Can the location of a platinum mine help financial service providers (FSPs) identify where to locate a bank branch or ATM? What about the locations of bus or taxi ranks?

FSPs are increasingly using this type of geospatial (GIS) data to inform their business decisions. Less than a year ago, we drafted a briefing note on 7 applications of GIS data by FSPs that included using GIS data to inform where to locate new branches or agents, where to place marketing billboards, where staff should be allocated, where problem branches and fraud are located, where the most secure routes for transporting cash are, and even about evaluating credit risk. 

These were not potential applications, they were actual observed cases that were presented at our first workshop Location Matters: GIS in Financial Inclusion in Johannesburg in July 2015. As a data source, GIS amplifies the financial inclusion potential of other data. For example, when integrated or triangulated with datasets like financial inclusion demand-side surveys (FinAccess, FinScope, Financial Diaries), call data records and census data, GIS data can provide concrete and verified points as indicated on map, rather than relying on consumer perceptions of their proximity to financial access points. The full picture, enhanced by geospatial data, enables more informed commercial and regulatory decision-making, which in turn can drive take-up and usage of financial services in otherwise unserved or under-served markets.

But one year on, we have realised that the gap between what FSPs can do with GIS data, and what they are doing, was wider than expected. The examples noted above tend to be exceptions, rather than rules. There has been limited observed usage of geospatial data in decision-making by FSPs. Similarly, the availability of online maps and analysis tools, such as, has yet to have the intended effect of catalysing FSPs to use GIS data in expanding their footprint to currently underserved areas. We know of some providers, typically mobile network operators, that collect and analyse proprietary geospatial data (Cheston, et al., 2016), as well as some that have incorporated the data funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. However, there has yet to be widespread adoption.

We have identified some of the barriers as to why GIS data is not being used more and are working with Financial Sector Deepening Trusts (DFID-funded market facilitators across sub-Saharan Africa) through our GIS4FI Community of Practice to support their work in overcoming them. This includes tackling strategic issues such as the lack of awareness, data culture, capacity and resources allocated towards collecting and using GIS data in decision-making; as well as operational issues, such as the technological infrastructure required to integrate GIS data into existing decision-making processes. The trade-off for FSPs is investing in new unfamiliar business practices where they are still unsure of the commercial viability versus investing in familiar business practices, such as marketing and sales, where they have historical information on how it impacts their business model. Shifting this mindset is not easy, but holds the key to driving the adoption of GIS data in decision-making.

In an effort to bridge the gap between the potential of GIS data and the use of GIS data by FSPs in decision-making we will be hosting our second GIS workshop in collaboration with Financial Sector Deepening Tanzania (FSDT) in Dar es Salaam on 10-11 November 2016. The workshop, Spatial data for Business Intelligence, aims to demonstrate the value of spatial data for the financial sector and drive evidence-based decisions in areas such as KPI measurement, product design and implementation, and strategic investments to increase the likelihood of institutional adoption of GIS data usage.

The workshop will be attended by over 60 stakeholders interested in the role of GIS data in financial inclusion. This includes FSPs, regulators, market facilitators, donors and spatial and business intelligence service providers who will share experiences and learn about innovations and best practice in spatial data collection, analysis and insight generation, and specifically commercial use cases to drive adoption by FSPs.

We are particularly excited about learning from some of the data solution providers, who are driving the innovations in GIS data collection and use:

  1. Ona and BrandFusion will discuss models of geospatial data collection including census, open street maps, heat mapping and others.
  2. Real Impact Analytics and Flowminder will demonstrate different data sources, including call data records (CDRs), that can be spatially represented and implications for strategic investments and financial inclusion.
  3. Ixioanalytics will showcase the rudiments of building a data culture and removing the technological constraints within FSPs.
  4. ESRI will lead a session on the requirements and opportunities involved in investing in an enterprise “organisational level” spatial data solution to manage data and generate business intelligence insights.
  5. Usable data and FINclusion Lab will introduce low-cost, basic, user-friendly GIS software, analytic and visualisation tools for participants to explore options for implementing data-driven decision-making without breaking the bank.
  6. Bankable Frontier Associates will address possible measures of financial inclusion from a regulatory perspective, providing insights on possible ways in which spatial data can measure impacts of different regulatory interventions.

Follow @i2ifacility or #GIS4FI to tune into the conversation and learn more about how to drive usage of GIS data in financial inclusion on 10-11 November 2016.

Damola is a Researcher with i2i’s data team, where he works to support i2i’s work on financial inclusion survey and geospatial (GIS) data.

Ariba is an intern with i2i’s data team, where she supports the i2i’s work on financial inclusion survey and geospatial (GIS) data.