More than half of Bangladeshi adults lack access to a formal bank account, with most of the unbanked population belonging to the poorest 40% of households. The proliferation of mobile banking systems across developing countries has provided previously unbanked populations with a convenient method to manage their finances digitally. In Bangladesh, bank-based mobile financial services cater to 33.18 million clients as of January 2016, and have seen a strong increase of 23% in the number of active mobile banking accounts in 2016 to 2017. Nevertheless, the take-up of mobile money is often limited by a lack of technical awareness and trust concerns among the elderly. We believe that presbyopia, an age-related inability to see clearly at near, may pose a significant barrier to the uptake of mobile banking.
THRIFT (Transforming Households with Refraction and Innovative Financial Technology) is a randomised controlled trial that will evaluate whether providing the recipients of Bangladesh’s Old Age Allowance (OAA) and Widow Allowance (WA) with glasses and a digital financial training module can significantly improve the use of mobile banking for cash transfers, deposits, and withdrawals. The participants and will be randomly divided into an intervention group and a control group. People in the intervention group will receive glasses at the beginning of the trial. People in the control group will receive free glasses at the end of the trial if they need them.
The THRIFT interventions are meant to influence the take-up and use of mobile banking applications among the elderly. The primary outcomes we are interested in are 1) the number of transactions with the index bank account per unit time and 2) the number of interactions with the mobile banking app per unit time.
The findings of THRIFT will guide policy enabling elderly people in Bangladesh to actively access and manage their bank accounts. A strong signal can be sent to the government, financial institutions, mobile banking application developers and non-governmental organizations on the need to address uncorrected vision disorders among the elderly, if providing vision correction in addition to financial training is significantly better at improving use of these applications for banking.
ClinicalTrials.gov Identifier: NCT05510687