ITU issues digital financial services policy guides

Eden Estopace
eGov Innovation

The ITU's focus group on Digital Financial Services (DFS) has issued 85 policy recommendations and 28 supporting thematic reports aimed at improving financial inclusion for the roughly 2 billion people around the world who remain unbanked.

The 85 policy recommendations offer guidance in areas such as digital liquidity, consumer protection to enhance DFS usage, data privacy, digital identity and e-KYC (Know Your Customer), as well as interoperability and fair access to the communication channel.

Some of the key recommendations for policymakers and regulators include supporting the growth of an open ecosystem for DFS that promotes innovation and ensures robust competition, standardizing definitions of fraud types as well as electronic and timely fraud reporting from providers, and implementing clear and objective criteria for interoperability schemes.

"Governments around the world face many similar challenges in their efforts to deliver fully integrated digital financial services. Until now solutions have largely been developed in isolation,” ITU secretary-general Houlin Zhao said.

This is the first time an organization has sought to develop a comprehensive set of practical and integrated guidelines drawing on expertise from across the financial service and telecommunication/ICT sectors.”

The group brought together more than 60 organizations from over 30 countries in more than two years of extensive consultation to review and assess international practices.

Zhao noted that the DFS' output is a practical toolkit that can be adapted to local needs.

“We hope it will help drive greater access and opportunity through the delivery of more affordable, accessible, secure, transparent and robust digital financial services for consumers and merchants in emerging markets,” he said.

Policymakers were also enjoined to promote initiatives and incentives that encourage merchants and other payment acceptors to accept electronic payments while regulators were advised to standardize digital identity registration, and ensure interoperability between DFS operators and service providers relying on digital identity.

ITU also requires DFS operators to build in customer privacy measures, compliant with current or anticipated national legislation.

"While the work of the focus group is complete, we now need to move from theory to implementation. The work we have done has resulted in a set of very operational policy recommendations. Their value will be dependent on their systematic application in markets that need guidance and support,” said Sacha Polverini, chairman of the focus group.

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