libraries 2020 will host an interactive exhibition on how Europe’s public libraries are meeting the digital age.

     

     

    Picture credits: Eric Drost

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    Catherine Stihler: The DSM strategy needs future-proof policies

    The Digital Single Market strategy lacks focus on digital inclusion and e-skills, says Scottish MEP Catherine Stihler. Nonetheless, she explains, the European Commission has made a step in the right direction but now the real challenge is to translate it [read more]
    byThe Digital Post | 07/Jul/20155 min read
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    The Digital Single Market strategy lacks focus on digital inclusion and e-skills, says Scottish MEP Catherine Stihler. Nonetheless, she explains, the European Commission has made a step in the right direction but now the real challenge is to translate it into effective legislative measures. As digital is changing all the time and technology is running ahead of us, Europe’s push to unleash the potential of the digital single market ought to be future-proof, argues Mrs Stihler.

     

     

    Photo credit: Josu Gonzalez

     

     

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  • Digital Single Market

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    eFacilitators: teaching digital skills for an inclusive Europe

    eFacilitators are key actors in providing digital competences for vulnerable people. Getting this profession officially recognised will multiply further formal training and mobility opportunities. Co-Author:  Dr. Bastian Pelka: Co-ordinator of the re [read more]
    byGabriel Rissola | 18/May/201511 min read
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    eFacilitators are key actors in providing digital competences for vulnerable people. Getting this profession officially recognised will multiply further formal training and mobility opportunities.

    Co-Author: 
    Portrait Dr Bastian PelkaDr. Bastian Pelka: Co-ordinator of the research unit “Education and Labour in Europe” at Social Research Centre – Central Scientific Institute of Technische Universität Dortmund. His fields of research are digital inclusion, education, occupational orientation, social innovation and ICT for learning and inclusion. He is working on EU level predominantly, engaged in several LLP, FP7 and H2020 projects. He earned his PhD in communication science, holds a position as research council and is senior lecturer at Faculty of Rehabilitation Sciences, lecturing on ICT for vulnerable people.

     

    The European digital single market strategy is largely dependent on the ability and interest of citizens to behave as online consumers. In this regard, a complex issue policy-makers should pay more attention to is the fact that still an 18% of EU population aged 16-74 has never used the internet (EUROSTAT 2015).

    Despite the role informal intermediaries like family and friends can play to help the latter profiting from the online market, still a large group of adult citizens are excluded from it – not to say from online education, eHealth, wide parts of the labour market or eGovernment.

    The European digital single market needs more digitally competent citizens to succeed.

    A comparative analysis of figures across countries shows an unbalanced distribution between Northern/Western and Southern/Eastern countries, evidencing the relevance of regional and national differences.

    Indeed, digital exclusion seems to depend socio demographic factors: correlations with socio demographic background of internet users and “offliners” indicate that vulnerable people not only are less active on the web but do also draw less profit from their activities if they are online.

    This group of “digitally excluded” persons is largely made up of people aged 65 to 74 years old, people on low incomes, the unemployed and the less educated. On the other hand, the European economy is concerned about the increasing shortage of ICT practitioner skills.

    The Digital Agenda Scoreboard (2014) alerts that while “39% of the EU workforce has insufficient digital skills, 14% has no digital skills at all”. This competence gap results in a growing deficit of ICT professional skills, with an estimate of around half million unfilled ICT vacancies today, which could grow to 900,000 by 2020 (Empirica 2015), challenging the EU’s development targets related not only to inclusiveness, but also to innovativeness.

    While policy on digital inclusion in the past decade focussed on providing ICT access, remarkable success can be seen in the spread of ICT access throughout Europe.

    Cheap digital devices (like smartphones, TV and tablets) and sinking connectivity costs lead to an increasing percentage of Europeans having access to digital means.

    The Digital Agenda Scoreboard indicates that those targets related to internet access (broadband subscriptions, regular internet use) will be mostly met by 2015, while targets related to the competence of use (using e-government, using returning forms, buying online) are in danger to be missed.

    This raises the question of adequate means to mediate and multiply digital skills.

    Accelerating population’s digital skilling requires targeted strategies to multiply and develop the capacities of intermediaries enabling digital learning and empowerment opportunities for all.

    A survey study prepared by Telecentre Europe for the European Commission (2014) demonstrated that there are “almost 250,000 eInclusion organizations in the EU27, or an average of one eInclusion organization for every 2,000 inhabitants”.

    These institutions, predominantly publicly funded, operate with few employees and small budget – meaning that while the “physical” eInclusion support structure in Europe is widely spread, it consists of small institutions.

    These are telecentres and other forms of ICT community centres, public libraries, municipal centres or local NGOs, who are providing digital literacy to excluded groups as well as using ICT to support social inclusion of groups at risk of exclusion.

    Among the targeted categories of the population are disengaged youth (e.g. NEETs), long-term unemployed people, domiciliary carers, migrants, or housewives – making the telecentre a space of eInclusion for a broad variety of vulnerable or marginalised groups at risk of digital exclusion.

