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November 26, 2018
Closing the financial inclusion gap with Tech4good
By: Sonali Parthasarathy

 

On November 7th 2018, I had the unique opportunity to talk with passionate and smart women entrepreneurs, attorneys, regulators, social activists, technologists and NGOs at the Making Finance Work for Women 2018 (MFWW) event hosted by the Womens’ World Banking (WWB) in New York.

WWB is a global non-profit that has been campaigning for financial inclusion and independence for low income women in developing countries all over the world for more than 35 years. Every year they bring together leading researchers, activists and social entrepreneurs in the field of finance and risk at the MFWW summit. The summit is a collaborative, cross-disciplinary gathering to talk about the benefits of investing in women, brainstorm ways to scale financial education to reach a wider population, and to identify ways to increase the use of sustainable financial products.

This year, Accenture Labs was one of the sponsors of the summit, and we were honored to participate as a technology partner. I had the privilege to introduce Accenture Labs’ Tech4Good Innovation Ecosystem, which targets exponential problems in health, education, gender equality, the future of work, and other global challenges through the combinatorial power of innovative technologies like AI, blockchain, IoT, and extended reality. I was proud to share a short sampling of our Tech4Good projects, like Drishti, Million Meals Project and Grameen Guru.

DOWNLOAD VIDEO TRANSCRIPT [PDF]

Grameen Guru was particularly relevant for the WWB audience. It serves as a digital evangelist that educates women on available financial products through an extended reality virtual assistant. A big part of the solution’s success was due to cross-disciplinary collaboration: It includes an emotional analytics component, which helps microfinance advisors gain real-time insights on the emotional and cognitive status of their clients, based on video and audio inputs. It’s just one example of how Accenture Labs approaches Tech4Good: by combining our technology expertise with domain knowledge and experience to provide holistic solutions for global challenges.

One of the experiences that resonated most with me at the MFWW Summit was a quote from Sarah Kaplan, the director of the Institute for Gender and the Economy and Professor of Strategic Management at University of Toronto: that to increase financial inclusion for women, “We need to stop designing for women and start designing with them.”

Even with financial inclusion on the rise around the world, women in developing economies are still 9 percent less likely to have a bank account than men. If we give women a seat at the table and involve them from the very beginning of the development process of these financial products, our success rate in increasing financial inclusion will be much higher.

Equipped with Accenture Labs’ Tech4Good success stories, I spent much of the summit connecting with NGOs, NPOs, and social entrepreneurs to talk about their pain points and how we can collaborate to address them with technology. My hope is that these initial conversations will translate into new Tech4Good projects where we can continue to use the power of AI, extended reality, IoT and other innovative technologies to drive a step change in the field of financial inclusion.

For more information about Accenture Labs’ Tech4Good initiative, visit our website. Interested in collaborating on a Tech4Good initiative? Contact Sanjay Podder, Managing Director, Accenture Labs Tech4Good Program.

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