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Delivering inclusive and equitable quality education is fourth amongst the seventeen Sustainability Development Goals (SDG) charted by the United Nations. The vision is to ensure that by 2030 all girls and boys get quality primary and secondary education for free and all women and men get access to affordable and quality technical, vocational and tertiary education. To achieve this goal, Information and communication technology (ICT) is playing a major role in transforming and enhancing the way education is imparted. Moreover, the use of digital payments (especially mobile money) in education has simplified access to education. This article talks about how mobile money is making quality education accessible to all.

The education sector is going digital. Today we can purchase books online, access e-libraries, attend lectures virtually (distant learning via internet), complete entire course online via webex or videos and even give exams online. With the digitization of education, the payments involved in it are also becoming digital. Digital payments include both online payments and mobile payments. In developing markets, which is characterized by its low internet access and limited usage of credit and debit cards, mobile payments has emerged as the most prominent alternative payment channel. Mobile money is rapidly becoming the most preferred way of making education related payments and is transforming the education sector in multiple ways as discussed below:

Simplifying payment of fees

The act of paying fees for school or university, or applying for a course at an institution or enrolling for an examination is time consuming, because of the time it takes to travel to the educational institute or nodal center and stand in a queue to make the payment. The time and money spent on traveling to the educational institute and paying for fees can be used more productively. The virtual nature of mobile money helps to solve this problem.   Thanks to mobile money, it is easier for students or their parents to pay instantly at their convenience, that too remotely and in smaller installments. Many mobile money services such as Orange Money, Airtel Money and EcoCash facilitate fee payments for schools and universities using mobile phones. Mobile money services does not require customers to have a bank account, hence even unbanked users can make payments using these services. Additionally, mobile money services can be accessed from features phone via USSD or IVR, without any internet connection.

Côte d’Ivoire is one of the biggest success stories of school fee payments using mobile money. The Ministry of National and Technical Education (MENET) partnered with four accredited mobile money providers in the country and made it mandatory for secondary school students to pay their school registration fees digitally. The impact of these collaborations and the adoption of digital payments have been phenomenal. In academic year 2015-16, 99.3% of Côte d’Ivoire’s 1.7 million secondary school students paid their annual school registration fee via various mobile money services. The service has provided convenience to parents as they can now focus on their work, rather than worry about paying fees. The service has also benefited MENET and schools in multiple ways. Digitization of fee payments has reduced cash handling costs as well as incidences of armed robberies, which was very commonplace before the introduction of digital payments. Secondly, with mobile money, school fees are now collected in full, and that too much earlier in the year, which means that schools have more access to funds function properly and provide better learning conditions to students and working conditions to teachers. Lastly, digital registration of secondary school students allowed MENET to consolidate its student database, eliminate duplicate entries and significantly increasing the quality of its information.1

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Source: GSMA

Côte d’Ivoire is not the only country. In Guinea Conakry, Orange is enabling students to pay counseling fees in universities via Orange Money. Students can access Orange Money service on their mobile phone to generate a code. They then log-in to Guinea University Online Orientation Platform on internet, and enter the code and their mobile number to make payments. In addition to paying the fees, students also receive free data, SMS and call minutes enabling them to connect with friends, teachers and family. The service has seen great uptake. More than 90% of University counseling fees are paid through Orange Money.2

In Ghana, WAEC, the body that conducts the Senior School Certificate Examination in West African countries has partnered with Airtel Money, allowing students to buy pins to check their results. Students can also pay for request for certificate, attestation and verification of results using Airtel Money.3

In Bangladesh, Grameenphone facilitates payment of exam fees for graduate courses in Rajshahi University. The payments can be made over the counter, where the student visits a Grameenphone mobile money agent and pays him the fee in cash. The agent accesses the mobile money service on his handset and makes the payment to generate the transaction ID. The transaction ID is used by the student to obtain his admit card online.

Digitizing payments are leading to new low-cost schools. For example, in Kenya, Bridge International Academies has launched the cashless “academy in a box”. School fees are paid in small- monthly payments using M-Pesa mobile money service, which supports salaries for academic staff and other expenses. Entire operations are automated and executed via smartphones and tablets, eliminating accounting and financial management related expenses. Founded in 2009, Bridge International Academies expanded to nearly 400 schools and over 100,000 pupils by 2014.4

Expanding the availability of content

Books, journals, whitepapers are costly and it is not possible to buy all of them. Moreover, most of the learning is restricted geographically, which means that the students have no understanding of what is happening globally. The few copies of books from international authors which are available in libraries have high demand and can be accessed only by a limited number of students. However, digitization of education is changing this scenario. e-Books are available online which are much cheaper than the printed version. The students are able to get exposure to global study material as they are able to buy books from international authors online. The libraries are becoming digital, allowing students to access content online and pay for the subscription via digital medium as per their convenience. Digitization is making education affordable as students are able to just buy the required portion or relevant content and not the entire book.

A relevant example in this context is EcoSchool initiative from Econet Wireless, Zimbabwe’s largest mobile operator. EcoSchool provides online access to digital content for tertiary students in Zimbabwe. Students get digital books, e-courses, mobile courses and job alerts via a web-based platform at affordable costs. The payments can be made through operator’s mobile money service EcoCash.5

Facilitating virtual learning for distance education

Virtual classrooms are making distant learning possible in an efficient manner. Students need no longer be restricted by distance, lack of quality educational institutes or unavailability of courses. Lectures can be attended online, exposing students to world class academicians across the globe. They are able to learn skills by looking at videos. Not only this, students are giving exams online and the checking of papers are also done using IT softwares and result produced within minutes. The results are obtained online and certificates issues in digital formats. All the payments related to distance education are made remotely through online and mobile payments. In future, to make virtual learning specially the practical classes more realistic technologies like virtual reality will come into play.

Enabling quick and convenient salary payments for teachers

In many emerging countries, teachers are paid salary in cash. As it takes time to distribute cash, salary is usually paid late. Sometimes, the salary is not even received in full, as a portion of it is pocketed by corrupt senior officials. As an alternative to cash, the governments in many countries have started transferring money directly to bank accounts. However, in countries with poor banking penetration, this necessities traveling long distances and standing in queues for hours to cash-out salary.

