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.
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.
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?
In March 2008, the State Bank of Pakistan introduced some of the first regulations anywhere in the world designed specifically to encourage branchless banking. The regulations allowed a number of different business models and permitted agents to deliver financial services on behalf of banks.
South Africa has often been used as a case study by those with an interest in financial inclusion. The country has an advanced banking infrastructure with nearly 10,000 ATMs and over 100,000 POS devices deployed.
This is the third posting in a mini-series in which we present new evidence from three countries on whether branchless banking is reaching poor people. This post looks at Orange Money in Mali. Previous posts looked at India and Pakistan.
With 6 live branchless banking deployments involving 12 banks, 3 Mobile Network Operators, 2 start-ups and a government entity, the race is on in Ghana to reach the unbanked with branchless banking services.
There was much movement in 2010 at the intersect of technology and access to finance for the poor. CGAP’s new Branchless Banking Database synthesizes a mass of data into a short 12-image “story” about what branchless banking is and the key hurdles we face in 2011. The focus is on mobile phones, but we quickly add that some of the most interesting work is still being done with debit cards and even simpler technologies, such as bar codes.
Branchless banking is best conceived of as the construction of a network utility. In the third of three blog posts we’ve featured this week, Ignacio emphasizes the applications of this utility for poorer customers.
In order for branchless banking to prove to be transformational, it needs to demonstrate not only that it can be scalable (priority #1), but also that it can work for a range of providers and for a range of customer segments – including the poor. These are the two next priorities for branchless banking.