The world is on a slow but steady march towards digital money, according to a report from Citi and Imperial College London which says that the move away from cash will bring hundreds of millions of people into the formal economy.
In their latest Digital Money Index, Citi and Imperial rank the "readiness" of 90 countries for adopting non-cash payments based on each nation's level of government and market support, financial and technology infrastructure, amount of digital options, and the population's propensity to adopt.
For the third year running, Finland tops the table, followed by Singapore and the US, while Chad, Angola and Ethiopia bring up the rear. The index also splits the countries into four clusters representing different stages of readiness: materially ready, in transition, emerging, and incipient.
Examining the members of each group and comparing their readiness in 2015 to 2014, the report concludes: "Clearly, improving digital money readiness and driving adoption is not a quick fix — this requires commitment for the long haul."
But the long slog is worth it, says Citi, because a 10% increase in adoption could help up to 220 million people enter the formal financial sector shifting $1 trillion to the formal economy and boosting tax take by $100 billion. Meanwhile, $120 billion would be saved just in lower retail cash handling costs, while billions of dollars more could be saved if governments digitised their disbursements.