Gates Foundation identifies tech ‘trinity’ for digital inclusion, lauds tech-powered Indian subsidy programme empowering women

Image from Gates Archive/Prashant Panjiar Photo

In the 2019 edition of their annual Goalkeepers Data Report, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation identify a trinity of technologies as key for digital inclusion and reduced inequalities: bank accounts, mobile phones and biometric identification.

The government of India has used this trinity to improve the efficiency of a gas cooking subsidy programme. By helping people in poverty open bank accounts, providing every Indian resident with a unique biometric ID, and enabling them to use mobile banking services, the government is able to deposit money directly into the bank accounts only of people who are eligible to receive cash transfers for buying cooking gas.

In a new incarnation of the programme, also powered by these technologies, cash transfers are made only to bank accounts owned by women. Having a bank account and using mobile banking services has changed the lives of more than 75 million poor rural women already, who now have more decision-making power over the family’s finances and more autonomy in the home. 

The report points out, however, that technology is not a panacea: in order to be truly transformative, it needs to be paired with smart, pro-poor policies and services built around digital technology, and accompanied by analog reforms like changing discriminatory laws and policies. 

SourcesGeekWire, The Gates Foundation