Digicel is set to be the first to bring a mobile money service to the Caribbean when it launches a pilot project in earthquake-ravaged Haiti come October.
A release from the mobile giant states the project will be done in collaboration with a large non-governmental organisation, which runs acash-for-work programme and operates a major bank in the French-speaking nation.
Antonia Graham, the group’s head of public relations, was not willing to say more than what was mentioned in the press release, saying that it was a pilot project.
Quizzed as to why Haiti was selected, Graham referred to the release which quoted USAID data as saying that only 10 per cent of the total population of that country utilised the commercial banking facilities prior to the devastating earthquake some nine months ago.
“The mobile money concept is guaranteed to take off in Haiti where mobile penetration stands at over 35 per cent – up from a low five per cent before Digicel’s launch in 2006,” the release said.
“The ability to send, receive, and store money using their mobile phones has the potential to dramatically improve the lives of the Haitian people.
“By leapfrogging more conventionalbankingmodels to immediately be able to access safer, more affordable alternatives, this product will reduce the risks and costs of financial transactions, help increase savings, and generate employment.”
The pilot will see hundreds of users taking part in a six-week trial to test cash-in, cash-out, airtime top-up and person-to-person transfer services. The Irish firm and its banking partner have also been working with the Haitian central bank on the regulatory aspect of the project.
The feature has gained popularity in a number of African countries, with some four mobile firms offering the service in Tanzania.
“As Haiti’s largest mobile provider and single largest privateinvestor, Digicel is uniquely positioned to roll out mobile money services,” Maarten Boute, Digicel Haiti CEO stated.
“Mobile money services offer a secure and convenient way of transferring and handling money. We have already seen their amazing impact in places like Kenya where, according to a study by Edinburgh University, after just three years, 40 per cent of the adult population now uses them and have seen theirincomesrise between five and 30 per cent as a result.”
Just days ago, India’s top mobile company, Bharti Airtel, received its licence from the Reserve Bank of India to launch the service in that country.
The so-called “semi-closed wallet” allows the user to exchange physical cash for virtual money, which can be stored on mobile phones to pay for goods or services.
Some mobile money services are Airtime Reseller, Mobile Money Transfer, Roaming Recharge, and Mobile Wallet.
Two months ago, Digicel launched the service in Fiji, one of its 32 markets in the Caribbean, CentralAmerica, and the Pacific.