The Mobile Revolution

By Catherine Wines Director & Co-Founder, WorldRemit

When launching WorldRemit, we disrupted the offline-dominated remittance industry by bringing it online. Today, we’re the first online money transfer firm to focus heavily on mobile-to-mobile remittances. In 2010, when we first launched, most firms primarily operated via a website, but the increased availability of smartphones and improvements in technology has spurred consumer interest in app-based products. Many new payments companies and challenger banks now operate solely on apps, which enhances security and streamlines the onboarding process. Mobile technology has had a significant impact in emerging economies, a key area of focus for WorldRemit.

In 2007, when M-PESA, the world’s first mobile money product, was launched in Kenya, the lives of millions were changed as they were suddenly able to make payments using their phones. Prior to that moment, most Kenyans did not have access to formal financial services. The introduction of M-PESA enabled them to make small payments to each other and establish small businesses. The availability of digital finance services has also enhanced privacy, convenience, and security for women, who have traditionally been disproportionately excluded from the formal financial system. A study on the impact of M-PESA on poverty and gender reveals that providing a safe and accessible platform to manage transactions and accounts has lifted 2% of Kenyan households out of poverty and increased women’s financial resilience. Research also suggests that when women have more financial autonomy, spending in the home tends to be reprioritized, such as in the interest of children, and can also boost labour force participation among women.

Although the majority of mobile wallet transactions are still done on basic phones, smartphone usage has doubled across Africa in the last four years. Smartphones open up the door to new and fascinating applications of technology. In Tanzania, for example, where most people previously were unable to identify their location due to a lack of formal address system, those with smartphones can now create an address using the app What3words.  The app records GPS coordinates to nine square meters and simplifies these coordinates into a three-word shorthand.  If people are in urgent need of assistance, authorities and NGOs can now easily identify their location. They can register with a doctor, schools can identify where students live, and people can get anything delivered because there is now a method to easily reference location.

Mobile technology has changed the way we live on a daily basis, from ordering food or a taxi to giving wider audience access to basic services that were previously out of reach.  We’re only just beginning to see the impact of this ‘technology revolution’.

Catherine Wines will be speaking in our ‘Innovation at the Heart of FinTech’ panel for the 2019 Innovate Finance Global Summit. Want more details? Check out the full agenda here.