With much of the ground-breaking work, covered first by P@SHA, and then, later Google – both researches validating a turn in Pakistan’s digital era, with 70% penetration secured in cell phone usage – 77%, of which, is devoted to smartphone usage – one can see how corporations from the financial world are stocking up on the global trends; keeping in, of course, with the local changes just as well.
Many financial technologies arrested our interest in ICT throughout the year. Google Wallet – an application allowing its users to store debit card pin numbers, loyalty cards, discount cards etc. into their phones – turned around the whole idea of using smartphone altogether. The idea has been patented under Gaston Schwabacher’s name with the IP number 9500345 and has led to the birth of many such technologies such as Bitcoin and the likes – Litecoin, Namecoin, and Peercoin. These make use of the virtual currency concept, much talked about today.
In the local domain – particularly the Telecom industry – Telenor’s Easy Paisa Initiative, can be seen as the backbone holding together the framework for mobile-to-mobile banking, filling in the void left open to induct the 80% people fringing out of the formal banking channels, shared Irfan Wahab with IDG Pakistan, in an interview recently. Since then, Warid, partnering with Bank Alfalah, has stepped up the game with its Mobile Paisa initiatives. Commenting on ‘Mobile Paisa’, Bank Alfalah Limited’s Head of Branchless Banking Mr. Amaar Naveed Ikhlas said, “Mobile Paisa is aimed at making banking, money transfers and bill payments effortless tasks. In this era of modernization and technical development, it is essential to digitise and, hence, enhance transacting convenience through a secure and swift system.”
Monet, partnered with Fundamo, provides the technology to enable the Telecom service provider to allow branchless banking. Telenor makes use of Fundamo too. Despite the efforts made by P@SHA to encourage online banking, and the agenda laid out by State Bank of Pakistan to induct more people into the formal banking channels, thus making for a booming economy, the branchless banking did not quite take off in the year 2013, only a very small percentage using these services from their phones – confirmed by both P@SHA and Google researchers. Half of the users of smartphones, use Easy Paisa services, 22% exacted by Google.
Thus, in the wake of a sleepy start this year, a technologically appetizing epiphany has certainly been reached upon: smartphones are smart, but exactly how useful are they? MCB stands to be applauded, if nothing else, for shocking us back to life this frozen December. As we all stood back – reminiscing – bidding 2013 farewell, Muslim Commercial Bank (MCB) made us all see why 2014 could only be the year of an altogether much bigger game. The world’s first socially connected Mobile Wallet partnered by the technology partner, VISA, MCB Lite, was introduced with a marketing campaign surrounding the same: “Are you getting the most out of your smart phone?”
The way it works is much like an email address, says so on the bank’s website. One’s wallet, just like an email account, is virtualized and sent floating on the cloud. One digitizes money into the phone, via one’s Telecom Service provider – and once in, can stand to make payments on it for free. It is an email, in that, only those whom you share the email with can find you, and like any piece of technology it would be unfair to be the only ones using it, hence the social connection to the technology. “There is no point in having one if you are the only one with the machine or an email account as there will be no one to send or receive faxes or emails to. In other words, the more acquaintances you have on MCB Lite the greater the benefit in terms of time saved and money saved through just-in-time, free person-to-person mobile initiated payments,” explained Ali Kazmi, MCB Bank Group Head (Retail).
The way the year has started off can only mean one thing: the money is safe in the phone, provided the phone is safe in the pocket.