Mobile money has emerged as a viable option overcoming flaws of conventional salary payment system. This can be understood better with an example from Liberia. In rural Liberia, primary school teachers were paid their salary in bank accounts. Many banks have branches only in big cities. Each month, the teachers had to travel over 10 hours by bus to capital city Monrovia to collect their salary. The entire travel and lodging consumed on average US$25 which is 15% of teacher’s salary. Moreover, due to all the travelling the teachers would miss classes, which would disrupt the interest of students in the classes. In July 2016, USAID with Ministry of Education and mobile operator Lonestar rolled out mobile salary payments pilot for 67 teachers. The results of the pilot are encouraging. The teachers receive salary instantly and in full in their Lonestart mobile money account. On average they save 14 hours of travelling as they are able to cash out at nearby local mobile money agent. The cost of collecting salary has also gone down by 90% as teacher only have to pay small cash-out fee. Teachers are now able to focus on teaching rather than worrying about collecting salaries. After positive results from pilot, the service is now being scaled-up.6

Providing funding and support for education

Inability to afford education or pay fees is the most important factor for high drop-out rate from schools. Governments, NGOs and financial service providers globally are working together to ensure parents have financial resources to pay for education of their children. Providing low-interest education loans is one of the initiatives run in many countries. According to World Bank Findex report, in low and middle income countries, 8.3% (adult) population borrowed for education or paying school fees. However, a very large portion of loans for education are informal loans as most people in low and middle income countries do not have a bank account and thus the credit rating to qualify for a formal loans from bank.

To bring the loans into formal economy, financial service providers are providing mobile based loans. For example, Airtel in Tanzania provides Airtel Timiza loans. Airtel Timiza offers small-term, low value loans which are directly credited into customer’s Airtel Money account. Customers do not need any bank account, or qualify any stringent qualification criteria, or provide any security or do any paperwork to get Airtel Timiza loans. The loan amount depends on customer’s usage of Airtel services. These loans allow parents to pay school fees on time, without impacting their household budget. Parents repay the loan when they get next month’s salary.

Mobile money providers are also bringing innovative insurance schemes for students. Allianz insurance and Orange Money in Senegal offers a special insurance scheme for students, where in case of death of the paying parent the child gets 1,200,000 FCFA (US$ 1,956) to fund two to three years of schooling. For availing the insurance scheme, the parent has to pay premium of 12,000 FCFA (US$ 19.56) in a single installment or 1,000 FCFA (US$ 1.63) in 12 monthly installments using Orange Money.7

Encouraging parents to educate children

In some countries due to various cultural or economic conditions, parents are uninterested in sending their children, specially the girls to school. As per World Bank, female literacy rate in South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa is as low as 57% and 52%. The local governments in these regions are aware that educating females is necessary for creating an egalitarian society. Hence, to enhance female literacy rate, governments have started various initiative like giving stipends and providing mid- day meals to girls who attend school. Mobile money can catalyze various government initiatives to improve female literacy. Mobile money can be used in disbursing government stipends which is a big motivation for parents to send their daughters to school. NGOs can now disburse funds directly to parent’s mobile money account which allows them to buy school uniform, stationary and books for their daughters.

Telenor Pakistan under the Sindh Education Reform Program (SERP) is disbursing education stipends to female students via EasyPaisa mobile money service. The aim of SERP program is to improve literacy rate amongst girls belonging to BOP families in rural area. The program was started in June 2014 in 23 remote districts of the Sindh province, with 425,000 students receiving stipends.8

Achieving affordable quality education for all by 2030 is a challenging vision, but the above example shows that mobile money is the right tool to accomplish it.

Refrences

1 http://www.gsma.com/mobilefordevelopment/programme/mobile-money/mobile-money-facilitates-1-7-million-school-fee-payments-cote-divoire

2 https://www.linkedin.com/company/orange-money

3 http://www.todaygh.com/airtel-money-partners-waec-enable-wassce-candidates-check-results-online/

4 http://www.mckinsey.com/~/media/McKinsey/Global%20Themes/Employment%20and%20Growth/How%20digital%20finance%20could%20boost%20growth%20in%20emerging%20economies/MG-Digital-Finance-For-All-Full-report-September-2016.ashx

5 http://www.cgap.org/blog/building-digital-finance-ecosystem-zimbabwe

6 http://www.cgap.org/blog/liberian-teacher-epayments-stepping-stones-inclusion

7 http://www.lejecos.com/ALLIANZ-ASSURANCES-VIE-ET-ORANGE-MONEY-lancent-le-produit-Assurances-prevoyance-etudes_a2150.html

8 http://www.gsma.com/mobilefordevelopment/programme/connected-women/unravelling-the-shortlist-for-the-global-mobile-awards-2016-best-mobile-service-for-women-in-emerging-markets

May 25, 2017 0 comment
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Like its predecessors, the 2017 edition of the Mobile World Congress (MWC) didn’t fail to impress. Over 108,000 visitors gathered in Barcelona to air and share their views on the likely future of the global telecom space. That being said, it was business as usual. The who’s who of the sector put their heads together to discuss the modalities of deliveries, including specific roadmaps, deployment models and investment challenges.

In a nutshell, all discussions were centred on three pillars-investment, innovation and intelligence. It doesn’t stop there of course, but, for the sake of simplicity, I shall focus upon trends that are relevant to our business.

Mobile Money: A decade and Still Going Strong

It would be an understatement to say that mobile money has come a long way, from the 2007 launch of M-Pesa in Kenya.

To illustrate, as per GSMA’s State of the Industry Report on Mobile Money: The Decade Edition 2006-2016, a survey undertaken by the Financial Access Initiative in 2009 revealed that 2.5 billion adults globally were unbanked. Cut to 2016-as per the same report, mobile money is available in two-thirds of low-and-middle-income countries, as of December 2016. Quite a jump, this!

This theme, needless to say, took centre stage at the MWC this year. Various stakeholders-from the bigwigs to those just about starting their journey-announced ambitious plans to enhance their mobile money portfolios. The end game? To ensure an optimum customer experience and continuity of mobile money services, of course!

Visa and MasterCard Take the Lead

It is an interesting fact that when it comes to mobile payments, MasterCard and Visa can’t be too far from the discussions. Needless to say, MWC was no exception. Visa chose this platform to announce its plans of expanding its global payment capabilities. The finance major’s mVisa QR-based payments service is set to expand its global footprint. The aim is simple-to provide simple and secure point-of-sale and e-commerce transactions. The company challenged start-ups to bring digital payments into the realm of Internet of Things, with the expansion of its Everywhere initiative to Europe.

Meanwhile, MasterCard made quite a splash with the announcement of its tie-up with Oracle. The partnership is aimed at enhancing the features of the former’s retail and restaurant-based applications. This is, needless to say, aimed at enhancing the end-user’s experience.

 

Chatbots: Coming Soon!

Another interesting revelation uncovered at MWC 2017 was that chatbots are waiting in the wings. Permit me to explain-it is no secret that commerce is steadily increasing its influence on messaging platforms. Why? Well, because brands have woken up to the fact that constant customer engagement is an important ingredient to success. Naturally, then, technology players are going full throttle on creating a platform for e-commerce and on monetizing their subscriber bases.

