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Mastercard’s Community Pass delivers essential services to underserved communities

Johannesburg, 05 Aug 2019
Antonia Stroeh, Mastercard.
Antonia Stroeh, Mastercard.

Economies do not prosper unless every segment of society has access to basic services and has a chance to be included and benefit from the growing digital economy, says Mastercard.

The global technology company believes connecting underserved communities to vital digital services is not only the right thing to do to improve quality of life for communities, but it's also the smart thing to do as businesses flourish in a thriving world.

Mastercard has designed a platform called Community Pass, which unlocks services for the underserved population as well as those who may not have a formal identity document such as a birth certificate or passport.

Digital inclusion is just as important as financial inclusion.

Antonia Stroeh, senior VP of Humanitarian and Development at Mastercard

Mastercard is part of the ID4Africa movement - involving multiple stakeholders across Africa, including government, private sector and academia - which aims to accomplish Sustainable Development Goal 16.9 (provide legal identity for all by 2030) in Africa. The movement hopes to empower individuals to claim their rights and benefit from the fruits of development.

Antonia Stroeh, senior VP of Humanitarian and Development at Mastercard, says: "There are 3.4 billion people globally - half the world's population - who still can't meet their basic needs like food and shelter. They live in highly challenging environments, and too often remain excluded from mainstream institutions and services that could improve their lives."

Mastercard believes that shared digital tools and channels can drastically improve the reach and increase access of services by reducing the cost to serve those communities, and improving the effectiveness of service delivery.

Stroeh says Mastercard has a strong commitment to inclusive growth and adheres to the mantra: ‘doing well by doing good'. The company has made a pledge to financially include 500 million people and 40 million micro-merchants, and is well on its way to achieving these goals.

"Mastercard is a technology company. We power digital transactions, making them safe, simple and smart. Our aim is to include more people in the formal economy, so that they can realise their potential and further contribute to economic growth in their communities."

She adds that digital inclusion is just as important as financial inclusion.

"Our team has a specific focus on digital inclusion for people at the poverty line. We aim to create the right solutions with the right partners to bring down barriers to progress for these individuals."

For example, Mastercard has partnered with the Global Vaccine Alliance (GAVI), to strengthen the efficiency of providing health services by digitising immunisation records.

"GAVI has already vaccinated 500 million children and saved six million lives. They're looking for easier ways to digitally record who's been vaccinated, who hasn't, who has yet to get their third or fourth or fifth shot. It's in their interest to go digital. Parents benefit too - they receive reminders about upcoming vaccinations for their children, and, as records are stored digitally, they have the freedom to visit any clinic.

"The vision really is that the digital solutions that many people enjoy - and have enjoyed for the last 20 years - reach those who are currently being left behind, because they will receive the most benefit."

Digital identity

Community Pass is a new business model for serving people who are currently not being reached by today's digital solutions. It will enable a 'functional identity', creating a safe mechanism for individuals to present themselves and be verified for transactions. An individual's digital identity will be a linking feature across multiple entities, enabling access to a health clinic, a school or even purchasing goods at a local store.

"If you think about an individual, she has many roles. She is a mother of a child needing vaccinations and a patient herself. She is the champion of her child's education and self-taught farmer maximising the production of her land. She is a local shopkeeper waiting for her customers to pay back their store credit. While she is one person, she appears unique to each of the providers she interacts with in her various roles. So, in order to make it a single ecosystem, where you can essentially create a single digital solution that serves multiple purposes, you need to be able to identify that individual.

"Identifying that person makes each individual service more efficient."

Mastercard's Community Pass will verify to different entities that they are dealing with the correct person - basically like an authentication function during a financial transaction. Anonymised data can later be viewed across the entire ecosystem so that entities involved, for instance, in public health or basic education, can see the efficacy of their interventions over time.

"There is a lot of work happening in Sub-Saharan Africa around interventions and specific verticals. There are large international donors trying to improve, let's say, prenatal health. And there are many international development organisations that are promoting more efficient agriculture. Wouldn't it be great if at some point down the road, you could say that investing $20 as part of an agricultural grant for an individual also improved educational or health outcomes? Because you could see the linkages across these programmes."

Stroeh says that this is something that many governments, policy-makers and development organisations are interested in.

"There's a limited amount of aid and there's always a bigger need. We must do more with less. The more efficiently we can serve local communities and show the effect that we intend - which is higher resilience, economic growth, less inequality - the more partners we can bring along with us."

This is why Mastercard is building an interoperable ecosystem, where other providers can plug in.

"Other companies must be able to use the same digital infrastructure so that we don't have to develop in silos; instead, we can create an interoperable system, inviting in more competition or differentiation, and more innovation.

"The end-game is to get more people comfortable with using digital tools to access services."

Mastercard sees digital inclusion as a driver of financial inclusion, as well as inclusive economic growth.

"Inclusive economic growth is important for any private-sector company. When we enter a market, we enter to stay - if a market is flourishing, if it's a thriving community, if there's strong economic growth, if there's little economic inequality, we, like any other business, will perform better in that market.

"So it is very much in our interests to have healthy, flourishing economies where everybody can contribute, and everybody can participate."