Thursday, August 22, 2013

Empowering women with Mobile Money. Enough research to support further investments.

This was a blog that I was planning to write for a long time, but every time that I started, I realized that I cannot do justice to this in a simple blog and then stopped. Tonight, I decided to post my incomplete blog-post anyhow. I have come to grips with the fact that one can only scratch the surface of this important topic. While mobile money have made big leaps and bounds in many markets, bringing this service to women has lagged because of specific constraints (like women not always owning phones or lack of education).

The industry have made big gains getting to understand the need and the benefits to women through the work of the GSMA mWomen Programme with support from Visa. Research reports covering these aspects have been released conducted in five key countries Indonesia, Kenya, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea and Tanzania. It is worthwhile to have a look at some of the clips posted where women talk these studies (Video for Indonesia, Kenya, Pakistan and PNG). USAid also performed a study looking at the access that women have to mobile technology in Afghanistan. (Read here). This report is particularly interesting to read. It does not refer to mobile money, but talks about many other aspects ranging from being informed and connected to security and health care benefits.

With Mobile technology women are empowered to entry into the financial mainstream much more easier. They now get access to life-enhancing services such as savings, payments, health-care, education, and entrepreneurship. However, the research show that the gender gap in mobile phone ownership and usage still reduce the access that women have in many countries to these benefits. In order to achieve the full potential of the role mobile technology can play in women’s empowerment globally, it is critical that service providers understand what women need and design products that effectively reach this audience.

Some of the specific findings in Kenya (one of the more mature markets) are that younger women generally valued the ability to use mobile money to send money to their mothers more. (They view their mothers more reliable and likely to save for the good of the household than their fathers.) Married women also appreciated that mobile money provided them the facility to save money separately from their husbands. For some users, convenience is a powerful means of improving their security as it reduces the likelihood of being mugged.

In the case of a country like Tanzania for instance women generally feel that using mobile money improved their lives (either in their personal capacity or in cases where they run small businesses) because of its ease and convenience. In a country where almost three quarters of the population relies on agriculture-related activities for income, people often keep crops such as maize as savings. The process of liquidating these assets when there is an immediate financial need has been improved through mobile money capabilities.

There are three key characteristics to women’s financial management that is of relevance in looking at mobile money: the difference in roles between men and women for managing money, the demands living in rural areas - compared to cities and the general lack of control women often have over their own finances. It is clear that the new capabilities made available through mobile money do and will have an positive impact in the lives of women in emerging markets. 


Thursday, August 08, 2013

Secure element on the phone. The implications of architecture and brand.

In previous posts, I have discussed the implications of placing the secure element in the phone. (Read here and here).I thought that I have said what needed to be said, but having given it some more thought, there are even more things to be said - hence this post.
One should actually think of secure elements as brands. In the old world, we typically know that we can trust a payment-instrument because we can see a brand that we associate with trust/security (like Visa). We can also see that this brand is connected or integrated with the payment instrument. It is difficult to remove the brand from the instrument. As payments become virtual, this is getting difficult. Even if you see the brand, how do you know that it is attached to the payment instrument (secure element). It could easily be some-one making themselves look like the secure element.
Placing the secure element in the phone means that you will have to start trusting the handset-manufacturer's brand for payment. Maybe not a bad thing, you may say, but think of the implications if you would like to claim from Samsung if a fraudulent payment happened. Where would you go, and would they actually want to help you?
At least by placing the element on the phone, the consumer still have something physical to represent the payment instrument (their phone). Just think of the implications when the secure element sits in the cloud... somewhere. Like some of the following examples (Read here and here). But this is probably another post.

Tuesday, August 06, 2013

Better than cash alliance deserve support

The Better than Cash Alliance was founded by a number of Non-Profit Organizations (UNCDF, Ford Foundation, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, to name a few) and a few Companies (Visa and Citibank). The objective of the BtCA is to provide expertise to help with the transformation to digital payments. It is the view of the alliance that all will benefit from this transition (governments, the development community and private companies).

Governments and other parties have been urged to join the alliance. At this stage, the alliance have fourteen members and hope to entice more to join.

At a breakfast hosted by Bill Gates, the benefits of a cash-less economy was discussed (Read here). There was general agreement that numerous benefits can be achieved, but five specific benefits were highlighted. These were (quoted from the article):
  • Transparency: Less corruption and theft when payments can be easily tracked.
  • Security: The money gets where it’s supposed to go.
  • Financial inclusion: Electronic payment is a way for unbanked people to establish a record of on-time payment of their bills.
  • Cost savings: Moving physical cash around is costlier than zipping electrons.
  • Access to new markets: This benefit is mainly for providers of financial services.
The ideals of the alliance is well worth supporting. Let us hope that many organizations become members and that this is not just words, but something that can be put into practice.