There is a catch, though. Chatbots, indeed, are chock-full of potential. However, issues related to easy and secure integration of payments is the roadblock. This is why conversational commerce is yet to surprise us (the industry).

Net, net, these are interesting times for the global telecom space. Well, on paper, at least. It remains to be seen how many of these trends fare well in the real world. Bets, anyone?

April 20, 2017 0 comment
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To incessantly state that mobile money has caught (and held) the imagination of the global payments space is unnecessary. Let’s just jump right in-GSMA’s 2015 State of the Industry Report: Mobile Money revealed that 271 mobile money services were available in 93 countries, as of December 2015. For the same period, 411 million registered mobile money accounts existed globally. To drive home the point further, the report stated that mobile money has done more to extend the reach of financial services in the last decade than traditional “bricks and mortar” banking has in the last century. Duly noted.

This phenomenal success wasn’t achieved overnight, obviously. Quite the contrary in fact-mobile money went through an interesting evolution before it even found a place under the payments sun, so to speak. Here’s how-in the early days, the biggest challenge before mobile money operators was getting their customers enthused about the product. Of course, getting them onboard was altogether a different ballgame. Since then, the ecosystem itself has undergone several permutations and combinations. Even now, the industry is going through a state of flux-what with the fast growing adoption of digital payments and the rising importance of “contextuality” and better user experience.

Equally fluid, then, are the challenges facing mobile money operators. Today, every operator who wants to stay in the game is focusing on minimizing customer churn and ensuring frequent and optimal service usage. So, this, in a nutshell, is where customer experience management (CXM) comes to the rescue.

Traditionally, ensuring consistency and ease of interaction are the first rules of any operator’s CXM handbook. It becomes trickier with services like mobile money-which have, hitherto, never been subject to the rules (or world) of CXM.

Which brings me to the crux of this blog-a multi-pronged CXM strategy for mobile money would do wonders for customer retention and service uptake. Easier said than done, of course, especially since there are no forerunners (none that hit home, at least) in this space. The need of the hour, therefore, is a tool or solution that would help operators leverage their mobile money services to the fullest-not to mention, fill the existing white space!

Permit me to add my two cents. In this case, a CXM tool or solution ought to be a one-stop shop for all things mobile money. It should ideally perform multiple functions that include (but obviously aren’t limited to) educating customers about the service, offering rewards “frills” to customers that stay put, enhancing engagement levels, growing the existing mobile money ecosystem, et all.

It doesn’t end there, of course. Analytics ought to function at the heart of the solution, which, needless to say, would help mobile money operators move several steps closer to what their customers really want.

In short, there is very little doubt that CXM (if leveraged properly) is poised to replicate its success in this space. But, what ought the first steps to achieving this be?

Watch this space for more.

February 23, 2017 0 comment
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NFC technology already supports huge amounts of mobile payments around the world.  Ovum forecasts that the number of consumers using it will hit 939 million by 2019 (in 2015 it was 11 million)  and the value of transactions is expected to reach $115 billion, from $0.7 billion for the same period.

No surprise then that in Africa (in many ways the cradle of mobile money) it’s also beginning to take hold.

Yet whilst many experts have touted NFC as the next big thing, its appeal as a payment technology in growth markets is subject to a different set of barriers and enablers. Here Srinivas Nidugondi, Head of Mobile Financial Solutions at Mahindra Comviva takes a detailed look at the NFC trajectory in Africa.

This article originally appeared in MEF’s most recent  Africa eBulletin which can be downloaded here for free.

Already considered the biggest success story of the global mobile payments space (critics notwithstanding, of course), Africa just added another feather to its cap. It has, like the rest of its peers on the global stage, made room for Near Field Communication (NFC) in its cluttered mobile payments market.

To understand how and why, let’s step back a bit. The fact that analysts are unanimous in their opinion that NFC is the technology of the future is an understatement. To be fair, the technology has certainly managed to garner a lot of attention, not to mention takers!

According to Ovum, globally, the number of customers using NFC-based proximity payments is slated to touch 939 million by 2019, up from a mere 11 million in 2015. That’s not all, the value of NFC-based transactions is expected to reach $115 billion, from $0.7 billion for the same period. No small numbers, these!

 NFC has beaten other contactless payment technologies (like QR Codes, Bluetooth Low Energy, et al) to the punch.

In fact, NFC has beaten other contactless payment technologies (like QR Codes, Bluetooth Low Energy, et all) to the punch. Moreover, the entire payment ecosystem has jumped onto the NFC bandwagon – from original equipment manufacturers like Apple, Samsung and Google to banks to operators like Vodafone and Orange.

In short, NFC is (currently, at least) in the payments spotlight. Now, the next obvious question – where is Africa positioned in this significant development?

Not too far behind actually. With numerous success stories pertaining to mobile payments, adding NFC to the mix was the next obvious step.

To set the context, let’s look at a few facts. As per the GSMA’s The Mobile Economy-Africa 2016 report, the continent accounts for 52 per cent of the 271 live mobile money services launched in 93 countries and 64 per cent of all active mobile money accounts. Mobile money is, needless to say, big.

Here’s the catch though. A majority of such transactions are executed via a USSD code, which isn’t a short process, to say the least. The lesson here is simple: for any payments technology to catch on in Africa, it ought to ideally leverage the popularity of mobile money, while offering the customer a convenient and easy payment option.

Enter NFC. While it is true that NFC hasn’t exactly taken the African payments space by storm, it wouldn’t be fair to merely dismiss it, either.

To this end, telecom operators in the region are currently customizing the technology to suit the African customer. Take, for instance, Airtel Money, Tanzania’s Tap Tap NFC Merchant Payment service. The service was launched in Tanzania in 2015 and was Africa’s first closed-loop payments service. It is, essentially, a one-stop shop that leverages NFC technology to simplify mobile money merchant payments.

 And now, the term “merchant” is further narrowed down to small-and-medium players (local grocery sellers), on-the-go entities (taxi services), roadside vendors and home-delivery specialists who previously didn’t accept digital payments.

Tap Tap equips merchants with an affordable and portable NFC point-of-sale (POS), a mini-calculator sized GSM device, which is linked to a merchant’s Airtel money account. It also provides consumers with an NFC card linked to their Airtel Money account. The merchant selects a payment option and enters the amount in the NFC POS. Meanwhile, the customer simply taps his NFC card on the POS to pay.

Interestingly, Tap Tap is one of the most economical NFC POS and card combinations globally. The affordable, portable and easy-to-use POS primarily ensures that Tap Tap is used by various businesses including large retailers (supermarkets), small and medium sized merchants (local grocery sellers), home delivery businesses (pizza delivery) and on-the-go merchants (taxi drivers). In doing so, Tap Tap digitises micro-payments and brings them into the formal economy.

