For background on the Financial Inclusion Insights 2016 surveys, data, and reports please follow this link. The full 2016 Bangladesh Annual Report can be found here.

Since 2015, the Government of Bangladesh, in partnership with other stakeholders, has introduced multiple initiatives that aim to boost economic growth through the expansion of financial inclusion, particularly digital financial services (DFS). Its Seventh Five-Year Plan FY2016-2020 and the Bangladesh Bank’s Strategic Plan 2015-2019 both emphasize the importance of financial inclusion for broad-based economic growth and poverty eradication. The government has taken a number of steps to advance its financial inclusion objectives, including the creation of a dedicated department within the Bangladesh Bank to promote and manage inclusive finance programs, establishing regulatory guidelines for mobile financial services, and a mandatory SIM card reregistration campaign.

Bangladesh’s initiatives to promote greater financial inclusion in the country appear to be working. DFS adoption has steadily grown over the last four years. InterMedia’s Financial Inclusion Insights (FII) 2016 Bangladesh Annual Report shows increases in the rate of mobile money adoption across the adult population, suggesting a positive transition towards DFS in a remarkably short period of time. Below are some of the related highlights from the FII data:

  • A government initiative to register SIM cards likely helped increase the percentage of adults who own a SIM card by nearly 20 percent, from 40 percent in 2015, to 59 percent in 2016. As part of the government’s push to promote DFS and to increase the biometric identifications of users, the Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC) launched a SIM card reregistration campaign in 2015. Those using shared or rented SIM cards were required to obtain and register their own as SIM card. Cards that were not registered were deactivated after the May 2016 deadline. This measure was intended to prevent fraudulent activities and increase SIM card ownership among Bangladesh’s traditionally underserved populations, including women and the rural poor.


  • Rising SIM card ownership may have contributed to jumps in mobile money access and user registration. SIM card ownership is an important precondition for becoming a registered mobile money user; you cannot register a mobile money account in your own name without a SIM card. The increase in SIM card ownership likely led to the 7 percent increase in adults with mobile money access from 2015 to 2016, and registered users, which increased by 4 percentage points (Figure 1). While the percentage of the adult population that holds a registered mobile money account is still small relative to the world’s most developed mobile money markets such as Kenya’s, these changes represent dramatic increases in a short period of time. Additionally, most registered users were active users: FII survey data shows that 83 percent of registered mobile money users used their account within 90 days of the survey interview in 2016.

Figure 1: Access to Mobile Money in 2016

(Shown: Percentage of Bangladeshi adults)

Figure 2: Registered Mobile Money Users in 2016

(Shown: Percentage of Bangladeshi adults)

  • Increased mobile money awareness could also be a factor in increases in individuals’ engagement with mobile money. Perhaps, as more people become familiar with mobile money and spot access points in their daily lives, they consider using the services. The FII survey found that, in 2016, 64 percent of Bangladeshis knew of a mobile money point of service that was within 1 kilometer from their home. On the other hand, nearly half of all adults did not know of any ATM or banking agents near their homes. Typically, these mobile money points of service were either identified by respondents as a retail store with a mobile money kiosk or a mobile money agent.
  •  The higher percentage of adults with access to mobile money, versus those with registered accounts, indicates that more adults prefer to conduct transactions over the counter (OTC) with an agent than using their own registered account. Users who conduct transactions over the counter increased from 24 percent in 2015 to 28 percent in 2016, almost double that of registered users of mobile money. The FII team also found that rural and male adults, and those living below the poverty line, were more frequent users of OTC services than the urban, female and above-poverty populations.


  • The increases in mobile money were offset by decreases in the proportion of the population with access to banks and non-bank financial institutions (NBFIs), as well as holders of registered accounts (Figure 3 and 4). The 12 percent drop in the rate of NBFI account ownership was primarily due to the closure of accounts with microfinance institutions (MFIs). These institutions historically provided loans and other financial services to populations that were otherwise excluded from the banking system. Yet, access and use of MFIs dropped from 23 percent in 2015 to 14 percent in 2016, particularly among men, people below the poverty line, and rural populations. The FII team conducted a follow-up phone survey to assess the reasons for such a significant decrease in NBFI use in Bangladesh and found that account closers preferred using other financial services over their MFI accounts.

Figure 3: Access to financial Services – NBFIs and Banks in 2016

(Shown: Percentage of Bangladesh adults, by year)

Figure 4: Registered Financial account owners – Banks and NBFIs in 2016

(Shown: Percentage of Bangladesh adults, by year)

  • Despite this positive growth in mobile money engagement, other key skills and factors that support the uptake of DFS are currently at low levels. The skills gap and must be addressed to continue to increase the market’s potential for DFS.  Key indicators for active and impactful DFS adoption such as mobile phone ownership and the ability to send or receive text messages fell by 2 percent and 6 percent, respectively, in 2016. Interestingly, the ability to send and receive text messages is the strongest indicator of financial account registration, more than any other indicator, according to the FII data. For example, males, urban, and above poverty individuals tend to have greater ability to text and also higher rates of registration than their counterparts (Figure 5).

Figure 5: Ability to send or receive texts and account registration in 2016

(Shown: Percentage of Bangladeshi adults, by demographic)

An emphasis on educational initiatives to increase financial and mobile phone literacy among adults in Bangladesh could help to ensure that a greater percentage of the population has the tools and skills to become active registered users. Lastly, with full-service NBFI users on the decline as they face greater competition from DFS, these institutions – particularly MFIs – will also need to evaluate the quality and types of services they offer in order to compete with mobile money. The follow-up study on NBFI trends, soon to be published, will provide further insight on reasons Bangladeshis are moving away from these financial institutions.

What are your thoughts on mobile money in Bangladesh? What conclusions do you draw from the FII data? Let us know.

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For more information about FII’s research in Bangladesh, please contact:

Tulsi Ratnam
Research Associate

Financial Inclusion Insights


Financial Inclusion Insights is an ongoing research program funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and designed to build meaningful knowledge about how the financial landscape is changing across eight countries in Africa and Asia (Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Nigeria, Pakistan, Tanzania and Uganda). FII produces data and analysis regarding citizens’ financial lives, attitudes, awareness and use of, access to, and advanced engagement with financial products and services. Through our qualitative and quantitative research, we aim to provide demand-side insights into consumers' financial behaviors, produce information that can guide policy interventions, and identify pathways for the poor to gain the financial tools they need to improve their economic circumstances.