Information Technology University (ITU) and Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, represented by Karandaaz Pakistan, on Wednesday signed an agreement to initiate three research projects through the Fintech Centre at ITU.
The research projects shall be conducted in Pakistan with technical collaboration between Digital Financial Services Research Group of the University of Washington and ITU faculty. One study will focus on the viability of a mobile app to form a rotating savings and credit association of women that will help them save and borrow collectively. Another study will aid the design of a digital financial system for business and personal use of micro-level entrepreneurs, particularly women. The third research will focus on digital solutions to safeguard women against SMS frauds in Pakistan.
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A delegation of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) was present at the ceremony. The foundation provides financial support to Karandaaz to promote financial inclusion of individuals through digital technologies.
ITU Vice Chancellor and Punjab Information Technology Board (PITB) Chairman Dr Umar Saif signed the agreement on behalf of the Fintech Centre. Speaking on the occasion, Dr Saif said, “This collaboration will help Pakistan reform digital financial services and ensure inclusion of women.”
He said collaboration with international development partners would promote innovation and research in financial technology. “We envisioned a partnership with local and international entities for financial inclusion through innovative applications of technology to help Pakistan to reform digital financial services.”
BMGF Financial Services Deputy Director Jason Lamb said, “We believe more knowledge and research will help trigger greater financial inclusion of women through technology in Pakistan. It is heartening to see academics stepping up to work closely with the industry in solving issues and Karandaaz and ITU have partnered to make this possible.”
He said that ITU’s FinTech Centre would devise many innovations and some research projects, while three specific academic researches would improve existing knowledge on women’s use of digital financial services and the barriers they face.
Karandaaz Pakistan CEO Ali Sarfraz said, “Pakistan needs to act immediately to ensure women’s participation in the process of development if we want to make progress towards UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.”
“We are working with various departments, including National Savings, State Bank of Pakistan and the Agriculture Department for this purpose,” he said.