It also resolves various challenges such as long, drawn-out transaction times (from a minute to a mere ten seconds), previously unaffordable payment methods and arguably the most important issue, small change, as it offers a convenient payment method.

An increasing number of African vendors are using the Tap Tap NFC Merchant Payment service.

Now, let’s move on to open loop NFC payments, which facilitate transactions at all merchants supporting POS’ verified by MasterCard/Visa. An interesting example of this is the EcoCash Express Debit Card or the Tap-and-Go card. It is a MasterCard companion card, which can be used by a whopping 30 million merchants, both within Zimbabwe and globally.

Customers are required to merely tap the card against the MasterCard licensed POS machine, after which the payment is recognised. For transactions valued under $5 and up to a daily limit of $100, a cardholder no longer has to enter a PIN number on a POS terminal. And speaking of transaction values, customers can purchase goods for as little as 10 cents using the card and the Tap and Pay service. Another instance of the convenience I mentioned earlier.

In fact, the Airtel Money Tap Tap and EcoCash Express Debit Card aren’t one-off instances. Other mobile money providers operating in the region have thrown their hats into the ring as well.

Last but certainly not the least, let’s talk about who stands to benefit from using such facilities. In a nutshell, it is a win-win proposition for two factions – mobile money users (to make payments) and merchants (who accept the payments). And now, the term “merchant” is further narrowed down to small-and-medium players (local grocery sellers), on-the-go entities (taxi services), roadside vendors and home-delivery specialists who previously didn’t accept digital payments.

 Now, at this juncture, it becomes prudent to mention that NFC payments aren’t meant to simplify the lives of merchants alone. These payment instruments can in fact be deployed in multiple ways – at vending machines, to pay for transport services and at various events and amusement parks, the list goes on and on.

An interesting use-case in this context is Orange, which intends to deploy NFC-enabled stickers and POS devices for cash-in and cash-out in multiple African countries.

There is little doubt that NFC payments have piqued the interest of the African consumer. Before we get too optimistic however, we need to remember that a convenient payment method can get you only so far. Sooner or later, operators will have to throw in frills such as loyalty programmes and offers to keep the customer hooked. For now, though, let’s wait and watch.

December 8, 2016 0 comment
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From times immemorial women have been fighting against various prejudices and repressions in society to get their voice heard and better their lives. In the last century many women have distinguished themselves in science, business, politics and popular arts. Indeed the world would’ve been a much poorer place to live without the contributions of these pioneering women.

While the developed world witnessed major advancements in women’s rights, the third world and underdeveloped countries lagged behind. In the absence of top down implementation of socio-economic policies and initiatives, the women in these countries have to take the lead in society’s transformation and break out of the vicious cycle of gender inequality and poverty.

But lack of access to capital and deeply entrenched socio-economical prejudices have created a barrier to their progress. From a historical point of view, women, especially in developing and third world countries have always found it difficult to access capital vis-à-vis men creating a gender barrier in their socio-economic-political development. This gender financial access gap between developed and underdeveloped countries is apparent from World Bank Global Findex data. Globally, 58 percent of adult women have an account compared to 65 percent men – a 7 percent gender gap in account ownership. In developing countries, the gap widens to 9 percentage points, and in some regions such as South Asia this gap is a huge 18 percentage points1.faoggSource: World Bank Global Findex

It should hardly come as a surprise that the countries with the largest financial access gender gap are also the countries where the socio-economic conditions of women are the worst. Without any recourse to banking or any other mode of financial access, the women fail to exercise any degree of control over family budget. And without any control over household spending, these women are not in a position to take care of themselves or their families.

On the other hand, a child whose mother controls the family budget is 20% more likely to survive – according to an estimate provided by FAO. With more control over the budget, there is more food on the table, more priority on health and education, which all leads to healthier and happier and more prosperous families in the long run. Moreover, with quick and easy access to capital, women can start their own business and thus take full ownership of their destinies and not leaving it to the fickle nature of the government or nature. Thus the single most important thread running through all women’s poverty alleviation as well as socio- economical-political empowerment initiatives is the closing of the financial access gender gap. This not only enables women to take control of their lives but also the lives of their children and families.

In this context, Mobile money has massive potential especially when it comes to closing the financial access gender gap. Already, we are witnessing the financial access gender gap narrowing significantly in countries where mobile money has made inroads into the financial system. For example, in Kenya and Zimbabwe, where mobile money has overtaken formal banking system, financial access gender gap is lower than the regional average. In fact, for EcoCash, Zimbabwe’s largest mobile money service, women constitute 52% of the customer base2. From tailored mobile money services for women and family-oriented marketing to deploying female agents, mobile money providers have played a huge role in creating gender parity. This article shows how the mobile money operators are transforming the lives of women in the developing world.

As per a GSMA Report, achieving gender parity in account ownership can unlock an estimated $20 billion market opportunity for the African mobile industry in the period 2015-2020. Mobile money providers recognize this opportunity and are working to leverage it3.

Mobilizing Savings

Multiple researches have proved that women are better at saving than men. Owing to their penchant for savings and financial management, women are able to bear multiple financial burdens for their family including paying for school fees, food, emergencies, celebrations, births, funerals and much more. However, due to cultural norms, low literacy and restriction on movement, women mostly save at home (and stay away from formal banking). Without access to traditional financial instruments of savings these women invest in low yield investments, like livestock which is prone to diseases and depletion in value. Some cash is always kept handy under the mattress to meet day to day needs, but this only puts them in a great deal of physical danger since crime rates are so high.

In the absence of formal banking infrastructure, a number of traditional savings club have taken deep roots in Sub-Saharan Africa. Savings club is steeped in the rich tradition of informal savings groups in Africa which explains its popularity. It is a popular group savings and lending mechanism with each member contributing regularly to a cash pool that they borrow from on a rotating basis. The pool is patronized by women as it allows them to form groups with other local women or with fellow local church-goers. In a traditional Savings Club, the members deposit cash on a daily/weekly basis in a box with three locks (keys of these locks are with three different members). Due to use of cash, traditional Savings Club have multiple operational challenges related to handling cash, ensuring security, maintain transparency and keeping records.

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Mobile money providers such as EcoCash Zimbabwe, Tigo Chad and Airtel Money Uganda have introduced mobile money-based Savings Clubs to overcome these challenges. Any registered mobile-money customer can set-up and participate in a Saving Club. The group chairman initiates account opening via mobile and invites members to join in. The chairman also selects members (usually three) who approve of funds being withdrawn via multiple SMS sign-offs. All members receive SMS for any activity on group and can also check club’s account balance anytime. To earn interest, the money in Savings Club is moved to a linked bank account using mobile-phone. Mobile savings club thus provides a more secure, transparent, rewarding and convenient experience for women. It empowers them to take decisions that are beneficial for themselves and their families.

