Digital Financial Services Observatory Launch Events

@ the Singapore Fintech Festival 2020 & Asian Financial Forum 2021

Sponsored by Blockchain

The Digital Financial Services Observatory Columbia University's Institute for Tele-Information

The Digital Financial Services Observatory (DFSO) is a project of the Columbia Institute for Tele-Information (CITI) has been a research project, working with governments and organizations in the Digital Financial Services (DFS) field to advance financial inclusion, provide a deep set of global standards in the rapidly emerging transformations driving digital finance globally.

Sponsored by generous contribution of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

The DFSO is releasing its project on an accelerated scale to enable digital financial standards, in an effort to both create a more inclusive and secure foundation, and further analyze the impacts, transformations and develop intelligence-based standards in digital finance.

CITI, founded in 1983, is the first research center for communications economics, management, and policy established Columbia University, New York USA. Since its creation, CITI has a tradition of identifying and anticipating key issues before they reach general visibility and of providing a balanced perspective and a neutral meeting ground for stakeholders. It has published over 70 books and special journal issues, and over one thousand research articles.

Register for Invitation Here

Call for Sponsor to the DFSO Founding Sponsors Network
applications being accepted now

The DFSO is supported by grants from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Columbia University CITI, and other organizations. The operational technology platform contributions are offered by Blockchain to establish and distribute the commercially available model of the DFSO 2021.

The DFSO is now open by invitation only to founding sponsors for the DFSO.

Founders will become the backbone of the global financial standards model created by the DFSO. As the ecosystems evolve in DFS, the DFSO Founders Network will be an integral part of the evolution of the DFSO ecosystem for DFS globally.

Invitations are currently being generated by the DFSO. If your organization, institution or government would like an invitation to participate in the DFSO Founders Network, please complete the form below for consideration.

The Founders will hold the initial Nodes and DFSO Standards Containers that form the genesis blocks, and platform for DFS standards authentication. Founding sponsorships are by invitation only, through the DFSO. Founders will be granted initial access to the DFSO Nodes as released. The initial Framework will be set by the Founders, prior to opening the community to future authenticated participants.

The DFS Observatory ("DFSO")

The DFSO focuses on the intersection of policy and technology in DFS. Since its inception in 2016, the DFSO has been supported by a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

The DFSO has been at the forefront of approaches assisting in the growing DFS ecosystems and in advancing financial standards and inclusion.

The DFSO has established a global audience of financial and technical experts as well as governmental agencies and regulators, and has created a community of over 6,000 professionals and academics from around the world. Areas of focus are:

Ten Tenants of Digital Financial Services

1. Payments and remittances
2. Banking transformation
3. Compliance
4. Fintech and Regtech
5. Mobile communications infrastructure and applications
6. Blockchain technology
7. Cryptocurrencies
8. Cybersecurity
9. Policy and governance
10. Law and regulation

The DFSO has established the Ten Tenants of Digital Financial Services as comprehensive set of operable standards to ensure a scalable, structured and secure growth path as the transition to a the DFS ecosystem continues to unfold globally. Utilization and measurement of the standards basis, alongside advanced technology including blockchain and AI, will ensure a model of DFS specifications and security in the future.

The DFSO will introduce for beta review, the operationalizing platform for enterprise, institutions and governments in December 2020 at the Singapore Fintech Festival, with Blockchain – with operational release of DFSO Node Containers Q1 2021.

The Impact of Digital Financial Services

DFS is a rapidly scaling, low-cost means of digital access to transactional financial services. The impact of mobile devices, alongside the pandemic of 2020 have accelerated the need for the Ten Tenants of DFS.

Significant factors which include ‘mobile money’ or ‘mobile financial services’, are driving DFS at scale in developing countries to advance financial inclusion and provide much-needed low-cost access to primarily transactional financial services. Many hundreds of non-bank DFS Providers in the developing world offering services to over 800 million people, many of whom had no prior access to formal financial institutions.

Alongside this expansive growth due to increased, inclusive financial markets, are the critical factors to ensure a secure global ecosystem in DFS.

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DFSO Blockchain

Operationalization of the DFSO standards is underway. Blockchain is providing the implementation path, for the DFSO, to provide the standards based on the blockchain based authentication, transparency and distributed models based on the distributed ledger technology ensured by blockchain. embeds the fundamentals of authentication (commonly known as KYC) to ensure the participants in implementing, improving and authenticating standards are validated.

The DFSO BlockCerts implementation will enable participants to utilize, participate in the evolution of the DFSO and implement at scale through the distributed application “DAPP” node and Secure Virtual Space Containers, that are made operable on BlockCerts, are currently being formatted for the DFSO with the support of BlockCerts. DFSO Nodes and Containers will be available to the community in Q1 2021.

The DFSO containers will be deployable across any platform, technology or model by the DFSO participant community.

Call for Founders Input For The Current and Future Mission of the DFSO

Insights and evolution, at a rapid pace in the digital ecosystem are a mandate immediately. A call for the support of digital standards models is underway. The DFSO is establishing a founder’s community, and is seeking input via a call for papers, as the commercial models emerge Q1 2021.

