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Cash and Crises Webinar: Facing up to the Digital Revolution

Categories : Cash and Crises
December 4, 2020
Tags : Cash and Crises, Digital payments, Humanitarian, Mobile Money
This webinar was the fifth in a series by CashEssentials exploring key trends shaping the future of cash. This was the first to focus specifically on ‘cash & crises’. Cash industry experts and international aid practitioners debates some of the advantages and disadvantages of digital cash assistance in the context of financial inclusion for societies in crisis.
James Shepherd-Barron

Disaster Risk Management Consultant, Author, and Founder of The Aid Workers Union

This post is also available in: Spanish

Recent reports suggest that health technology (healthtech) – from implants to apps which predict oncoming illness before you even have symptoms – might be having unintended consequences for our health and might be better news for private sector health providers than for patients. Much the same has been said of so-called advertising technology (adtech) where personal data has become a commodity and where unaccountable private sector companies decide which bits of our history to keep and which to delete.

The Unintended Consequences of Fintech

In the same vein, could it be possible that financial technology (fintech) is having unintended consequences on digital cash transfers for societies in crisis?

To discuss this, Cash Essentials convened a panel of experts from the cash management industry, academia and the non-governmental community on 20th November 2020 to debate some of the pro’s and con’s of electronic transfers, digital payments and mobile money in humanitarian action.

The Complementarity of Cash and Digital

After a short introduction which reminded everyone that the subject was not about cash OR digital, but the complementarity of cash AND digital, panelists were invited to discuss this topic from their own perspective and then engage in a moderated discussion with questions from the floor. They were:

The presentations can be downloaded at the bottom of this page. The panel was joined by 79 online attendees from various UN agencies, USAID, international NGOs and a range of commercial and central bankers.

Themes, datapoints and questions to pursue included:

Digital Transfers don’t have to be Cash-less

After a fascinating discussion – including taking over twenty questions from the floor – it became clear that each topic warranted further unpacking in recognition of the fact that the digital and analogue financial ecosystem is evolving fast. By the end, all agreed with Simon Levine’s closing comment that “Digital transfers don’t have to mean cash-less.”

This post is also available in: Spanish