This past October I participated in a 2-day Mobile Money Summit in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea. Why Papua New Guinea? There is growing interest among telecom companies and banks there in mobile financial services. Although the meeting was attended by more than 50 people from around the Pacific, the majority of the participants were from companies doing business in Papua New Guinea.
IFC cosponsored the event, along with the Asian Development Bank, Bank of Papua New Guinea, the Business Council of Papua New Guinea and the Port Moresby Chamber of Commerce and Industry. The topics discussed reflected the variety of participants – an overview of mobile banking, regulatory discussions, and success stories from the region. Bank South Pacific also provided us with a demonstration of a mobile banking service. And I spoke during a session on New Solutions: Engaging with Customers and Creating Compelling Products, where I presented a range of business models and discussed technology options for mobile financial services.
What does all this mean for the citizens of Papua New Guinea? An article in the PNG Post Courier following the conference suggests the possibilities:
…[mobile banking services] will be of immediate value to rural teachers and other public servants to track receipt of salary and make some payments, without needing to dash to provincial capitals (at great expense and, for some, not returning), especially as mobile coverage extends over the next months. With the next generation GPRS mobile phones to be launched this year in PNG by Digicel (and maybe B-Mobile later), more sophisticated financial transactions will be possible, with the phones operating as handheld computers.
To realize these possibilities, though, there is still a lot of heavy lifting to be done. IFC will continue to work with all stakeholders to accelerate the roll-out of m-banking solutions in Papua New Guinea. In February 2009, I’ll be returning to Papua New Guinea to meet with regulators, continue dialogs with m-banking participants, and assess infrastructure requirements. Expect an update here on the PSD blog!