International Finance Corporation (IFC) supports institutions seeking to develop digital financial services (DFS) for the expansion of financial inclusion and is engaged in multiple projects across a range of markets through its portfolio of investments and advisory projects. As of 2017, through its work with The Mastercard Foundation and other partners, IFC works with DFS providers across Sub-Saharan Africa on expanding financial inclusion through digital products and services. Interactions with clients as well as the broader industry in the region and beyond have identified the need for a handbook on how to use the emerging field of data science to unlock value from the data emerging from these implementations.

Even though data analytics offers an opportunity for DFS providers to know their customers at a granular level and to use this knowledge to offer higher-quality services, many practitioners are yet to implement a systematic, data-driven approach in their operations and organizations. There are a few examples that have received a lot of attention due to their success in certain markets, such as the incorporation of alternative data in order to evaluate credit risk of new types of customers. However, the promise of data goes beyond one or two specific case applications. Common barriers to the application of data insights for DFS include a lack of knowledge, scarcity of skill and discomfort with an unfamiliar approach. This handbook seeks to provide an overview of the opportunity for data to drive financial inclusion, along with steps that practitioners can take to begin to adopt a data-driven approach into their businesses and to design data-driven projects to solve practical business problems.