How a Brand New Cryptocurrency is Driving Financial Inclusion for All

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Watch out Bitcoin – Stellar is banking the unbanked worldwide and driving financial inclusion for all in the process. By Vanessa Mason (Contributing Writer, Women 2.0)

Whether you look at gender diversity in finance or in tech, the last thing that you expect to see are women in the majority. A new startup, Stellar, is well on its way to changing that expectation.

What is Stellar?

Stellar is not only a company, but also a technology and cryptocurrency that makes moving money throughout the world as easy as sending an email. The more people who use Stellar, the more value Stellar can help deliver by safely increasing access to financial transactions at any time in any currency.

Because Stellar is community and developer driven, Stellar’s API has a virtually infinite ability to meet the needs of individuals, companies, and financial institutions throughout the world.

After only 6 months and a million users later, Stellar crunched their worldwide user numbers and published the results in an infographic. They found that 34 per cent of their users were women. Why does this matter?

The Banking Imbalance

Women generally don’t have equal access to banking and other financial services such as credit and lending. This gender gap widens further when looking at women among the urban poor outside of the United States and Europe.

  • Women in developing countries are 20 percent less likely to have a formal bank account
  • They are 17 per cent less likely to have formally borrowed money compared to men

Financial inclusion, especially when gender diverse, helps reduce poverty because women typically invest in their families through health care, education and food in the short term. In the long-term, financial inclusion and empowerment of women increases economic development through entrepreneurship and increased social and financial autonomy for women.

Here are a few facts from Stellar in their fight to champion financial inclusion:

1. Almost Half of Users are New to Cryptocurrency

The 2009 debut of Bitcoin, the first cryptocurrency, found its largest fans among saavy computer engineers and “miners,” people who figured out ways to win the most currency with the fastest computer. These power users were largely wealthy white men, with the average user being a “32.1 year old libertarian male.”

In contrast, 46 per cent of Stellar’s users are completely new to cryptocurrency, indicating different user needs and use cases within the community compared to Bitcoin.

2. Stellar’s Initial Users are Located Everywhere

Analyses vary, but Bitcoin’s users are mostly located in wealthy countries and regions: United States, Canada, northern and central Europe, and Australia.

In addition to English-speaking countries, Vietnam, Indonesia, China and Russia are top users of Stellar.

3. Stellar’s Community Projects help drive Adoption

The API allows developers to leverage Stellar’s infrastructure to build products and services that further adoption of Stellar among users who are unfamiliar with the ins and outs of cryptocurrency but can benefit all the same from access.

For example, Stellar is now accepted at Piiko, a service that allows users to add prepaid credit to mobile phones in over 100 countries. Future partnerships will help meet the financial needs of the unbanked and reduce poverty.

So What’s the Future of Financial Tech Inclusion?

Financial institutions that are currently available to women in poverty in developing countries such as microfinance institutions have found that financial literacy is fundamental for effectively increasing access and driving adoption of banking and financial services. Achieving gender diverse financial tech inclusion requires creating long-term value that meets the needs of women living in poverty.

Because Stellar is building a public infrastructure for financial transactions, nearly anyone in the world will be able to develop other financial services such as credit and insurance that will provide economic security and foster female entrepreneurship.

Want to help? Why not start developing with Stellar today?

Photo credit: Arina P Habich via Shutterstock.


Vanessa Mason (@vanessamason) is the eHealth senior manager at ZeroDivide where she advises on the design, development and adoption of digital health for the underserved. Vanessa also consults on global health and technology development and adoption. She earned her BA from Yale University and her MPH from Columbia University.