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Opinion

Cryptocurrency: Facebook's Libra – is this how we get to responsible fintech?

The much-needed conversation around fintech and responsible finance just got amplified by a power of 10.

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Mobile banking and payments have swiftly reduced the number of unbanked around the world in the order of billions. But we’re very far off being able to claim that those now entering the financial system as a result are accessing fair, transparent and useful products and services. It has been technology first – and technologists and data scientists are not inclusive finance experts. Nor are inclusive finance experts technologists.

That gap has the potential to be closed, however, thanks to Facebook’s announcement of Libra, a decentralized cryptocurrency that will allow users of the social platform and WhatsApp to easily send each other money and make online purchases, and thus, supposedly, increase access for the unbanked or underbanked.

There are, however, doubts whether the financial inclusion intentions for Libra will be successful. One has to imagine that anyone accessing Facebook or WhatsApp on a mobile already uses some form of mobile payments system, so what problem is Libra solving exactly? 

Then there’s the argument that not being able to cash out will dampen its usefulness in remote, underbanked communities. There are also doubts whether intentions for Libra to reduce financial exclusion are even sincere.




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