Digital inclusion cannot be discussed as a key accelerating factor of the UN Sustainable Development Goals without talking about empowering people: youth, women, refugees, farmers, entrepreneurs or business owners. Rapid development of digital financial services and digital innovations across entire economies provides a timely opportunity to address global challenges such as youth employment, gender inequality, food security and climate change in new ways. For example, it is estimated that 80 million young people will benefit from the rise of digital commerce in Africa”.
However, people face difficulties in accessing and using digital innovations ensuing from their lack of familiarity with these new tools and their low digital/financial literacy. Limited digital capability can result in a range of negative outcomes including, but not limited to, a lack of trust in digital innovations, increased self-exclusion of certain groups, and increased customer vulnerability to fraud, personal-data misuse, digital profiling, phishing schemes, etc. For example, women face more barriers accessing digital innovations than men, due to lower levels of digital knowledge and, in some countries, limited access to education, employment and financial services as well as disadvantageous social norms and legal treatment. Therefore, addressing digital literacy as a means to improve well-being is critical.
Improved digital capability is thus a prerequisite to fully integrate youth, women, migrants, business owners and others who are usually left behind in the digital revolution so that they can be fully empowered and truly improve their well-being. Based on our experience, this outcome can only be achieved when the key components of an inclusive digital economy are convened. First, a conducive policy and regulatory environment that supports innovations should be in place. Second, a strong digital payment infrastructure that allows other innovations to be scaled up must be built. Third, we cannot make assumptions about what people need from digital solutions, so we need to work with them to create solutions for the issues that affect them. Last but not least, we must ensure people have the capability to benefit from digital innovations.