IV-11. “The implications of the digital transformation of financial services in Southeast Asia: A focus on inclusivity” (R3 FY2021)

  • Project Leader : Lu Wanxue (Ritsumeikan University, College of International Relations)
  • Collaborators : Mieno Fumiharu (Kyoto University, Center for Southeast Asian Studies)
  • : Iwashita Naoyuki (Kyoto University, School of Government)
  • : Hamada Miki (Institute of Developing Economies, Development Research Center)
  • : Ideue Kazuyo (Meiji Gakuin University, The Faculty of International Studies)
  • : Cao Nguyet Thi Khanh (Kwansei Gakuin University, Faculty of Economics)

Outline of Research

This study analyzes the effects of digital transformation in Southeast Asia from the perspective of digital financial inclusion. Through comparative studies of Southeast Asian countries, it will document the development of digital financial services in recent years, as well as investigate the impacts of digital lending on low-income groups and small-scale businesses. The purpose of the study is to examine the implications of the rapid growth of digital financial services on financial inclusion in order to sustainably harness the potential of digital financial services for all.


Digital financial services in Southeast Asia, including a broad range of mobile money, internet banking, and Fintech services, have drawn a great amount of attention in recent years. In the Covid-19 era in particular, the market share of digital financial services has increased rapidly along with the implementation of infection prevention measures such as lockdowns and mandatory social distancing. A general tendency toward the digitalization of financial services is observed. In addition, along with the accumulation of user data and the development of a novel method of credit analysis by Fintech enterprises, the possible economic effects of digital finance are of massive interest in terms of the evolution from digital payment to digital lending. However, the rapid expansion of digital financial services also reveals new issues and challenges, such as equity disparity in the use of digital infrastructure and the monitoring and regulation of digital technology-related risks.

This study investigates fairness in digital infrastructure usage and improving digital financial literacy from the perspective of low-income groups and small-scale businesses. In addition, we analyze the implications of digital financial services on the management and long-term financing of small-scale manufacturing businesses in Southeast Asia in order to better understand the challenges and potential of digital financial services.

The research project will conduct a comprehensive survey of the rapid growth of digital financial services as well as its economic effects from the perspective of financial inclusion and compile a report based on the survey results in FY 2021. The study will deepen our understanding of emerging issues in digital finance, such as the challenges for financial regulators, the rapid evolution of digital financial technologies, improving equal access to digital infrastructure, and the promotion of competition of Fintech enterprises. Based on this research, we expect to identify critical areas for future research projects regarding digital finance.

A view of Asian financial hub: Singapore’s Financial District

Kasikornbank, a major player in Thailand accounting for 40% of domestic digital banking market