[Dave Birch] I was in a discussion the other day — the circumstances aren’t relevant — when one of the participants (from a regulatory background) suggested that “third world” payment schemes (such as our very favourite mobile payment scheme, Vodafone’s M-PESA) might actually be suitable for places in U.K. where people lack access to conventional financial services. So might Vodafone be prepared to try M-PESA out in a lawless wasteland, where life expectancy is 54 and falling (in Iraq, it’s 67), where 170 gangs roam the mean streets and where a quarter of a million children are living in poverty? No, they’re not ready for Glasgow yet, so they’re going to Kabul…

Afghanistan GSM network operator, Roshan is to launch a mobile payments service, based on Vodafone’s M-PESA service. The service, branded M-Paisa, is a mobile technology platform that provides financial services for those without access to banking and aims to facilitate economic activity in the region.

[From Vodafone Launches Mobile Payments in Afghanistan]

I’m sure this will be the first of many launches. The M-PESA model works, the technology works and the business works, so I’m sure it’s going to go from strength to strength, especially given the size of the potential opportunity.

Mobile transactions carried out by 612 million mobile phone users will generate $587 billion by 2011, according to ‘Mobile Financial Services: Banking & payment markets 2007-2011’, a report released by Juniper Research on 30 January.


This is a colossal market, whichever way you look at it. And a great many of these potential users are people who are excluded from conventional banking and payment networks, so the impact of the mobile is very transformational.

The thinking about the U.K. was that banks and post office branches are steadily being withdrawn in rural areas and it is becoming too expensive to service customers in those areas through conventional networks, so why not use the mobile networks. I have to say that this hadn’t occurred to me before, but thinking about it it may not be a bad idea at all, and I look forward to seeing the first pilot. Would I, as a typical consumer, be happy to hand money over to the Carphone Warehouse for a pre-paid, SMS-accessible account? I don’t see why not: the trust in the brand is the dominant factor, not the fact that it’s not a financial services brand. Customers like convenience of mobile, but there must be proper security, of course, to underpin the brand trust.

Convenience is the most compelling feature of both mobile banking and mobile payment at the point-of-sale. Participants cited the ability to perform banking functions, such as check balances and pay bills, from anywhere without the need of a computer as the major convenience of mobile banking, and the prospect of no longer carrying a wallet as the major convenience of mobile payment at the point-of-sale. Conversely, participants indicated security and fraud were their main concerns regarding these mobile applications, wondering what would happen if their mobile devices were lost or stolen.

[From Consumer Interest in Mobile Commerce Extends Beyond Banking]

Translating trust in the brand into confidence about the technology may require some effort but it doesn’t seem insurmountable. In fact, I would think that the security issue ought to translate into a major positive: after all, if you lose your money staggering home from the pub down a country lane in the middle of the night, it’s gone. But if you lose your phone, the operator knows where it is — and you can’t shut down your debit card 24/7 when you can’t find it.

These opinions are my own (I think) and presented solely in my capacity as an interested member of the general public [posted with ecto]

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