Biometrics in financial inclusion: closing the banking gap

Pablo Nebreda

Pablo Nebreda

Financial inclusion is a global priority that seeks to ensure that all people, regardless of their location or economic status, have access to basic financial services. However, millions of people around the world still lack access to banking services, hindering their ability to save money, access credit and conduct secure transactions. Fortunately, biometrics holds promise as a solution to close this banking gap and promote financial inclusion.

What is biometrics?

Biometrics refers to the use of unique physical or behavioural traits to identify and authenticate individuals. These traits can include fingerprints, irises, faces, voices, and handwriting patterns, among others. Biometrics have been used for years in security applications, such as unlocking mobile phones using fingerprints. However, its use in financial inclusion is revolutionising the way people interact with banking services.

Benefits of biometrics in financial inclusion

Biometrics offers a number of benefits that help overcome traditional barriers to financial inclusion. One of the main benefits is the ability to verify a person’s identity accurately and securely. In many areas of the world, the lack of valid identity documents makes it difficult for people to access banking services. Biometrics allows financial service providers to authenticate the identity of individuals using unique biometric information, without relying on physical documents.

Another key benefit of biometrics in financial inclusion is its accessibility. Unlike ID cards or social security numbers, biometric traits are inherently personal and always available. This makes biometric authentication more accessible to individuals who may lack traditional documents but have unique physical characteristics.

In addition to facilitating authentication, biometrics can also improve the user experience. Traditional authentication methods, such as passwords and security questions, can be frustrating and error-prone. Biometrics, on the other hand, offer a more intuitive and faster way to access financial services, which improves the user experience and increases trust in these systems.

Challenges of biometrics in financial inclusion

While biometrics presents great opportunities for financial inclusion, it also faces significant challenges that need to be addressed. One of the main challenges is privacy and data protection. Biometrics involve the collection and storage of highly sensitive personal information, which raises legitimate concerns about the misuse of this information. It is critical that financial service providers implement robust security and data protection measures to ensure users’ privacy.

Another challenge is the interoperability and standardisation of biometric systems. Financial service providers need to ensure that their biometric systems are compatible with other existing and future systems. This ensures a uniform experience for users and facilitates collaboration between different service providers.

Applications of biometrics in financial inclusion

Biometrics is used in a variety of applications to promote financial inclusion. One of the most common applications is identity verification for digital onboarding. The digital onboarding process allows individuals to open bank accounts and access financial services online without having to visit a physical branch. Biometrics is used to verify the identity of applicants by comparing biometric traits with previously stored data.

Another important application of biometrics in financial inclusion is transaction authentication. Biometrics are used to authorise transactions, such as payments or money transfers, providing an additional layer of security and ensuring that only the authorised person can perform these operations.

The future of biometrics in financial inclusion

Biometrics has the potential to transform financial inclusion and close the global banking gap. As biometric technology advances and becomes more accessible, more people will be able to access financial services securely and conveniently.

In addition, the combination of biometrics with other emerging technologies, such as machine learning and artificial intelligence, offers even more opportunities to improve financial inclusion. These technologies allow for greater accuracy in biometric authentication and the development of more personalised solutions that are tailored to each individual’s needs.

In conclusion, biometrics is presented as a key solution to close the banking gap and promote financial inclusion. With its benefits of accurate authentication, accessibility and improved user experience, biometrics has the potential to revolutionise the way people interact with financial services. However, it is also important to address privacy and standardisation challenges to ensure that biometrics are implemented securely and effectively. As the technology advances, we expect to see greater use of biometrics in financial inclusion and a world where all people have access to the financial services they need and deserve.

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