EcoCash Savings Club in Zimbabwe is one of the most successful mobile money-based Savings Club with Women constituting 60% of the customer base4. With EcoCash Savings Club the Mbereko Women’s Groups at the Border Church Clinic, in rural Marondera District of Zimbabwe provides access to emergency finances to pregnant women and new mothers. With group savings and access to pooled funds, pregnant women or new mothers now have money to take care of themselves and their babies. Additionally, EcoCash has set up a Green Kiosk booth to help various women’s group to operate EcoCash agency business, providing liquidity to community savers.5

Tigo Cash in Chad has introduced a Savings Club service dubbed Tigo Paare. Sales Women in Chad (involved in importing, transformation and resale of products from Lake Chad) contribute daily to Tigo Paare group account. The collected money is used to fund a member’s shop or project each month6 

Putting health first

There is a stark difference in the health conditions of women across the globe. While in high income countries woman’s life expectancy at birth is 83 years, in low and mid income countries it drops to 72. The situation is worse in Sub-Saharan Africa where life expectancy at birth is just 60 years7. There are a number of reasons for these low numbers such as maternal deaths, poor nutrition amongst girls and high prevalence of HIV amongst females. Maternal death is the primary reason for low life expectancy rate in developing countries. In fact, 99% of all maternal deaths occur in developing countries. More than half of these deaths occur in sub-Saharan Africa and almost one third occur in South Asia8. Lack of funds is one of the prominent reasons for high numbers of female deaths in developing world.

By providing quick and easy access to funds, mobile money can help in improving women’s health in more than one ways. Governments and NGO use mobile money platform to distribute funds directly to the unbanked and the economically backward women which helps in reducing maternal deaths and eradicating malnutrition. Since the money is transferred directly the aid money reaches the intended recipients without any leakages.

Insurance companies are enrolling women for health insurance policies via mobile phones enabling them to pay premium and receive claims via mobile money. Mobile money is also being used by individuals and NGOs to crowd source funds for ailments like cancer which require huge medical expenditure. In Uganda Justine Nyachwo collected funds via mobile money for cancer treatment of her friend Carol Atuhirwe, a Uganda Christian University student9.

Mali has a maternal mortality rate of 587 per 100,000 live births, one of the highest in the world. In order to make pregnancy and delivery safer Orange Money in Mali partnered with the NGO Population Service International (PSI) and NSIA, an insurance company, to launch a linked savings and insurance product targeted at pregnant women. Orange Money users can open a mobile savings account with a minimum initial deposit of XOF 3,000 ( ̴ USD 5). Once the account has been opened users can save money anytime with a minimum deposit of XOF 100 ( ̴ 16 Cents), by moving money from Orange Money account to Savings account via mobile phone. When savings balance reaches XOF 40,000 ( ̴ USD 44), the user automatically gets enrolled for a 12 month life/disability and maternal health insurance. Orange Money pays XOF 100,000 ( ̴ USD 165) for child delivery complications including haemorrhage, eclampsia and dystocia, XOF 50,000 ( ̴ USD 82) for the C-sction and XOF 150,000 ( ̴ USD 260) in case of death or permanent disability. Patients who do not attend prenatal consultations only gets 75% benefit. This encourages women to seek prenatal care. Additional Orange money used female actresses to market this insurance product effectively and relate with women.10

In India, the State Government of Madhya Pradesh, with partner Vodafone M-Pesa, disburses financial aid to mothers, who receive the payment directly on their mobile phone. The beneficiary is informed with an SMS mentioning the amount of the health subsidy, the withdrawal code & procedure, facilitating cash-out at any Vodafone M-Pesa agent. Direct disbursement to the mothers has resulted in reduction of the money being collected by the fathers and therefore never reaching the intended beneficiary in some cases.11

Vodacom Lesotho in collaboration with Lesotho Ministry of Health issues Transport Vouchers to HIV infected women and children using M-Pesa mobile money service. HIV care and treatment is free of cost in Lesotho. By providing funds to the women and children to travel to the clinic the government is eliminating one more barrier in getting cost-effective treatment.12 

Educating the future

“If you educate a woman, you educate a family, if you educate a girl, you educate the future.” – Queen Rania of Jordan.

The female literacy rate in South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa is as low as 57% and 52%. The local governments in these regions are aware that educating females is necessary for creating an egalitarian society. Hence, to enhance female literacy rate, governments have started various initiative like giving stipends and providing mid day meals to girls who attend school13.

Mobile money can catalyze various government initiatives to improve female literacy. Mobile money can be used in disbursing government stipends which is a big motivation for parents to send their daughters to school. NGOs can now disburse funds directly to parent’s mobile money account which allows them to buy school uniform, stationary and books for their daughters. Parents or students can use the platform to pay for school fee, university fee or examination fee without having to travel to the educational institution. Similarly, university students can access lectures and books from international faculty and authors online and pay via mobile money. Students can also crowd source fund for their projects using mobile money. The possibilities are endless.

Telenor Pakistan under the Sindh Education Reform Program (SERP) is disbursing education stipends to female student via EasyPaisa mobile money service. The aim of SERP program is to improve literacy rate amongst girls belonging to BOP families in rural area. The program was started in June 2014 in 23 remote districts of the Sindh province, with 425,000 students receiving stipends.14

Fostering entrepreneurship

The agent network has an important role to play in the mobile money ecosystem. Mostly, it is the men who run the mobile money agent business but operators have slowly recognized the benefit of hiring female agents. Female agents are able to bond with female customers in a better manner which helps to increase the uptake of mobile money amongst female customers. This is an important point of consideration as the operator may operate in a country where social norms may restrain interaction between men and women. With more female agents handling new registrations these concerns are quickly taken care of which helps to increase the female customer base.

Besides increasing the female customer base, the agent business model is fueling the entrepreneurial ambitions of many women in the third world and developing countries. These empowered female agents stand tall in the society as they run independent businesses and earn enough to support themselves as well as their families. In many countries where women are unable to move outside their homes freely due cultural and social norms, mobile money helps them to run a business from their home. Home-based mobile money business helps women to fulfill their financial needs and entrepreneurial goals, while adhering to the cultural norms of the society.

