The Adoption of Digital Payments Surged Surged In 2021–21 : A Snapshot

Arpan Sarma
4 min readJul 11, 2021


Photo by on Unsplash

The pandemic was a tribulation for the entire human race irrespective of the nations we resided in. Although it will take us the next few years to calculate all the losses we have incurred as a species in the past 1, and half years, one blessing we can count on is the accelerated decline of cash-based transactions and increase in adoption of digital wallets and online payment technologies.

What started as a precautionary measure to curtail the transmission of the virus via cash-based transactions, quickly transitioned into a phenomenon across nations. Now, in the latter half of 2021, as we analyze data which captures the adoption rate of digital payments and wallet-based transactions, we begin to understand the many factors which acted as a catalyst of something we can hope for, as a brighter future of digital payments.

The Abatement of Cash-Based Transactions

The decline of cash-based transactions has long been in the works, and research published as early as 2017 gives a clear indication of this trend. As the technology behind digital and wallet based payments matured, it led the way for more developers and major corporations to start payment services of their own, and this phenomenon can be captured in the actions of Amazon (via AmazonPay), Google (via GooglePay) and Apple (via ApplePay).

To acquire a better understanding of this, let us take the example of India, which has traditionally been a leader in cash-based transactions. As per a recent report published by Statista in December 2020, cash-based transactions accounted for nearly 98% of transactions consumers participated in 2010. However, 10 years later, in 2020, cash-based transactions only account for 88% of all transactions, which indicates a clear decline of 10%.

Likewise, in the UK, cash transactions accounted for 60% of all transactions in 2008; however, 10 years down the line, in 2018, it only accounted for 28% of all transactions, which indicates a sharp decline of 32%.

India and UK are not the sole proponents of this change, and the trend is being echoed across nations, both developed and developing, as consumers begin to embrace the virtues of digital payments.

The Accretion of Digital Payments

Statista : Digital payments in India FY 2018–2021, by transaction type

As I demonstrated in the above paragraphs, the adoption of digital payments was slowly but surely occurring across nations; however, the onset of the pandemic in 2020, fast-tracked the adoption by many accounts.

As per a recent metric released by banking trade body, UK Finance, digital payments rose by 35% in 2020 as consumers began to deposit their pounds and pennies into savings accounts in exchange for digital currency. While observers continue to note that it is too early to announce whether this fast-paced adoption is a permanent change in consumer behavior, historic data accumulated by Financial Times shows that adoption rates of digital payments have been increasing by 15% year on year since 2017.

Another glimmering example of this phenomenon can be observed in Africa, where the leading digital payment service M-Pesa accounted for 41.5 million customers in 2021, out of which 15 million joined the service after the start of the pandemic as the government gradually pushed businesses to accept digital payments in an effort to reduce transmission of the virus.

The Way Ahead

Statista : M-Pesa customer numbers from 2017 to 2021

A recent forecast by Business Wire highlights the tremendous growth the digital payments industry is set to witness at a global scale. As per the report, the global digital payments industry had a market valuation of USD 5.44 trillion in 2020, and it is projected to be worth more than USD 11.29 trillion by the end of 2026, registering a CAGR of 11.21%.

In my personal opinion, the fast-paced adoption of digital payments over and above cash-based transactions has been long due, and although the pandemic caused a lot of harm, maybe this is the one good thing that came out of it.

What do you think? Let me know by commenting below.


  1. Cash use plunges during pandemic [Link]
  2. Digital payments in India FY 2018–2021, by transaction type [Link]
  3. Forecast share of cash payments in the United Kingdom (UK) from 2008 to 2028 [Link]
  4. M-Pesa customer numbers from 2017 to 2021 [Link]
  5. Digital Payments Market Report 2021 [Link]



Arpan Sarma

Simplified Finance for Every Indian.