Week of August 5, 2013

Innovations in banking technology can have both positive and negative consequences for customers as shown by this week’s edition of New and Noteworthy. While a parallel currency system promotes business in a Kenyan slum and online tools help map financial inclusion, customer data on banking errors can increase the number of unbanked.

  • In the footsteps of M-Pesa, slum dwellers in Kenya are creating their own currency system called Bangla-Pesa. Bangla-Pesa is a system of vouchers with designated values. The vouchers are honored as a means of exchange for goods and services within the confines of the Bangladesh slum in Mobasa and help businesses remain operational even during downturns in their regular business volume.
  • Earlier this month, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation released an interactive tool to improve the way financial access is measured and tracked around the world. The CGAP team posted an analysis of some of the data from Nigeria, Uganda, and Tanzania to get a better picture of financial inclusion in those countries.
  • While banking errors like bouncing a check or overdrawing from an account might seem minor, they can actually blacklist low-income customers from formal financial institutions, according to The New York Times. Banks have been using customer databases for over 20 years to assess high-risk customers but consumer advocacy groups say this method disproportionately affect lower-income individuals and increases the number of unbanked Americans.
  • According to new research, there is evidence that early life financial stress can lead to health issues later in life, even in cases of upward economic mobility.
  • Recently the Board of Governors of the US Federal Reserve System released a report on the prevalence of prepaid cards in government-administered payment programs and their subsequent fees. While 94 government offices and 186 programs issued $136 billion through prepaid cards, this sum accounted for just 13.4 percent of the total payment funds.
  • In an article for Forbes.com, Ann Harrison of the Wharton school asserts if firms in Africa had an “even playing field” (i.e. better infrastructure, governance, and access to capital), they would outperform their Western counterparts.
  • According to the US Census Bureau, 49 cities (with populations greater than 100,000) had significant declines in poverty rates when off-campus college students were excluded from the calculations.

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