Financial Exclusion of Internal Migrant Workers of India during COVID-19: Can Digital Financial Inclusion be facilitated by AI?

Published in "Journal of Information Technology Case and Application Research"
Pavan Ravishankar , Sudarsan Padmanabhan , Balaraman Ravindran

In this paper, we examine ways to facilitate the digital financial inclusion of internal migrant workers in India, using technologies assisted by Artificial Intelligence. Internal migrant workers, whose multiple vulnerabilities were cruelly exposed during COVID-19, constitute 37% of the total population of India. We argue that an AI-enabled solution augmenting preexisting financial transaction processes in public sector banks, cooperatives, and post offices could integrate major segments of vulnerable groups into the Indian economy and empower them socio-politically. AI-assisted ATMs have the potential to improve digital financial inclusion, bring accountability, ensure security, build trust, and protect privacy in the process of empowering women and marginalized communities in India. Without structural changes in the economy, whether AI could facilitate digital financial inclusion is debatable. Further, actualizing the AI-Enabled ecosystem faces technical, design, and operational challenges. The paper uses a case study method since it deals with a contemporary event, the deleterious impact of digital and financial exclusion of migrant workers during the COVID-19 pandemic. During the first wave of COVID-19, migrant laborers were stranded without food, water, shelter, healthcare, money, or transportation. Facilitating digital financial inclusion could have provided access to money or provisions in desperate situations.