Digital payments have been used by governments throughout the globe to assist millions of people during the COVID-19 pandemic, distributing aid quickly and with minimal personal contact. Yet methods and results have varied across countries, providing important lessons for policymakers.

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Country Studies

Protecting the Poor and Vulnerable against the Pandemic

This report from the Asian Development Bank details the Philippines’ social protection response to COVID-19. It explores the Department of Social Welfare and Development’s efforts to distribute payments, the challenges it encountered, and the role of digital technologies in overcoming them.

Social Assistance and Information in the Initial Phase of the COVID-19 Crisis: Lessons from a Household Survey in India

G2P Payment Arrangements in Egypt and COVID-19

COVID-19 Response Underlines the Need for Portable Social Protection Programs

Women’s Access to Cash Transfers in Light of COVID-19: The Case of Pakistan

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Beyond India’s Lockdown: PMGKY Benefits During the COVID-19 Crisis and the State of Digital Payments

  • Alan Gelb, Anurodh Giri, Anit Mukherjee, Ritesh Rautela, Mitul Thapliyal, and Brian Webster

India imposed a lock-down in response to the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020 and began a gradual re-opening in June. A telephonic survey in April examined the early effectiveness of information and the massive PMGKY social protection program (Policy Paper 217). This paper analyzes a second-round survey, conducted six months later. Logistical and information constraints had relaxed, and incomes and jobs had begun to stabilize for some. There were not...

Beneficiary Experience of Digital Government-to-Person (G2P) Payments in Bangladesh, Colombia, and the Philippines

  • Tanvi Jaluka

About 17 percent of the world’s population has received at least one COVID-19-related cash transfer payment since the onset of the pandemic. Many of these transfers have been conducted digitally to efficiently and safely provide economic relief to affected households. Amongst low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) that offered cash transfers, 58 disbursed funds directly to a fully functioning bank account, an account only for benefit withdrawal, or a digital non-bank...

From Digital G2P Payments to Greater Financial Inclusion—Latest Findings from the Philippines

  • Karisha Anne Cruz, Maria Isabel Fernandez, Kate Glynn-Broderick, Yuna Liang, Rebecca Rouse, Nassreena Sampaco-Baddiri

This blog post from IPA summarizes the findings from a survey of SAP 2 transfer beneficiaries in the Philippines. Due to a number of issues under SAP 1, including overcrowding, SAP 2 benefits were distributed digitally through accounts rather than in cash. The survey found that the average recipient was satisfied, despite waiting for about an hour and being charged roughly $1 to cash out. Only 16%, however, were aware...

Social Protection in the COVID-19 Pandemic: Lessons from South Africa

  • Lena Gronbach, Jeremy Seekings, Vayda Megannon

This paper reviews South Africa’s social protection policies and their implementation during the COVID-19 crisis. Overall, the government reached over 30 million South Africans with cash-based relief measures. A distinctive feature of cash-based emergency relief was the use of digital technologies, especially in the application and verification process for the new SRD grant. The payment system, however, relied heavily on manual cash disbursements, thus failing to reflect the adoption of...

Social Protection Responses to the COVID-19 Pandemic in the Pacific: A Tipping Point for the Sector?

  • Rodolfo Beazley, Hilary Gorman, Sinta Satriana, Juliet Attenborough

This paper produced by SPACE examines the social protection response to COVID-19 in the Pacific region, where such systems are emergent. It assesses how individual countries responded to the pandemic, and draws operational lessons. The Authors pay particular attention to Fiji’s experience, where the use of mobile money was prominent.

Use of Electronic Vouchers to Distribute Relief: Part 1

  • Thomas Murayi, Peter Charagu, Edward Obiko

As countries have responded to the COVID-19 pandemic, digital vouchers have been used in some contexts to distribute aid. This MicroSave blog post, the first of two, briefly discusses the benefits of e-vouchers, and their use by humanitarian agencies.


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