MIX News Brief: 22 February 2019

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Every other week we post recent articles curated by our team of data analysts and financial sector experts.  The articles span sectors and topics including fintech, smallholder finance, mobile money and more.  The MIX News Brief is intended to keep socially responsible investors and businesses updated on the latest thinking on financial services for the poor because, at MIX, our mission is to provide the data, analytics and insight that enable decision makers to build inclusive financial services ecosystems.  Let us know what you think by tweeting at @mix_market!   


Apple and Goldman Sachs are reportedly teaming up to offer a joint credit card (The Verge)

Reports surfaced this week that Apple and Goldman Sachs are partnering to provide a credit card that will enable deeper integration with Apple Wallet and, interestingly enough, is expected to generate more revenue for the tech company than Apple Pay.  The "deeper integration" will allow users to set spending goals and track rewards through Apple Wallet with a purported aim to improve financial health (we’ll hold off on commenting for now).  But what’s most interesting about this report is not the product itself (somewhat lackluster compared to what is already available in China, Kenya, and nearly every other country in the world) but the fact that it’s yet another example of a non-traditional contender making deeper inroads into the financial services space.  Perhaps we should expect more of this as technology companies look to bolster lackluster revenue growth with new services.


The mobile gender gap report (GSMA)

A new report from GSMA, the global mobile operator association, found that 250 million women in low- and moderate-income countries became mobile owners since 2014.  Despite this positive trend, the gender gap for mobile ownership persists at around 10 percent worldwide (there was a similar trend uncovered by the latest Global Findex data).  As has been noted elsewhere and often, while technology offers unique opportunity to improve outcomes, unequal access to technology poses its own obstacles to already marginalized and vulnerable groups - especially women.  Not only is there a social imperative to address this disparity, GSMA calculates the gender gap in these markets represents a $140 billion USD commercial opportunity over the next five years.  Hopefully the social imperative combined with these datapoints will encourage mobile operators to employ new initiatives to reach more women.


Machine Learning in PAYGo: What You Need to Know Before You Jump In (NextBillion)

ML, PAYGo, ZOLA.  Like the financial inclusion industry, this article employs a litany of acronyms.  But that shouldn't stop you from reading about machine learning through this instructive look at the case of ZOLA, a leading PAYGo solar operator.  The author, Jacob Winiecki from BFA, starts by imploring readers to recognize that machine learning "is not a magical solution to business model problems."  Let that soak in for a minute.  Once you've accepted that fact, the first step is to "identify a good problem".  We would go further and say don't carry around a hammer looking for nails but, rather, keep this tool in mind when grappling with complex problems or the need for predictive analytics.  In the end, for all of its glamour and mystery, machine learning is just another method of statistical analysis.