“The arrival of mass-market smartphones with touchscreens, full internet browsers and an array of feature-rich apps, is a game changer that profoundly impacts the way in which people and businesses buy and sell”

Exclusive interview with Sadiq Malik, Principal Consultant, Broadband Gurus Network.  Sadiq will be the moderator of the CONTACTLESS DEBATE at the upcoming Mobile Money & Digital Payments Africa in Johannesburg in May.

1)    What particular developments in the mobile money and digital payments sector are you most excited about at the moment?
For me it will be about two technologies that will define the Mobile Payment future. The point is both technologies enable mobile payments. The question is which one or both will become the most ubiquitous!!

NFC is a contactless radio technology that can transmit data between two devices within four centimetres of each other. Some plastic debit and credit cards now contain NFC chips, enabling people to pay for items by simply tapping the card against an NFC terminal. Mobile phones are also being equipped with NFC capabilities, enabling consumers to use the technology to interact with readers to access information, validate tickets, redeem vouchers, collect loyalty points, make in-store payments and use many other commercial services.

Although bearing the Bluetooth name Bluetooth low energy (BLE}, is a completely new specification, designed to enable very low-power devices which can run for months or even years off small batteries such as coin cells. BLE is an exciting new enabling technology that has the ability to affect many aspects of the retail customer experience. BLE beacons ( dongles ) in a retail store create a miniature wireless network which allows clients with blue tooth smartphones to connect and transact.

2)    What in your opinion are the next steps in driving true interoperability?
Achieving scale through mobile payment infrastructure development requires substantial investment and collaboration on interface standards and interoperable functionalities. This difference between standardization and fragmentation drives an increasing delta in the usage of technology-enabled mWallets for consumer retail transactions. The value of standardization is centered on the ability to create a more substantial and mature ecosystem, wherein the number of contactless enabled handsets and baseline usage across a range of use cases is higher than in a fragmented scenario.

3)  What do you see as the main challenges for this industry?
Making mobile payment infrastructure available to consumers is not enough. To attract more frequent and valuable customers in the long run and obtain valuable information about their location and purchase history, merchants should also incentivise consumers through rewards or other value-added tools to encourage wider adoption. To achieve widespread adoption, consumers must be educated that mobile payments are generally more secure and more convenient than other payment options. Increasing infrastructure and handset penetration is critical to driving consumer demand and ensuring a virtuous circle centered on product utility, consumer benefit, and financial value to commercial entities.

4)   What is your vision for the industry?
Mobile payments themselves are not the end-game. Instead, mobile payments are really part of a wider digital commerce ecosystem in which data plays the central role. To really gain traction in digital commerce, we need to explore the synergies that can be gained when retailers, telcos, banks and other stakeholders come together to form an ecosystem that can truly benefit the consumer. I envision a cashless society where universal financial inclusion backboned on mobile devices + payment platform has a multiplier effect on GDP growth.

5)  What surprises you about this industry?
The growth of this industry pioneered in Africa has taken the world by shock ( to put it mildly). The arrival of BLE and its domination by Apple has caught many operators sleeping at the wheel. The snail pace of Mobile operators to implement Carrier billing to get a slice of the digital commerce pie is disappointing. The fact that On line payment companies like Paypal have also entered the fray on the back of BLE which will disrupt the mobile payment value chain.

6)      What are you most looking forward to at MM & Digital Payments Africa?
To network and learn.

7)   Anything you would like to add?
The arrival of mass-market smartphones with touchscreens, full internet browsers and an array of feature-rich apps, is a game changer that profoundly impacts the way in which people and businesses buy and sell. Mobile operators have a significant opportunity to benefit from a surge in the value of mobile content and applications being downloaded and used by their subscribers. The key to realising this opportunity is to replicate the compelling advantages of successful mobile content / applications, billing and payment ecosystems.

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