June 17, 2017

Report Explores How Technology Investments in 20 Countries Can Increase Access to Finance, Healthcare and Education, and Enhance Digital Inclusion

"Technological advances and globalization have led to major advances for many, but have seen others' income and well-being stagnate or even decline," according to a report developed by The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) with the Morgan Stanley Institute for Sustainable Investing. "These disparities, both real and perceived—and, more broadly, how to make growth inclusive—are some of the greatest challenges facing the world today."

The purpose of the Inclusive Growth Opportunities Index 2017 is to explore technology investments in 20 countries that can increase access to finance, healthcare and education, and enhance digital inclusion. The report's key findings is copied below in its entirety:
  • Investment opportunities in support of inclusive growth are found within the pillars of inclusion: finance, healthcare, education and gender equity. Technologies like remote diagnostics, mobile financial services, optimized transportation and delivery, and adaptive learning all have the potential to radically improve economic inclusion. Opportunities for private investment within these pillars are present in all countries examined, but the characteristics of each country's inclusion (or exclusion) patterns often determine the form of opportunity.
  • Financial technology inclusion opportunities are of particular note in Rwanda and Bangladesh (for risk-tolerant investors). For more risk-adverse investors, attractive markets for financial-inclusion solutions are found in advanced economies, specifically in improving affordability of housing and day-to-day purchases in places like the UK, the Netherlands and the US.
  • Healthcare technology inclusion opportunities are strong in Nigeria, Kenya and India, with Nigeria leagues ahead of the other two in terms of its needs for inclusive healthcare—though it is one of the riskiest markets assessed for investment. Among the developed economies, Israel (high and growing out-of-pocket expenditures) and Saudi Arabia (lagging health outcomes for an advanced economy) offer potential opportunities.
  • Education technology inclusion opportunities are strong in India and China, which have large gaps in basic education despite reputations for high workforce technical expertise and large pools of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) graduates. In high-income economies like the UK and the Netherlands, education opportunity is strongly tied to employment market woes, including high youth and long-term unemployment.
  • Gender inclusive technology investments cut across the finance, healthcare and education sectors. Basic access to technology is perhaps the biggest issue for gender inclusion, particularly in India and Turkey, which rank as the least-inclusive technological access markets for women.
  • Investable technologies have much in common across markets, supported by the intuitive interfaces and simple offerings of modern information and communication technologies (ICTs). That said, local market features generate unique opportunities to leverage technological platforms. For example, products related to remittance payments have larger markets in countries where in-bound and out-bound migration is high. Drones for medical supply delivery and insurance for smallholder farmers may be in greater demand in developing markets. Advanced economies may see bigger markets for online product aggregators or mobile apps that make personal financial security more accessible.
  • Understanding local needs matters for maximum impact. The investable technologies will have greater impact on inclusion where they bring previously unserved populations into the market, and a smaller impact on inclusion where they are substitutes for existing services.
  • Digital divides remain prevalent, even in advanced economies, offering both challenges and opportunities. For example, in Australia, around 40% of low-income people lack broadband access because of the cost. In Cuba only 6% of households have internet access, despite a well-educated population with a high level of technical ability.
  • In developing markets, technology provides significant leapfrog potential and the ability to overcome obstacles presented by underdeveloped physical infrastructure. The most successful investments, however, rely on uptake and sustained use, which may require ancillary support in areas like electricity provision and digital literacy.
  • In the least-developed markets, potential payoffs from technology-based solutions are tempered by lack of basic services like energy, clean water and sanitation. In Kenya, more people have access to a mobile phone than to clean water. Gaps in vital infrastructure have far-reaching implications for growth and inclusiveness; alongside the core human development benefits, bridging such basic gaps opens new potential markets for more technology-based inclusiveness solutions.
In addition to the report, an interactive Excel dashboard allows users to explore the data in a variety of ways:
  • Use comparison tools to contrast different countries, regions and income groups;
  • Look at profiles for each of the 20 countries in the Inclusive Growth Opportunities Index 2017;
  • Delve deeper into the index, leveraging its wealth of data to develop unique and actionable intelligence tailored to your specific priorities and interests; and
  • Adjust the weights for each category and indicator to tailor the rankings to your specific risk preferences.
Importantly, the report concludes that:
Looking ahead, the inclusiveness challenges facing the world are great. Reaching the ultimate goal will require cooperation and coordinated action across multiple spheres, including government, international organizations, NGOs and philanthropy, alongside the private sector. In this study, we have aimed to highlight the role that private investment can play– and the unique opportunities available for the private sector decision-maker – to support inclusive growth. The analytic framework and user-friendly dashboard tool enable investors to explore specific areas of interest and identify where investment opportunity is strongest. We hope that this is one step along a more comprehensive journey to a sustainable, inclusive global economy.
Does the report and interactive dashboard help you find investment opportunities that drive impact on inclusive growth in the areas of finance, education, healthcare and gender?

Aaron Rose is an advisor to talented entrepreneurs and co-founder of great companies. He also serves as the editor of Solutions for a Sustainable World.

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