Biometrics help the world's unbanked
20 April 2018 13:39 GMT

About seven out of every 10 adults worldwide now have some form of bank account, the World Bank said Thursday, largely because of the proliferation of cellphone-based bank accounts.

The bank noted stellar growth in India, where the government has been pushing a program to sign up individuals for simple, no-fee accounts tied to government biometric identification cards.

An estimated 69 percent of adults had some sort of bank account in 2017, up from an estimated 51 percent in 2011 and up from 62 percent in 2014. That translates into an additional 515 million adults now having a bank account compared to three years ago.

The figures were released as part of the World Bank’s Global Findex Report, a study on financial inclusion released every three years that involves interviews or surveys of 150,000 people covering 144 countries representing 98 percent of the world’s population.

Sub-Saharan Africa saw big growth as well, fueled by mobile phone-based accounts. These “mobile money” accounts, as they are sometimes known, are tied to a person’s cell phone account instead of a bank, and allow users to transfer money to family or businesses.