In our work on interoperability, we find that there are some questions that we are unable to adequately address at the platform and agent levels alone. For instance, the opening of USSD gateways by mobile operators may allow customers of one operator to access services of another operator without either platform interconnection or agent sharing.
This is the third post in our series on interoperability and related issues in branchless banking and mobile money. Read the first post that presented the overall framework for the discussion and the second post that looked at the interconnection of mobile money platforms. Today, we discuss interoperability at the agent level as it relates to agent exclusivity. We include agent exclusivity in the topic of interoperability because it raises many of the same issues as platform interoperability.
Over the past week, the world has been commemorating the 2nd anniversary of the Haiti earthquake. Today and tomorrow we will have two guest blog posts on the mobile money sector that has emerged over the last two years in Haiti. Today’s post is written by two colleagues at USAID.
Platform-level interconnection is what most people have in mind when they think of interoperability in branchless banking. When we speak of interoperable platforms, we are referring to platforms that permit the transfer of funds from one mobile account to the mobile account of another service provider.
A LiFi world is therefore one in which every person has an electronic store of value which they can easily use to make and receive payments in real time. Just like in places with reliable on-grid electricity, we can turn on a light on-demand, knowing that it will work and that the cost of flicking the switch will be small in relation to the benefits.
At the end of the day, we suspect interoperable systems will accelerate financial inclusion by allowing customers to use the infrastructure of multiple service providers to access their accounts. The question is how best do we get there?
One of the exciting and yet challenging aspects of the branchless banking industry is how fast things change. Topics discussed just 3 months ago can seem out of date today. That’s why it’s fun to look back over the topics we blogged about in 2011 starting from last January to see how the discussion has evolved over the last 12 months.
Our discussions on branchless banking on this blog do not often touch on the role of microfinance institutions (MFIs). The main actors in this space seem to be mobile network operators, commercial banks, larger microfinance banks and technology companies. We have done a bit of thinking on microfinance and mobile banking, notably in this Focus Note and at this Virtual Conference.