How Policy Makers Can Benefit from GIS Mapping

Mar, 2017

Since 2013, MIX has been collecting, analyzing and mapping financial inclusion data for over 20 countries. When we started, we saw the value for policy makers to identify the areas and population segments within their countries that were underserved. Since then, we have worked closely with members of the Alliance for Financial Inclusion to encourage and support the use of geospatial data for policy decisions, providing our expertise when needed. One thing we have learned over the years is that there are many obstacles for central banks to overcome before getting started with geospatial data. 


Often, the best way to learn is to see how others have proceeded. In that vein, AFI's Financial Inclusion Data Working Group (FIDWG), with support from our team at MIX, published a guidance note to document and share their experiences with members who are considering the costs and benefits of embarking on their GIS mapping journey. "Financial Inclusion Data Tracking and Measurement: GIS Mapping to Inform Policymaking" highlights the experience of regulatory authorities like the Central Bank of Nigeria, who used geospatial data to identify areas with high population densities but few or no financial services. The central bank then shared this information with the Bankers' Committee, a private sector group. As a result, these industry leaders were able to use the data to set targets for 21 deposit money banks to increase the number of branches, agents, ATMs and savings accounts across Nigeria. 


In the Philippines, Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) has utilized this type of data for over five years. The data mapping allowed the central bank to see that there were municipalities without any formal financial access points. Through a new policy, informed by geospatial data, BSP encouraged commercial banks to open 'microbranches' by waiving bank processing fees in those municipalities. But the regulator did not stop there. BSP also used geospatial data to monitor the impact of this new policy, updating their maps each year to show the reduction in underserved areas.  


There are many other examples of countries using geospatial data to inform financial inclusion policy. Uganda, for example, provided financial service providers with a comprehensive map of access points to help the private sector with expansion plans. Bangladesh has taken a similar approach but also monitors the presence of different types of financial institutions. Malaysia monitors access point distribution on a sub-district level and Fiji is mapping the mobile money landscape along with cellular coverage throughout the islands. Understanding how to benefit from geospatial data is an important step but that is just the beginning.  


Having worked with many central banks to help them design, implement and maintain their geospatial data systems, we know there are many factors to consider. We wrote this guidance note to walk readers through each of those considerations, including determining whether this type of data approach is right for a particular country. It requires an assessment of what type of data is available, what type of data is needed, and how the maps will be used. It is also important to consider how the maps will be displayed or visualized, whether for internal purposes or for public use. There are a number of technologies and software applications that can be leveraged depending on end use and available resources. And, of course, the perennial question of how to collect the necessary data needs to be addressed.  


While some of these items might seem daunting, the guidance note provides the information needed to decide whether geospatial data is right for your country. I encourage you to read the guidance document for a step-by-step approach to getting started. After all, the biggest obstacle is often taking the first step.