KARACHI - In recent times, there has been a rapid increase in the use of new technologies to increase access to financial services in many countries including Pakistan, reports World Bank in its annual booklet, Bringing Finance to Pakistans Poor.
The report states that this has included the widespread use of smart cards and of mobile telephone networks. In Pakistan, mobile phone penetration has increased at a rapid pace recently. Half of Pakistanis including women have access to a cell phone together with rural areas (two-thirds in urban areas.)
While more than 86 percent of men have their own cell phone, 40 percent of women do. These figures suggest a much higher access to cell phones (available in the household or within the extended family) than the figures for regular usage.
Balochistan is the least served (still, a third of the population have access to mobile phones). According to survey, cell phone usage is 35.4 percent in Sindh about 44 percent in NWFP and Azad Jammu and Kashmir and highest in Punjab at 51.5 percent.
The pervasive use of mobile telephony creates a ready market for financial services delivery over mobile phones.
Use of cell phones is still mostly confined to voice services (for 78.5 percent of cell phone users.) Basic data services such as SMS, are used by 40.2pc cell phone users with higher usage in urban areas (45 percent) than in rural (36.7 percent). SMS usage is also more frequent among men. Internet usage remains low and is concentrated in urban areas. Internet and e-mail are more accessed fused at home. Close to two-thirds of Pakistanis (60.8pc) have their own prepaid mobile phones.
The report asserts that Mobilink is the most used network across rural and urban areas. There is a large gender divide on cell phone payments. Majority of men pay for themselves, while the majority (84.5 percent) of womens cell phone expenses are paid by their spouse or family. This limits somewhat the usefulness of cell phone credit records as a source of credit information.
Nevertheless, World Bank (2008) concludes, on the basis of cross country analysis that mobile technology does expand financial access.