Research & Analysis

Building Faster Better: A Guide to Inclusive Instant Payment Systems

This publication is also available in French and Arabic.

Many of the digital payment services available to low-income customers have evolved as closed-loop systems, meaning that they are not interoperable with the services of other providers. This limits customer value – for example, by making it difficult for friends to send money to each other if they use different providers, or by preventing customers from withdrawing funds from agents on other networks. By contrast, interoperable systems make payments more convenient and can encourage competition in financial services by removing barriers to entry for smaller providers. 

However, achieving effective interoperability is a complex process that requires balancing the interests of different stakeholders. This technical guide describes how to build an instant payment system that is interoperable and facilitates the type of small-dollar, mobile payments often used by low-income customers. It details key components of a system — oversight, scheme, switch, and settlement — and explains the basic steps to achieving interoperability. Along the way, it highlights examples of how various countries have approached these challenges. 

This technical guide is intended to serve as a practical resource for those pursuing interoperability in digital financial services, whether policy makers, financial services providers, or other market stakeholders. A complementary CGAP Technical Note, “Interoperability in Digital Financial Services: Emerging Guidance for Funders,”  describes the role funders can play in supporting interoperable payment systems.

Related Resources


This technical note helps funders to understand the concept of interoperability, how instant payments systems can advance financial inclusion, and what funders can do to support their development.