The Current and Ongoing Mission of the

Our activities can be viewed on our website at

Capacity Building Programs, Research and Repositories

  • Webinars: Held monthly and stored in our virtual library, these webinars offer online educational and capacity building classes covering essential DFS topics to keep DFS ecosystem participants current and aware of changes and industry progress.
  • White Papers: Produced quarterly, our academic papers provide expertise in the exploration, examination and neutral analysis of important DFS topics including policy, law and regulations that may impact progress.
  • DFS Database & Information Repository: The DFSO website features a unique legal and regulatory database of curated data from over 80 developing countries and regions. It also contains almost 60 hours of video programming, and many other DFS-related resources and instructional materials that are part of a certificate program for those attending our online programs.
  • DFS Nodes Repository (beginning 2021): The DFSO will establish a DFSO technical repository. Via the BlockCerts blockchain validation standards - model suggestions, modifications, standards and technical advances through emerging technologies, including blockchain, machine learning, neural networks and AI driven insights will be maintained in the repository by and for the community.

Actionable Risk Management Framework (A-RMF) for Cybersecurity in DFS: The DFS ecosystem is comprised of actors who vary greatly with respect to organizational size, maturity and capabilities. This makes it difficult to achieve standards for cyber-security. The DFSO developed a risk management framework that combines international cybersecurity standards, best practices, and proprietary IP. To generate cyber hygiene, we created a platform which can be implemented by a multiplicity of actors. The A-RMF provides proactive process steps to best protect from potential cybersecurity incidents, as well as reactive process steps should a cybersecurity incident happen. The A-RMF is tailored towards the capabilities of a DFS actor. It strives to ensure that activities and operations and services operate within a safe and secure environment to maintain the confidentiality and integrity of data and information; that funds are secure, with availability only to authorized parties; and that the impact of cyber-attacks is minimized.

Activities & Outreach

  • DFS Summits: Held annually at Columbia University, these conferences bring together the world's leading experts, regulators, industry professionals and academics to discuss DFS innovation and trends.
  • Roundtables: Held twice per year, our roundtables events are smaller, more focused, and more intimate in-person and virtual versions of the summits.
  • For the past three years, each of these events has reached and exceeded capacity limits.

Founders Network Nodes
Introduced Q12021

  • The DFSO Founders Network will lead the initial operationalizing of the DFSO Community.
  • Following the successful model of our DFS Summits, the DFSO Founders Network will establish events to grow the model for global DFS standards, analytics and insights.
  • Founders will guide the iterations of technical and standards advances for the ecosystem. Via the DFSO distributed community nodes, the DFSO Founders Network will establish governance policies and models for the efficacy of the DLT based guidance policies.

Outlook and Vision: The Future Mission of the DFSO

Continued growth in the adoption of digital financial services (DFS) requires that the industry, the public, and regulators have confidence in the ability of DFS providers to safeguard their platforms and protect consumer and business users from suffering losses from cyber-attacks (and achieve substantially greater compliance with existing regulation.) A major cyber-attack resulting in losses to customers could reverse the advances digital financial services have already achieved. We provide guidelines and model rules, a risk management framework, a cybersecurity response, a regional collaboration tool, a regulatory compliance mechanism, and a resource management tool. Our development of the A-RMF, together with other initiatives, help regulators and providers understand and deal with cybersecurity threats.

New Initiatives

1. Cybersecurity, Regtech and Crisis Readiness Tools. We plan to build three cybersecurity and regtech tools. Our initiative has identified blockchain as a candidate for interoperating and decentralizing platforms.

  • Automated A-RMF and Regtech Tool. Leveraging our recently created cybersecurity A-RMF, the DFSO will create and operationalize an automated version of that framework. This will aid actors in combating cyber-attacks. The tool will be integrated into compliance and regulatory monitoring systems operated by financial entities, mobile network operators and regulators. This solution includes automation of an entity’s ability to undertake internal cyber threat assessments; provide responses processes for specific threat and incidents commensurate with the capability of the entity; and generate an auditing tool for the actual responses to threats and incidents.
  • Cybersecurity Early Warning Hub. Creation of a blueprint for an Africa-wide cybersecurity early warning hub that integrates national and private cybersecurity detection and response systems. The regional hub would instantly integrate information about threats and incidents and alerts participants. Such a clearinghouse would be incorporated into regional cybersecurity early-warning and Computer Emergency Response Teams (CERT) in Africa, as well as the warning systems of affiliated entities such as banks, mobile operators and others in the DFS service industry.
  • Inventory and Auditing Tool of National DFS Resources for Crisis Preparedness. The COVID-19 pandemic has raised global awareness as to the priority for solving problems presented by disruptions. The DFSO will develop an asset and resource inventory auditing tool to identify available national, regional and local DFS capacity and resiliency to sudden shocks. It will address the resource requirements to assure a stable financial and communications infrastructure.

2. Model Rules for the Automated RMF and the Cybersecurity Hub. In most of those countries where DFS is essential, there is a conspicuous lack of cybersecurity laws, regulations, rules, and enforcement. The DFSO will develop model cyber security rules and policies that can be incorporated into the automated RMF.

3. A Digital Financial Services Journal. It will feature peer-reviewed academic articles focused on DFS and financial inclusion, along with select noteworthy reports for DFS professionals and court opinions.

Continuation of our Existing Programs. The DFSO will continue to build upon the success of its summits, roundtables, webinars, research and whitepapers by holding several virtual collaborative sessions for global exploration, discussion and capacity building on key topics and concepts of importance to DFS and financial inclusion. The DFSO also plans to expand the size and reach of its curated DFS database of laws and regulations and enhance the capabilities of the A-RMF.

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