Branchless banking increases number of women accounts

ISLAMABAD: The branchless banking initiative of the State Bank of Pakistan has stimulated financial inclusion and led to a considerable increase in the number of women account-holders in the country, WealthPK reports.
Digital financial services, branchless banking and mobile wallet accounts have improved the indicators of financial access in the country during the last couple of years.
According to a report released by the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA), 4.2 million new bank accounts were registered in the country. The total number of branchless accounts of women reached 24.8 million in the year 2022, registering a 20.9 % annual growth. The gender gap in availing of banking services was also reduced by 1% in the country.
However, only one percent of branchless banking agents and 13% of regular banking staffers are women in Pakistan.
The report says that overall, 9.7 million branchless banking accounts were opened during the previous calendar year. The total number of digital accounts in the country reached 88.5 million. With an increase of 5.3 million, the total number of digital accounts used by men reached 63.7 million in 2022, registering a growth of 9% compared to 58.4 million in 2021.
PTA, in collaboration with the telecom industry, launched its ‘Gender Inclusion in ICTs’ initiative to reduce the digital gender gap in Pakistan with a specific focus on accessibility, affordability and digital skills.
PTA will launch the Urdu version of the Mobile Internet Skills Training Toolkit (MISTT). Developed by the Global System of Mobile Association (GSMA), the purpose of the initiative is to specifically enable women to benefit from mobile internet and mobile money.
MISTT will address the issue of usage gaps, drive digital inclusion and support the training of first-time and low-use data users by equipping them with the required skills to start the use of mobile internet and access its life-enhancing services.
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation has also announced its collaboration with PTA to devise a digital inclusion strategy and address gender parity in access to information communication technology (ICT). Similarly, GSMA has committed to translating its MISTT into Urdu. The toolkit will impart basic skills regarding access to and use of mobile internet. The initiative has been supported by cellular mobile operators (CMOs), the fixed line segment and telecom manufacturers.
The report says that Pakistan has a wider gender gap in terms of mobile ownership compared to India and Bangladesh. Women in Pakistan are less likely to own a mobile phone compared to men. The main reasons for not owning a mobile phone by women in lower-middle-income countries include less affordability, low digital literacy, and different kinds of safety and security challenges.
However, in Pakistan, family disapproval of female mobile ownership is also a major reason for the existing gap. Moreover, a large number of people in Pakistan know little about the mobile internet so they do not use it.
Women in Pakistan have little access to and less knowledge about the benefits of mobile internet. “However, public awareness about mobile internet has registered a tremendous increase in Pakistan compared to other regional countries,” says the report available with WealthPK.