In Somaliland mobile money agents have to take photo of their customers at the time of registration. With a significant Muslim population, most females in the country wear niqāb and do not remove their veil in front of male agents. This hindered uptake of mobile money amongst women. To overcome this barrier Telesom ZAAD hired female staff to register new ZAAD female customers. This proactive step, helped ZAAD to increase number of registered women subscribers from 17% of the customer base in 2009 to 24% in 2010.15

Hafasa Aubi, an Afghan economics graduate is a private mobile money agent in Afghanistan. She operates from home and offers mobile money services such customer registration, cash-in, cash-out, top-up and bill payments to neighbors and local business people. She earns a 7% commission per transaction. Aubi, who is just 23 years, is able to earn enough to fund her higher education as well as support her brothers and sisters. Mobile money has enabled Aubi to run a business independently, while following cultural norms. Aubi is one of the 1500 Afghan women who have taken mobile money agent training.16

hafasa-aubi-doing-a-mobile-money-transactionHafasa Aubi doing a mobile money transaction

Image Source: https://www.usaid.gov/results-data/success-stories/mhawala-golden-business-opportunity-afghan-women

References:

1 http://datatopics.worldbank.org/financialinclusion/indv-characteristics/gender

2 http://cassavaconnect.com/index.php/mobile-money#1461686817194-15bfde88-e87f

3 http://allafrica.com/stories/201607120034.html

4 http://cassavaconnect.com/index.php/mobile-money#1461686817194-15bfde88-e87f

5 https://www.econet.co.zw/media-centre/general-news/ecocash-savings-club-launched

6 http://www.millicom.com/media/millicom-blogs/blog-tigo-paare/

7 http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/SP.DYN.LE00.FE.IN

8 http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs348/en/

9 http://allafrica.com/stories/201604160019.html

10 http://www.gsma.com/mobilefordevelopment/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/Connected-Women-Orange-Mali-Case-Study-FINAL.pdf

11 http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/industry/telecom/vodafone-india-ties-up-with-madhya-pradesh-for-mobile-based-disbursements-under-government-program/articleshow/48269519.cms

12 http://www.itweb.co.za/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=151328

13 http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/SE.ADT.LITR.FE.ZS

14 http://www.gsma.com/mobilefordevelopment/programme/connected-women/unravelling-the-shortlist-for-the-global-mobile-awards-2016-best-mobile-service-for-women-in-emerging-markets

15 http://www.gsma.com/mobilefordevelopment/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/2014_DI_Reaching-half-of-the-market-Women-and-mobile-money.pdf

16 https://www.usaid.gov/results-data/success-stories/mhawala-golden-business-opportunity-afghan-women

November 25, 2016 0 comment
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Over the past few years, the mobile payments industry has certainly made its presence felt on the global stage. As per data released by Statista, in 2011, the number of global mobile payment customers stood at 160.4 million. A mere four years later (in 2015), this number jumped to 384 million.

However, while this growth is impressive, it varies across regions. In 2015, a majority of these customers hailed from the Asia-Pacific region (141.4 million), as per the firm. Meanwhile, a stark contrast was the Middle East, which had 4.7 million to its credit.

Moving on, let’s zoom closer into the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. Sample this-according to a report released by the Arab Financial Services Company, the financial landscape in the region is characterized by variations in financial inclusion. On one hand, over 65 per cent of adults in the GCC region (Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates) have an account at a financial institution. On the other, however, this figure stands at less than 20 per cent in countries like Egypt, Sudan, Iraq and Yemen. Naturally, as a result, the development and uptake of mobile payment solutions in the region has been patchy at best. In fact, there is a wide gap between the kinds of solutions the customers are demanding as well. In this context, the report states that in the less developed countries, particularly North Africa, mobile money solutions have been the main growth vehicle for financial inclusion. Needless to say, the GCC region has a different story to tell. Here, developing mobile payment solutions such as mobile banking, mobile wallet, etc, is the norm.

Now let’s put the GCC region under the microscope. First off, there is little doubt that the business case for mobile payments in this region is strong, to say the least. How? Well, for starters, the average mobile penetration is very high-190 per cent. No mean number, this!

Needless to say, operators and third party providers didn’t let the grass grow under their feet before jumping onto the mobile payments bandwagon. As a result, the space saw a flurry of activity. Several examples can be cited in this regards but, for the sake of remaining crisp and concise, let’s cite a few.

It all started in 2013. Boloro, in collaboration with Zain, launched the GCC region’s first ever mobile payments service on buses in Kuwait. Customers could securely and conveniently pay their fares by simply tapping their mobile phone when boarding the vehicle. In fact, all the bigwig operators in Kuwait and Qatar, Zain, Ooredoo and Viva currently offer this service.

On the other hand, there are entities which have been a bit slow on the uptake. I allude to banks, which have preferred to adopt a “wait-and-watch” stance with regard to mobile payments. In my opinion, banks ought to flex their muscles on this stage. And why not? These players can easily leverage their already-established relationships with merchants, not to mention the treasure trove of customer data they’re sitting on.

So, what’s stopping them? Well, the biggest barrier is the fact that these entities still consider the mobile handset and all applications concerned as a value added service. As a result, non-banking players have ventured far ahead of them in the mobile payments game. Allow me to add my two cents-it is time that these players straighten up and chalk out a strategy to at least finish neck-to-neck with the competition. The first step? Start considering the mobile channel as an integral part of the business!

Of course, these entities must have a war chest in place before meeting the competition head-on. Enter the prepaid wallet. Now, the advantages of the prepaid wallet have been discussed ad nauseam, which is why I won’t wax eloquent on the same. I would like to point out, though, that the most important reason (arguably) why banks ought to take prepaid wallets seriously is two-fold. First, their merchants are empowered and second, this service reduces the high “card not present” rate during a transaction. A prepaid wallet is typically built around a stored value account. Customers can transfer the money from their bank account or card to the prepaid wallet. Since payments are not made directly through cards, the high “card not present” charges do not apply. As a brief side-note, permit me to point out that the very enthusiastic uptake of smartphones in the region can play a crucial role in the uptake of this service. After all, 68 per cent of all handsets in the region belong to this category! So, why shouldn’t such applications flourish?

Now let’s turn our focus to another interesting trend that is rearing its head up in the region. Enabling seamless payments through contactless cards is the new kid on the block. In fact, a few banks have already launched their offerings in this regard. The revolution was sparked off in 2015 by Boubyan Bank, the first entity to launch Tap & Pay credit cards in Kuwait. Later that year, Riyad Bank and NCB (supported by AFS) followed to introduce Saudi Arabia’s first contactless credit card. Also, with mobile payments foraying into the game, expect the contactless card to be replaced by the mobile handset.

Let’s take a quick look at the secret sauce behind mobile-based contactless payments-namely, the technology. Several can be used for this service, for instance, Near Field Communications (NFC), QR Codes and sound-based technologies. Of these, NFC is emerging as the forerunner in this race. The reason is simple-Host Card Emulation (an NFC variant) lets banks launch contactless payments rapidly without changing the existing SIM card and involving a trusted service manager (TSM). Little wonder, then, that NFC is the technology of choice for banks and financial institutions alike.

