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This paper was written as part of ongoing work on DPI under the aegis of the Responsible Finance Forum (RFF) and aims to inform the inclusive finance sector on responsible practices and consumer protection considerations in a rapidly evolving world of digital financial services.

RFF is a global convening platform that brings stakeholders together to assess and manage evolving consumer risks faced by financial systems and low- income people. Through convenings and working groups, RFF provides a forward-thinking neutral space for knowledge sharing, ongoing research, and global dialogue to improve risk identification and mitigation.

The Center for Financial Inclusion (CFI) has served as the convenor of RFF since 2022.

In recent years, we’ve come to recognize the transformative power of digital technologies and responsible financial services in protecting consumers, building trust in the formal financial system, and fostering economic participation from people who are normally excluded. However, the critical infrastructure enabling the responsible delivery of digital public financial services is often overlooked.

Pioneering initiatives like India Stack and e-Estonia have showcased the immense potential of digital public infrastructure (DPI) to revolutionize access to public goods and services, enhancing efficiency, transparency, and citizen engagement. Yet several key questions arise: How do we define this rapidly evolving concept? How do we ensure that current and future models of DPI are responsible and who is accountable for creating and upholding the necessary safeguards? How can we ensure long-term sustainability? And how should we measure outcomes and impact?

This report provides an analysis of the three foundational elements of DPI for inclusive finance: digital ID, digital payments, and consent-based data exchange. It also identifies open questions that need to be addressed to advance and refine DPI for inclusive and sustainable development, unlocking its potential to deliver positive outcomes through digital financial services.


Hear Jayshree Venkatesan and Edoardo Totolo discuss challenges with defining DPI, open questions to consider, and what CFI is working on to explore the topic further:


Authors

Alex Rizzi

Former Senior Research Director, Consumer Data Opportunities and Risks

During her time at CFI from 2012-2024, Alex was an advocate for consumer protection and evidence-based inclusive finance practices.

She managed the responsible data practices research portfolio at CFI which focuses on opportunities and risks for low-income consumers from data-driven financial services. Previously, she was a senior director for CFI’s Smart Campaign initiative, where she managed consumer-protection learning agendas and helped launch the Client Protection Certification Program. She has participated in multiple industry working groups on responsible finance, including an advisory group to GSMA’s mobile money certification program and the Microfinance Center’s social performance fund steering committee.

Alex is a graduate of Princeton University and holds a master’s degree from Georgetown’s foreign service school, as well as a certificate in digital money from the Digital Frontiers Institute and The Fletcher School at Tufts University.

Edoardo Totolo

Vice President, Research and Programs

Edoardo joined CFI in 2022 as Vice President of Research and Programs, where he oversees CFI’s thought leadership in the thematic areas of financial consumer protection, responsible data practices, and green inclusive finance.

Prior to joining CFI, Edoardo worked for IFC’s venture capital team in Washington, D.C., where he promoted enabling environments and investment opportunities in embedded finance, startup ecosystems, and the digital economy. He also worked for the World Bank’s global financial inclusion unit, assisting regulators in leveraging data and developing strategies for financial inclusion and consumer protection. Between 2012 and 2018, Edoardo worked in Kenya as Research Economist for Financial Sector Deepening Kenya, a multi-donor program supporting the development of inclusive financial markets. He led flagship nationally representative surveys and provided fintech companies with advanced analytical tools for consumer insights and segmentation.

Edoardo holds a PhD in development economics from the University of Trento and an MSc in international development studies from the University of Amsterdam.

Jayshree Venkatesan

Senior Research Director, Consumer Protection & Responsible Finance

Jayshree leads research on fintechs, platforms, and other DFS providers to understand their incentives, practices, and how/if they serve low-income consumers and contribute to advocacy on consumer protection and other policy priorities for inclusive finance and co-leads the development of influence strategies and campaigns with the communications team.

Jayshree joins CFI after working for eight years as an independent global consultant to several partners including CGAP, World Bank, JICA, and ITAD. As a consultant, Jayshree worked on customer-centric business models and challenges faced by customers in accessing and using financial services. From 2009 to 2013, she was part of the founding team at IFMR Trust (now Dvara Trust), where she led a mezzanine fund that invested in microfinance institutions in India.

Jayshree is a senior policy fellow at the Leir Institute housed within the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy where she works on challenges faced by vulnerable segments such as migrants/refugees in accessing financial services. In 2014, Jayshree was awarded the Chevening fellowship for leadership by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, UK. Jayshree earned an MA in international relations from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, an MBA from MDI Gurgaon (India), and a Bachelor’s in mathematics from Mumbai University, graduating at the top of her class.

Loretta Michaels

Independent Consultant

Loretta Michaels is an independent consultant with a focus on policy strategy around digital financial inclusion. She works closely with the World Bank/IFC, the Consultative Group to Assist the Poor (CGAP) and the Better Than Cash Alliance (BTCA), amongst others, and has supported the Global Partnership for Financial Inclusion (GPFI) since 2014. Previously, she was the Senior Policy Advisor for Financial Inclusion for the US Treasury, where she was the subject matter expert on technology-enabled financial inclusion, working with officials across the US government to promote enabling policy environments and capacity building programs in low-income countries. Prior to becoming an independent consultant, Loretta served in a number of management positions in the telecommunications industry, leading the development of new venture initiatives worldwide. She also managed the Telecoms & IT consulting unit at Cap Gemini Ernst & Young.

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