Despite over three decades of strong economic growth, approximately 400 million Chinese are still without access to basic financial services. In recent years, more than 30,000 branches in poor and rural regions have closed, leaving more than 64 percent of these populations unbanked. Citizens at the bottom of the economic pyramid lack the means to save for their children’s education and protect their livelihoods through insurance. They cannot send and receive money or make purchases on credit, preventing many from realizing their full potential and improving their lives.
Mobile banking has the potential to change this status quo in China. High mobile penetration rates, extensive agent networks, and an intensive reliance on remittance payments in rural areas suggest China is primed for the deployment of the kind of national, mobile-based remittance system that has found success in countries such as Kenya, the Philippines, and Paraguay. IMTFI engaged Reboot to undertake an ethnographic study of marginalized communities in China to inform the design of mobile financial services tailored to these underserved populations.