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Digital inclusion: Narrowing the Payments Digital Divide

Digital inclusion: 
Narrowing the Payments
Digital Divide

David Daly

Scientific Community Editor-in-Chief

I’d like to start this post with a simple request: please take a moment to complete our short survey about the Payments Digital Divide.

Our goal with this survey is to help the payment industry provide solutions that are digitally inclusive by increasing the understanding of how people prefer to pay and why. In particular, what factors lead some people to embrace digital payments, whilst others may feel alienated or excluded by them. We will publish the key findings from this survey in the coming months so that academics and businesses can use these insights to make digital payments more accessible for all.

The Worldline Scientific Community recently published our Navigating Digital Payments report, in which we analyse the key trends in payments. In this report we describe how the Covid-19 crisis has accelerated digitalisation and that this is enabling increasingly seamless interactions. However, we also noted:

 

“There is a danger that, as many of us move to more digital ways of living our lives, a smaller minority remains left behind and becomes even more excluded, leading to an increase in the digital divide.”

 

This is a trend we predicted over a year ago in our paper The World After COVID-19: Adapting your business now for the new normal in payments. And we are starting to see signs that this prediction was correct.

Research from the ECB found that 87% of those who paid less in cash during the pandemic said they would continue to do so when the Covid-19 pandemic is over. The same research found that there is a “downward trend in the availability of ATMs and branches offering cash services” whilst still 54% of people consider having the option to pay in cash as important or very important. In summary: the pandemic has led to less use of cash. But still most people value the option to pay in cash, against a backdrop of cash being harder to access.

The research also makes stark the fact that digital payments are still not an option for everyone, finding that overall 2% of people only have access to cash (and it is as high as 11% in some countries).

There were also surprising findings. For example, the preference for cash is less generational than one might expect: 33% of over 65-year olds prefer to use cash against 28% of 18-24 year olds.

So, if digital natives are only slightly more inclined to use digital payments than those who are over 65, this raises an interesting question: if the choice is not driven by how tech-savvy you are, then what are the factors at play? Is it privacy? Or convenience? Or something else?

The questions included in our survey are designed to further this understanding of why people prefer certain payment methods to others. And, by doing this, we believe the payments industry will be able to continue its evolution, mindful of how the needs of all citizens can best be served.

You can complete the Payments Digital Divide survey here. It is available in eight languages (Dutch, English, French, German, Polish, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish) and takes less than 5 minutes to complete. Please consider supporting people who may not be able to access it themselves by helping them to complete it too.