Adding another dimension to this, banks may consider investing in developing their own HCE platform, as opposed to opting for OEM pays like Apple Pay and Samsung Pay. Here’s why – a bank-owned HCE platform works on any NFC-enabled device, unlike the Apple Pay and Samsung Pay, which function only on the Apple iPhone 6 and the Samsung S6 devices respectively. Moreover, with their own HCE platform, banks will have complete control over the tokenization platform as well as the token lifecycle. Banks will have the ability to monetize the token platform to enhance tokens for other use cases, like token based ATM cash out, P2P using tokens, etc.

Net, net, it is only a question of time before prepaid wallets and contactless payments are in the spotlight in the GCC region. The revolution is well and truly underway. What remains to be seen is the direction it takes, in terms of uptake, technologies and services. After all, the Middle East market is an inherently contradictory one. A customised stance is thus needed to succeed. Remember, there is no “one size fits all” approach to mobile payments!

June 29, 2016 0 comment
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Good governance is about people: of the people, by the people, for the people. With more people armed with mobile and internet, governance also needs to go digital. While digital governance is topping the agenda of many nations, most governments still have a myopic view of it putting only generic information online. If governments truly want to harness the benefit of digital governance they need to focus on how technology can be used to create citizen-centric experience.

A citizen-centric experience is about simplifying people to government interactions by making it digital. Consider applying for a passport. A truly digital process would’ve used digital tools such as the internet and the mobile for the entire process – right from filling required details, providing verification documents, paying service charges to tracking application status. With mobile and internet making deep in-roads into emerging economies, delivering such seamless digital experience is now imminently possible. However, there are few weak links, such as payments. With majority in emerging markets being unbanked and un-carded, digital payments remains a challenge.

Mobile money, which has rapidly risen as a preferred alternative payments medium in emerging economies is the answer. Governments across the world are leveraging the power of mobile money to digitize Person to Government (P2G) and Government to Person (G2P) payments, advancing digital governance agenda, as well as achieving sustainable development goals.

Figure 1 – Mobile Money enabling mGovernance

Person to Government payments (P2G)

Governments are using information communication technologies to improve the quality and efficiency of public sector service delivery. This includes usage of mobile money for P2G payments. According to the GSMA, in 2014, the ability to make payments to the government via mobile money was live in at least 13 markets across Africa, Asia and Latin America1.

Tax payments

Tax payments can be very taxing! Citizens have to fill up long forms, visit their local revenue authority or bank, and stand in long queues for hours on end to pay their taxes. But not anymore! Governments are now moving toward e-filling and mobile payments. Revenue authorities in countries like Kenya, Tanzania, Mauritius, Guyana, Rwanda, Cameroon, Uganda and Philippines enable individuals and businesses to use mobile money to pay income tax, corporate tax, property tax and VAT. With an end to end digital process in place tax payments get sorted in minutes.

In addition to delivering convenience to citizens, mobile based tax payment is helping governments to curb tax avoidance and boost the amount of tax collected. Tanzania and Mauritius revenue authorities have experienced increased in tax collection due to introduction of mobile based tax payments. Digital tax collectioneliminates the need for maintaining and storing physical documentsand allows government officials to keep and track records electronically.

Figure 2 – Mobile payment's impact on tax collection

Government of Kenya is planning to sell government bonds via mobile. The platform known as M-Akiba will be delivered through all the major mobile money services, offering bonds worth Ksh 5 billion (nearly US$47 million) to over 32 million citizens. Today, 98% of government bonds are purchased by institutional investors and only 2% by individual investors2. By using mobile retail channels, the government hopes to reach more individual investors increasing their participation in government bond issuance. Citizens will not only be able to purchase bond via mobile money, but also receive the principle amount and interest in their mobile money account on maturity of bonds.

Payments for government services

In emerging economies, the private sector is either too weak or there’s a monopoly in the market leading to citizen exploitation. To accelerate economic growth and benefit the entire population, governments have set up public sector entities and institutions to provide basic amenities like electricity, water and sanitation amongst others. Citizens pay a charge to access these services, which in most cases is through cash or cheques. However, paper-based payments come with considerable costs. Besides financial costs related to printing, security, postage and clearing & handling of cash, there’s non-financial costs to consider such as growth of shadow economy as well as various environmental and security risks. The burden of cash usage on society is as significant as 1.5% of the GDP3. Moreover, due to limited collection points, usually there are long queues for payments inconveniencing citizens and creating chaos.

These challenges can be overcome by using digital payments. In many emerging economies, mobile money is finding new use cases everyday: paying bills for utilities; buying tickets for public transportation; paying fees for schools and universities; paying for medical treatments and premiums for insurance. Mobile money brings cost benefits and savings for both citizens and government entities. Citizens save time and cost of travelling to payments points whereas public sector entities are able to reduce costs of paper invoicing besides curbing the menace of shadow transactions as well as reducing carbon footprint by eliminating paper receipts. Some successful examples of G2P payments are:

School fee payments in Côte d’Ivoire: The Ministry of National and Technical Education (MENET), in Côte d’Ivoire, made it mandatory for secondary school students to pay their school registration fees digitally via of one of four accredited mobile money providers. In 2014, 99% of the students paid school fees digitally – 94% of which were mobile money transactions and 6% of which were online payments – proving the success of the MENET’s P2G payment strategy. The digitization of school fee payments provided two major benefits. Firstly, itreduced leakage of funds caused by theft, bribery and security issues.Secondly, digital registration of secondary school students allowed MENET toconsolidate its student database and significantly increasing the quality of its information. The database is now more up-to-date, includes a comprehensive list of 1.5 million secondary school students, and has eliminated duplicate entries 4.

Figure 3 – Customer journey of school fees payment via mobile money

eServices portal in Ghana: The Government of Ghana, in December 2014, launched Ghana Electronic Payment Platform (GEPP) facilitating digital payments for government services on its eServices portal. Citizens could pay online or through their banks or mobile money services like Airtel Money for various government services like passports, business registration, tax administration and police search reports. In order to process the mobile money payment the user must choose the mobile money provider on the eservice portal and fill in the relevant details. The payment is deducted from citizens’ mobile money account and confirmation is sent via SMS.

Figure 4 – Electricity bill payments via mobile money in Cameroon

Government to Person payments (G2P)

Now, let us look at the other side of the story – government cash disbursements. Government gives financial aid to citizens in the form of cash, subsidies, distress payments and salaries. Governments globally are adopting mobile money to make cash disbursements frictionless.

Cash aid and subsidies

The government provides financial aid to the poor directly in the form of cash as well as indirectly through various cash subsidies on items like fuel, cooking gas, water and electricity. Most cash assistance schemes are hindered by long cash disbursement cycles, presence of middle men, large number of unbanked beneficiaries and inability to directly reach the beneficiary. With widespread mobile reach, mobile money is the quickest and the most cost-effective option to disburse cash to beneficiaries.