    Telecentres cover the intersection of ICT based learning (for any purpose, such as employability or leisure, lifelong learning or personal development), ICT competences (learning how to use applications, how to surf the web or how to handle a tablet) and community building (local based communities or groups of interest like senior internet cafes or telecentres for migrants).

    Half of the surveyed organisations provide employability and a quarter entrepreneurship related services.

    They can be categorized by the type of support they offer and the proximity to their target groups. In this respect, a four-level pattern developed for Telecentres in 2010 (but applicable to every eInclusion actor) includes the following categories:

     

    Senza titolo

     

    Their local base and pedagogy are aiming at providing a low-threshold environment, empowering vulnerable people to access the digital world. This institutional setting seems a perfect match for targeting the socio economic dimension of the digital gap.

    However, there is a constant need for further professionalization of eInclusion actors, as this is a quite new branch of social welfare. Existing institutions, networks, organisations and approaches need further reflection, improvement and recognition in order to expand their impact.

    The actual low-threshold space of the telecentre can be regarded as one key ingredient in providing ICT access and competences; the other one is the person that interacts with those seeking ICT access, competences or social activities – such as connecting and collaborating with peers.

    People who are disconnected from the digital world today show a multitude of disadvantage features: this group has little option to access the formal education system, so non-formal adult education becomes their unique option (apart from family and friends, i.e. informal learning) to get acquainted with e-skills and digital opportunities.

    This makes this target group a multi-faceted disadvantaged group that will need special support on their way to the digital society. Education staff with abilities in dealing with this target group plays key role in providing digital competences.

    eFacilitators are key for providing digital competences for vulnerable people, but they are in need of further professionalization.

    Recent years have seen a constant rise in requirements for the educational staff working in telecentres. Telecentre staff meets challenges like reduced public funding, new labour market demands for employability concerning ICT qualifications and changing technological systems (tablets, cloud applications, apps).

    On the other side, end users are requesting new services (mobile devices, online job searching, certification of competences) and new target groups are entering the digital world and face competence gaps.

    These developments lead to an increasing demand in professional training for the educational staff of telecentres. Telecentre Europe (directly or through its members) has been involved in a strand of four EU financed development projects (Lifelong learning programme, 2011-2014) aiming at supporting the professionalization of telecentres, their services and staff.

    One of the outcomes was the branding of the profile of the “eFacilitator” as a vocational profile of educational staff for ICT competences in telecentres. But more work has to be done: professionalization has to reach other countries, all levels of staff in telecentres and other welfare organisations that do not understand themselves right now as “telecentres”.

    It is difficult to estimate the number of persons working with end users in the field of eInclusion, but taking 250,000 organisations as a basis, it seems safe to argue that around 250,000-375,000 persons in the EU are working on digital competences of disadvantaged persons.

    Only tentative research has been done on the socio-demographic characteristics of this field of employment, but it seems to prevail a young, female and highly educated workforce with a high diversity of educational profiles.

    This staff can be regarded as persons with high interest in social innovation and strong links between this group and social innovators could be traced through different social entrepreneurship organisations.

    This staff is in need of constant training and issues such as means to initiate and sustain fundraising, certification of competences and a regular crew change rate have all to be tackled.

    Recent research and development activities are aiming at these issues by developing customized and certifiable curricula for telecentres’ staff.

    The aim of this on-going research and development activities is to support and secure professionalization within this new arising working field in order to make it more efficient for end users and more attractive for staff working on Inclusion issue.

    Getting the profession officially recognised – either as a stand-alone profile or as specialization of an existing one – tends to multiply further formal training and mobility opportunities.

    Employment prospects for e-facilitators stretch beyond telecentres, ranging from advising schools or libraries on digital training to supporting collaboration inside co-working spaces or providing ICT guidance to small business.

    While one of the main issues faced by the e-skills mismatch in the IT industry is the limited interest shown by females on IT careers, the eInclusion sector is attracting women on a much higher degree (2 women every 1 man on average).

    A window to increase the number of women in IT can be opened if they can experiment the social dimension of IT by acting as e-Facilitator.

    The situation described above is calling for a constant development of telecentres as low-threshold specialised providers of ICT competences as a permanent jigsaw piece in providing employment and welfare support in the digital society – either for personal wellbeing or for employability.

    With requirements both on the demand side (which competences are needed?) and on the individual side (which restrictions and options do users have?) telecentres are requested to constantly develop their efforts and approaches.

    This process calls for a constant professionalization process that cannot be afforded without an extended formal recognition of the eFacilitator professional profile and the engagement of formal education in their preparation.

    European and national/regional policy initiatives in this direction would help building a more sustainable, flexible and high quality ICT competence supporting infrastructure, ultimately redounding to the benefit of the Digital Single Market.

     

     

    References:

    Eurostat (2015): Individuals who have never used the internet
    European Commission (2014): Digital Inclusion and Skills. Digital Agenda Scoreboard 2014
    Empirica (Ed.) 2014: ESkills for jobs in Europe: Measuring progress and moving ahead. Final report

     

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