FinTech is reaching parts of the planet that could never be reached before. Actually, it’s not FinTech. It’s the network.
By way of example, way back in 1995, I was asked if I seriously thought someone could make a payment from the top of Mount Everest? I said yes, and they did in 2013. Since then, we are almost a decade later, and people are paying and transacting all over the world. A good example is a grandma in Liangshuan district of China who was taking an Alipay payment for a bottle of water the other day. So what? So, she’s on a mountain a kilometre above the valley below in one of the poorest regions of China. She’s 70 and has no bank account, but she’s taking a payment because she has a QR code.
I’ve always believed that the internet would change the world by including everyone, and today it is. What’s interesting is how few recognise this change. When I say this in my presentations, someone said to me afterwards that many of the audience stare at me incredulously when talking about the fact that FinTech includes everyone; everyone can access the network; everyone can be a part of the new digital world.
I have heard this often.
I’ve heard this often, but I don’t accept it. I don’t believe it. If anyone is interested or motivated today, whether in Burkina Faso or Vanuatu, they can get on the network. More importantly, once on the network, they can communicate and transact. It is this latter point that gets interesting.
For many of us, our place of work in the last year has become our home office. Not our headquarters, but our office in our home. But our office could just as easily be in our café or pub or hotel or B&B or airport lounge or … Mount Everest. That is the power of the network.
Wherever you are, whoever you are, you can be connected to near eight billion people worldwide right now. Just pick up a mobile phone.
Now, I still get pushback on that view and that statement, but I’ll pushback-back. We must use technology to improve access to finance, particularly as finance is so inter-twined with physical and mental health. The lack of finance can cause mental illness or suicide. Equally, FinTech can improve mental wellness and inclusion.
No one should have to choose between health and poverty.
This is a moment in time for humanity, where we will find a new world of humanity. Historically, the poor and unwanted were unheard and excluded. We move to a world soon where no one will be poor and unwanted, and they will be heard and included. We are already moving in that direction. Almost half of the unbanked have been banked in the last decade and even those who are unbanked can move money digitally today, if they can find a mobile phone. And you don’t even need a mobile phone. You just need a piece of paper with a code. When a Grandma on the side of a cliff in the poorest region of China can take a payment, things have changed and, even though people claim that not everyone has access to a mobile telephone, I would ask them to prove it. There are more mobile phones in many areas than toilets or toothbrushes.
Today, 62% of the world’s population, or almost five billion people, have a mobile phone. That’s pretty much every adult on Earth.
The network – whether it be 2G, 3G, 4G, 5G, WiFi, a text message or just a QR Code – includes everyone. Or, rather, it includes everyone who wants to be included.