BIGD International Conference: Making Digital Finance Work for Women

BRAC Institute of Governance and Development (BIGD) organized its international convening in 2023–”Making Digital Finance Work for Women.” The two-day hybrid conference took place on 21-22 June 2023, where recent global research insights were shared on how to make digital finance work for women’s economic empowerment. The conference unveiled much-anticipated results from BIGD’s WEE-DiFine Initiative, which supported rigorous research at the intersection of digital financial inclusion and women’s economic empowerment.

Themes discussed during the conference included women-friendly approaches to phone distribution programs and the barriers and opportunities regarding digital microfinance in Bangladesh. Leading academics from around the world, including Leora Klapper of the World Bank, Michael Carter of the University of California, Davis, and Munshi Sulaiman of BIGD, joined industry leaders and policymakers in this dynamic event.

Day 1

Imran Matin of BIGD inaugurated the two-day-long international conference. Seth Garz of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation presented the welcome note.

WEE-DiFine Initiative Director Kym Cole introduced the Initiative, and BIGD’s Research Director Munshi Sulaiman presented WEE-DiFine’s white paper.

The session was chaired by Imran Matin, where the keynote presentations were delivered by Leora Klapper of the World Bank on “Results From the Global Findex Database 2021” and Timothy Ogden of New York University on “A Critical Global Overview of the Process of Digitization of Microfinance.”

The session was moderated by Imran Ahmed of the Shakti Foundation, where Sheikh Md Monirul Islam of bKash Limited, Moonmoon Shehrin of BRAC, and Khondoker Shakhawat Ali of BIGD participated in a panel discussion on the transformation of digitalization of microfinance in Bangladesh.

The session was chaired by Jumana Asrar of BIGD, where Shahaduz Zaman of BIGD and the University of Sussex delivered his presentation on “Digital Onboarding Challenges in Bangladesh,” and Rahul Chatterjee of Microsave Consulting delivered his speech virtually on “Unpacking the Digital Behavior of the Lives of Women Business Owners in Bangladesh: Insights From a Diaries Research.”

Day 2

Munshi Sulaiman of BIGD presented the reflections on day one, and Michael Carter of the University of California, Davis, delivered his keynote address on “Risk Mitigation for Women in the Digital Age: A New Ending to the Same Old Story?”

The session was chaired by Mehnaz Rabbani of BIGD, where Xavier Giné of the World Bank delivered his presentation on “Measuring the Trust Costs of Conducting Mobile Money Transactions.” Selim Gulesci from Trinity College Dublin presented on “(Digital) Cash Transfers, Privacy, and Women’s Economic Empowerment: Experimental Evidence From Uganda.” Michael Carter of the University of California, Davis, delivered his presentation on “Digitally-Enabled Asset Insurance to Secure the Graduation and Empowerment of Women in Pastoralist Communities.” Abu Shonchoy from Florida International University gave his pre-recorded speech on “Incentives and Endorsement for Technology Adoption for Females: Evidence From Mobile Banking in Ghana.”

 The closing session was moderated by Imran Matin of BIGD and joined by Anir Chowdhury from Aspire to Innovate, Lila Rashid from (formerly) Bangladesh Bank, Issam Mosaddeq from the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office, Seth Garz from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and Leora Klapper of the World Bank. The closing remarks were delivered by Kym Cole.