Mobile banking applications becoming popular
Twenty years ago European banks offered the world’s first mobile banking services to their customers called SMS banking, which gradually revolutionized banking services as smart phones came onto the market.
The arrival of Irish-owned telecommunications company Digicel in the Pacific Islands in 2006 – and its offering of mobile phone-based banking applications, in partnership with local banks and financial service institutions as it expanded its services in the region – enabled Pacific Islanders including Samoans to have banking access at their fingertips.
Last October the National Bank of Samoa and Digicel went into a partnership, where NBS-product EziBank™ combined with Digicel Mobile Money to offer a mobile money platform to their customers.
Co-funded through a grant from the United Nation’s Pacific Financial Inclusion Programme (PFIP), the product allows customers to check their bank account balance, save their remittances received via Digicel Mobile Money into their NBS bank account, make deposits and withdrawals between their Digicel and NBS accounts.
The PFIP Samoa-based financial inclusion coordinator, Iris Kissiti, said: “With a mobile penetration rate of 78 per cent of the population, using digital financial services is the most appropriate channel to reach Samoa’s unbanked, especially those in the rural areas”.
Last week Samoa’s second telecommunications company, Bluesky entered the fray, and launched their application called M-Tala. Bluesky Chief Executive Officer Toleafoa Douglas Creevey revealing that their product has the approval of the Central Bank of Samoa and is in full regulatory compliance.
“Bluesky’s M-Tala service is here to provide the convenience of making everyday bill payments, money transfers between mobile numbers.
“Gradually it will expand to ensure you can pay your utility (water, electricity, etc) bills from your mobile, without the need of travelling far distances, or to wait in long queues. And provide a payment portal for local businesses, who can register their businesses to sell their products and receive payments using mobile phones very conveniently, from within the comfort of their own homes,” he said.
And added that: ““M-Tala aims to increase the accessibility of financial services efficiently and most importantly securely across the entire of Samoa, all from your Bluesky mobile phone.”
Registration for both mobile banking services is free and requires you to register with a valid picture I.D. at any of their authorized agents, with financial security guaranteed as they encourage users to choose their own activation key number or pin numbers.
Both mobile banking services are not limited to the use of smart phones as accounts may be accessed through a USSD mode: Digicel EziBank can be accessed through *888# while Bluesky M-Tala can be accessed through *175#, no need for internet connection.
It is important to note with both Digicel/NBS EziBank and Bluesky M-Tala, while the money is sitting in the user’s mobile wallet, user is able to spend it by sending themselves credit, sending someone else credit or pay off their postpaid phone bill.
Both are enabling platforms encouraging financial inclusion, but while one encourages saving currency that is received as remittances through Digicel Mobile Money, the other (M-Tala) is cash converted into mobile currency made available at the palm of your hand which makes spending or even selling a whole lot easier.