For many unbanked populations the inability to access banking services is not a problem of demand, but of supply. Particularly in remote locations, financial institutions are unable to provide services, simply because of prohibitive costs associated with software development, hardware and infrastructure. This problem is compounded by lack of reliability of dedicated communication systems, once they are put in place.
The “Open Development” initiative, spearheaded by World Bank, assists countries, such as Myanmar to take the first step to expand much needed financial options. The Open Development program provides World Bank’s own research and analytical tools, accessible on the internet, at no charge. This data assists in developing solutions using regional specifics for software development ideas that help financial institutions reach and serve low-income populations.
In Myanmar, banking is just beginning to grow, although many foreign banks came to the country more than fifty years ago. Due to Myanmar’s isolationist government policies, foreign banks are, to date, prohibited from engaging in many banking activities, including local lending from retail lending facilities. Although political reform has spurred progress, Myanmar’s state-operated banking institutions, as well as foreign ones still cannot adequately service the demand for borrowed funding to capitalise business. According to the World Bank’s climate Assessment for Myanmar, ninety-two percent of firms relied on funding outside of the banking system, prior to 2016.
The Open Development program encourages exchange of information, as well as transparency and accountability in areas that are just beginning to develop strategies for financial services growth. For populations that have never had access to financial services, localising software content is an important step in overcoming nascent issues, such as language barriers and educational constraints.