BETWEEN 2011 and 2014, according to the World Bank, the number of people in the world with a bank account, either directly or through a mobile-money provider, grew by no fewer than 700m. The global ranks of “unbanked” adults thinned from 2.5bn, 49% of the total, to 2bn, just 38%. Data being collected this year are likely to show further progress, with more people who used to rely on cash and informal, often expensive, means of saving, borrowing and paying for goods and services now connected to formal financial systems.
This rapid advance is far from complete: 2bn is still a big number. Plenty of transactions that could be safer and more efficient are still conducted in cash. Nonetheless, progress has been remarkable. It is largely the product of a technological revolution—using mobile phones to provide financial services in developing countries.