Fintech for essential services


Opportunities for fintech innovation in access to essential services


Households around the world need services like energy, water and sanitation to improve their quality of life, or to “help them use their time well, improve their capabilities or ensure their physical well-being”, as noted by CGAP. For low-income households more specifically, these services can include clean cooking fuel and stoves, safe drinking water, sanitation and hygiene tools and efficient water systems. Particularly following the COVID-19 crisis, as households are working to recover and build financial resiliency for the future, accessing these services in a regular, reliable and affordable way provides a foundation for household financial health. It is a fundamental component of human well-being and economic development, as underlined by the UN Sustainable Development Goals.


This brief highlights the opportunity to leverage fintech innovation to improve access to essential services like water, sanitation and energy, drawing on lessons from financial inclusion. Households around the world need essential services to improve their quality of life, but gaps in access are still enormous. These services have traditionally been offered as utilities, involving large, upfront infrastructure costs, which make access for remote, low-income households unfeasible. 

Fortunately, fintech innovations are changing these cost structures via new technologies like lock-out systems and financial products like Pay-as-you-go (PAYGo) contracts. This brief explores opportunities for fintech startups to expand access to clean energy, and water and sanitation services.