The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) Focus Group on Digital Financial Services has published the first of a series of thematic reports on Digital Financial Services, or DFS.

The DFS Focus Group is looking at helping local policy and decision makers to accelerate their work on financial inclusion by providing practical tools, guidelines and recommendations on issues that are currently preventing the DFS market to develop organically.

This represents the first step in developing an international roadmap of best practice guidelines for regulators, operators and providers in the telecom and financial services sectors and serving the unbanked in a sustainable manner.

Specifically focused around two of the four working groups, DFS Ecosystem and Consumer Experience and Protection, the four background documents were endorsed at the Focus Group’s recent meeting in Washington DC.

ITU Secretary-General Houlin Zhao said: “What makes this Focus Group different is its holistic approach. After more than a year of intensive work, experts are completing some preliminary analysis and have started to develop a robust and relevant framework together with very pragmatic recommendations that will hopefully deliver real change and opportunity.”

Sacha Polverini, Chairman of the Focus Group and Senior Programme Officer of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s Financial Services for the Poor (FSP) programme, said: “Our initial observations provide two things: firstly, the publication of the Digital Financial Services Ecosystem report provides an agreed understanding between all relevant parties; secondly, our analysis of key elements of the process, such as issues around merchant acceptance and the role that national identity schemes can play, has helped provide a better understanding of how we can facilitate greater access to DFS in emerging markets. We made some surprising findings.”

Carol Coye Benson, Managing Partner at Glenbrook Partners and Working Group Co-Chair for DFS Ecosystem, added: “The key challenge in reaching digital liquidity is to balance both sides of the equation.

To get real value it’s important to drive money into the system and to keep it in. The way to do that is to enable bulk (G2P) payments into transaction accounts and simultaneously enable merchant electronic payment acceptance, so that consumers have a place to spend their e-Money.”