KINGSTON, JAMAICA - Jamaica's Minister of Finance & the Public Service, the Hon. Audley Shaw, says the introduction of mobile banking in Jamaica should improve access to financial services by those who are currently underserved.
Jamaica has a very high cellular phone concentration, with more registered subscribers than the total population of the island, according to data from the Office of Utilities Regulation. The Minister pointed out that at the same time a significant portion of the population did not have adequate access to financial services.
“The primary goal is to increase the delivery of financial services for the un-banked segment of the Jamaican economy,” Minister Shaw said. He was addressing the Mobile Financial Services Conference in Kingston.
The conference was a forum for local and overseas mobile banking experts to hold discussions with key local stakeholders and potential partners. It was also aimed at preparing an implementation strategy to develop commerce through the use of mobile devices.
“One of the opportunities in which I am extremely interested, is the possibility of being able to utilize the mobile channel to deliver payments for the PATH Programme, and Pension Fund to beneficiaries of these programmes,” Mr. Shaw told the conference participants. He said that mobile banking should not be used only to provide another convenient for “persons who already have bank accounts.”
The technology also holds the promise of providing significant cost economies in the delivery of financial services at all levels and will therefore contribute to improving the cost structures and competitiveness of local financial service providers, said Joseph Matalon, President of the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica. He added that its introduction would support the imperative of expanding the availability of financial services to the micro, small and medium size segment of the private sector.
The conference was conducted by Solutions for Society, a Think Tank in the Tropical Medicine Research Institute (TMRI) and the Mona School of Business (MSB), University of the West Indies (UWI), in association with USAID Jamaica and the Inter-American Development Bank (IADB). It was spearheaded by Professor Terrence Forrester, of the TMRI; along with
Professor Evan Duggan and Dr. Maurice McNaughton of the MSB.
Carl Rosenquist, a Chartered Information Technology Professional with the British Computer Society discussed the advantages of alternative models for mobile financial services platforms that can be implemented. Mr. Rosenquist pointed out that in an appropriately structured mobile commerce system, “The money in your phone is safer than cash.”
With the current structure of the financial system, the largest group is outside of the system, given the relatively small percentage of the population operating bank accounts, said Dr. Dawn Elliott, of the Department of Economics of Texas Christian University. She pointed out however, that a successful effort to incorporate this group into the system through Mobile financial services, “is a collaborative programme.”
“Mobile Financial services are a relatively new and developing initiative,” Minister Shaw stated. He said, “The Government is carefully studying the various models with the kind assistance of our multilateral partners with a view to assessing the benefits and risks and developing the appropriate policy framework for the introduction of such a regime.”
Key stakeholders, including the major Jamaican financial institutions and telecommunications firms participated in the conference. Other key participants included the Ministry of Finance, the Bank of Jamaica, the Development Bank of Jamaica, the Planning Institute of Jamaica (PIOJ), the Office of Utilities Regulation and the Financial Services Commission.