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PhD student Q&A: Dana Lunberry

I felt inspired to research the ways in which digital technology could benefit excluded sectors of society

Find out what inspired Dana to pursue a PhD in financial inclusion.

Dana Lunberry is a PhD student in Information Systems and Innovation. She holds an MSc in Gender, Development and Globalisation from LSE. Her research interests are digital financial services and financial inclusion, and her current research explores the role and potential of fintech within the inclusive finance sector.

Learn more about our PhD.

What was your background before you began your PhD?

I had been working in the financial services industry since 2007, mostly in programme management. For years I managed financial inclusion initiatives in developing and emerging economies in Sub-Saharan Africa, Asia, Latin America and Eastern Europe. The projects ranged from new product development to digital delivery channels and customer engagement.

What motivated you to begin your research on digital financial services and financial inclusion?

It was when I was working on a project taking place in Ghana around 2011 that I had a moment of revelation. The project I was managing aimed to open 60 new offices around the country to bring the bank closer to its clients. However, during the project we saw a dramatic rise in tech and digital capabilities. As a result, the need for these offices waned, and the bank we were working with decided they instead wanted to partner with local shops and mobile network operators to connect with clients digitally. The bank’s entire operating model changed midway through this large multiyear project.

It became apparent to me that ‘going digital’ was a new way to bring about financial inclusion. I saw how financial services could rapidly expand through technology, as evidenced by mobile money, and I felt inspired to research the ways in which digital technology could benefit excluded sectors of society.

Being able to have an impact on society is really important to me and I became fascinated about how to accelerate change in a positive way. Of course digital technologies can be used for negative purposes and lead to destructive ends but I also saw their incredible potential to do good. I learned how through research and a deeper understanding of digital innovation we can devise ways to accelerate positive outcomes.  

What did you gain from undertaking a PhD in the Department of Management?

It provided me with a toolkit to help dive into real world issues. I was able to consider the importance of technology management, how innovation differs between new and old tech, and what ‘digital’ really means in theory and practice. 

My studies left me feeling equipped to deal with real world implications. It allowed me the opportunity to think through these issues as well as the role of digital infrastructures and the impact they can have, which helped me see how these infrastructures can potentially affect the world in a more positive way.

My experience as a PhD student was also made ten-times better thanks to the support and guidance provided by my PhD supervisor, Dr Jonathan Liebenau, to whom I’m incredibly grateful.