Cash aid and subsidies

In India, the Government of Madhya Pradesh, with partner Vodafone M-Pesa, disburses financial aid to mothers, who receive the payment directly on their mobile phone. The beneficiary is informed with an SMS mentioning the amount of the subsidy, the withdrawal code & procedure, facilitating cash-out at any Vodafone M-Pesa agent. Direct disbursement to the mothers has resulted in reduction of the money being collected by the fathers and therefore never reaching the intended beneficiary in some cases.

Mobile money based cash disbursement is most useful in emergencies such as earthquake and floods. For example in Pakistan in 2014, the government partnered with mobile operator Mobilink to disburse funds to flood victims. The use of Mobilink’s mobile money service Mobicash ensured that fund disbursement is swift and transparent. Beneficiaries were able to cash-out flood relief funds from designated campsites located across the flood hit areas. The team deployed at the locations used Bio-metric Verification System (BVS) to maintain transparency and ensure that the funds reached the intended person.

Not only government, but NGOs are also partnering with mobile operators for financial aid disbursement. Monetary aid is a better option compared to in-kind aid (such as food bags) as the affected families can use the money as per their choice and individual needs.

Figure 6 – NGOs disbursing cash aid via mobile moneyAirtelPayments

Salary payments

In many developing countries, the government and public sector are the largest employers. Paying salary and pension to serving as well as retired personnel in far flung areas can be very challenging. Irrespective of whether a person is banked or unbanked, permanent or contractual, mobile money provide a robust channel to transfer salaries directly. The solution offers convenience specifically to the old age pensioners, as they can cash-out their salary at nearest mobile money agent and do not need to travel to bank or government offices to fetch salary.

Mobile money salary payments eliminate the role of the middlemen reducing corruption. A good example is the Afghan National Police which uses Roshan’s M-Paisa to pay staff located in remote areas ensuring full and timely payment of salaries. The previous cash based salary system was marred by corruption with senior officials pocketing salary disbursements with such impunity that many junior policemen were not even aware of their real salary. With M-Paisa these policemen received their salary in full and on time leading to surprises all around. In fact, in some cases, the hike was as much as 30%, preventing defections of policemen to the Taliban who were paying higher salaries5. The use of M-Paisa helped to uncover ghost police officers, constituting 10% of the workforce, whose salaries were pocketed by others. In Democratic republic of Congo more than 66,000 civil servants, including the military, the police force, and pensioners receive payments via Airtel Money6.

The road ahead

There are several successful examples of G2P or P2G digital payment transactions, some of which I have mentioned above. However, another truth is that most governments have just focused on digitizing only one or two initiative. The true vision of digital governance can only be realized if there is a comprehensive strategy to digitize every use case scenario where the people and the government transact – whether it is a G2P or a P2G payment. The importance of user experience cannot be understated. Instead of providing a different user interface for every service, there should be a single portal/app for handling all government transactions. Whether it is paying electricity bill, purchasing train ticket, paying tax or receiving subsidy – every payment should be on a single portal, providing a seamless user experience, leading to higher adoption of digital transactions. Governments should also collaborate with all the digital payment players in the market without any bias to ensure that the digital payment initiative has a wider reach.

1 http://www.gsma.com/mobilefordevelopment/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/2015_GSMA_Paying-school-fees-with-mobile-money-in-Cote-dIvoire.pdf

http://www.busiweek.com/index1.php?Ctp=2&pI=4248&pLv=3&srI=69&spI=221

http://www.mastercardadvisors.com/cashlessjourney/MasterCard_Advisors_Global_Journey_From_Cash_To_Cashless.pdf

4 http://www.gsma.com/mobilefordevelopment/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/2015_GSMA_Paying-school-fees-with-mobile-money-in-Cote-dIvoire.pdf

5 http://foreignpolicy.com/2015/08/12/afghanistan-calling/

6http://africa.airtel.com/wps/wcm/connect/africarevamp/africa/home/media/press-releases/airtelmoney

About the author – Mohit Bhargava has over eight years of work experience in product marketing and research in the telecom domain. At Mahindra Comviva, he is serving as Manager in product marketing for the mobile financial solutions portfolio. His areas of function primarily include evangelizing Mahindra Comviva’s mobile financial products and their impact on transforming the financial landscape globally.

April 26, 2016 0 comment
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The cashless societies – where every transaction is performed digitally- are being envisioned for decades. But hardly there’s been a country that has made it a reality.  But a few of them are of course getting close to it. First, Kenya was in talks for the major uptake of mobile payments and now Sweden has become a forerunner.

Revolutionizing the banking system

Fast cash has almost disappeared in Sweden. The Swedish people have limited the use of cash to only a small portion of their day to day activities and that too is decreasing at a lightning speed. While 6 years back, 106 billion Swedish crowns were in circulation in the country’s wallet and cash registers; presently just 80 Billion Swedish crowns are in circulation. And even out of that, merely 40 to 60 percent is actually in circulation regularly.

Even if one walks through the second city of Sweden, Gothenburg, it is almost impossible to first a single shop that does not accept card payments. The locals have made it a habit to carry no coins or notes in their pockets. They use mobile money apps that enable fast, simple payments and money transfers on mobile devices.  The mobile payments apps allow real-time transactions to take place, enabling users to transfer money directly from their bank account to the any other person having a bank account, wherever they are. This has revolutionized the local banking system.

The initiatives that Sweden took to eliminate Money Laundering

A couple of factors perform as major contributors towards the rapid shift of Sweden towards electronic-only money transactions. Not only have the various businesses done away with the minimum spent rule when talked about the card transactions but also there has been a huge uptake of mobile wallets and mobile payments apps. As of the past 4 years, payments for every 4 out of 5 purchases in Sweden have been made electronically.

The Banks in Sweden are also going down the cashless path. Several bank branches in the country have almost stopped accepting cash. As per the regulation jotted down targeting money laundering and terrorist financing, at the offices, which do handle cash, the customers must explain the cash source. And, thus, any suspicious cash transaction is immediately reported to the police.

The challenges for a cashless society  

The Swedes are used to embracing new technologies. Their shift towards cashless and the replacement of physical wallets by the digital ones is definitely a good move and now it’s unstoppable. The strict guidelines about cash use have also pushed forward the uptake of mobile payments.

While Sweden is quite closer to cashless-ness than any other country on Earth; there are some concerns regarding those left behind by the transition. The homeless people, the elderly or the immigrants have great chances of struggle accessing the country specific digital payment services through mobile devices or even computers. Also, we do have a question, “Is it necessary to tool a thumb rule- Something is wrong if you pay in cash- for achieving a cashless society or for the growth of mobile wallets?”

December 9, 2015 0 comment
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