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Location matters: GIS in financial inclusion

Location matters: GIS in financial inclusion

30 July, 2015    

Cenfri and FinMark Trust hosted a workshop for the FSD Network entitled Location Matters: GIS in Financial Inclusion on 22 and 23 July 2015. This two-day workshop in Johannesburg, South Africa, focused on how Financial Sector Deepening Trusts (FSDs) and their partners can use geographic information systems (GIS) and geospatial data to better understand current challenges in financial inclusion. The workshop sessions brought together a number of participants and presenters from the private sector (financial institutions), international bodies such as the World Bank Group (WBG) and the United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF), development organizations, and FSDs from across Africa. This workshop also served as the initiation event for a new community of practice in financial inclusion data that promises to help build stronger data practices and greater cooperation in the future.

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Gaining a Deeper Understanding of GIS

The workshop began with opening remarks by Cenfri’s Herman Smit and the presentation that followed covered the background of GIS.

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Key questions about its use in promoting financial inclusion, led by Abed Mutemi of The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

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This was followed by a discussion, led by Ahmed Dermish of Bankable Frontier Associates, of the overall data environment that GIS is a part of, and how GIS data can be made readily and sustainably accessible to stakeholders to drive evidence-based decision-making.

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Following the introduction to GIS and its context, the workshop turned to look at how GIS and geospatial data have specifically been used in decision-making. Gavin Aspeling first gave a presentation on how geospatial data is used by Metropolitan to ensure lower-income households have access to products tailored for their needs. Katy Bariamis followed this with a presentation on how Nedbank uses geospatial data in making strategic decisions about locating and evaluating branches and staff. Switching from the use of GIS by financial institutions, Irene Mlola of Financial Sector Deepening Trust Tanzania (FSDT) then presented on FSDT’s pioneering use of GIS as part of its Financial Access Mapping program, and key lessons they learned from this experience. The first day was closed off by Brian Loeb of Bankable Frontier Associates, who presented on how dissemination of geospatial data, and insights from this data, should be done strategically, with an emphasis on understanding how dissemination fits into plans to effect change.

Presentations on the 2nd day began with how GIS programs work in practice. Garth Lawless first presented on how Brand Fusion engages in geospatial data collection as part of its collection methodology. Lara Storm and Audrey Linthorst of MIX presented on how MIX Market/Finclusion Lab help make data more accessible and deliver insights about the supply of financial services within countries. Bob Currin and Craig Schwabe of AfricaScope outlined a framework for using different data sources together to achieve a deeper understanding of financial access. The final two presentations by Tom Bird (Southampton University) and David Taylor (usableDATA) looked at what insights GIS and geospatial analytics can provide, in terms of evaluating the relationships between the prevalence of poverty and uptake of financial services, and how to effectively target interventions to advance financial inclusion.

Assessing National Data and Building Roadmaps

After gaining a wealth of information from the presentations, the workshop then engaged participants in interactive sessions to have them apply some of the lessons learned. Breaking up into groups organized around specific countries, these sessions aimed to engage participants – particularly those from the national Financial Sector Deepening Trusts – in thinking about how they would rate their countries’ data (in terms of detail and the types of data, and its overall quality and accessibility). After ‘scoring’ national data with these metrics, participants then engaged in a thought exercise where they discussed what a feasible target for improving this data – that could be achieved in the next five years – would be. With the current state of country data and a feasible target for this data in mind, the final interactive session asked groups to think of steps that would be needed to get from the current state to this future target. Facilitators pushed participants to make these steps concrete and to use them to build roadmaps to achieving their data goals.

A Community of Practice

With the presentations and interactive sessions complete, participants walked away from the workshop armed with a deeper understanding of the role of GIS in developing better programs to improve financial inclusion. In closing the workshop Cenfri and FinMark Trust made it clear that their work does not end with this workshop. This event is the first held as part of a new Community of Practice that will bring stakeholders, especially FSDs, together to support each other and communicate best practices across the board. Moreover, this Community of Practice is part of a broader strategy for a new data facility in development that will be run by Cenfri and FinMark Trust and funded by The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the MasterCard Foundation. With this workshop, the first of more to come, Cenfri and FinMark Trust, and their partners, take a step forward in using data and GIS to advance financial inclusion and build more inclusive societies.

If you are interested in learning more about the Community of Practice please contact us at 

July 22, 2015 - July 23, 2015
Johannesburg, South Africa