Forty-two years down the lane Mr Cooper never imagined that the device he invented for calls would go on to become the most ubiquitous device from the 20th and the 21st century.
When mobile phones were invented, their core functions were to make and receive calls, then messages were exchanged, followed by the exchange of pictures and videos. But today, mobile phones do more than that.
The invention has now become an integral part of human daily routines. Apart from developing into calendars, reminders and storage devices, mobile phones are now serving as identification devices in some countries and used in undertaking banking transactions.
Today due to the sophistication of mobile phones, some banks fear the threat of telecom companies taking over their core functions.
Thanks to technology and the mobile phones, the number of people who are increasingly getting into the banking system and reducing the amount of cash carried around is drastically reducing by the day across the globe.
Mr Olufemi Muraino, Country Director of Global Solutions Limited, an ICT and infrastructure services provider told Ghana News Agency that Ghana is progressing very well when it comes to banking on mobile phones but insists that a lot more needs to be done.
Currently, a bank would require a passport, driver’s license, national ID and or voters ID to process any transaction, but according to him, the banks should rather be liaising with the telecom companies so that the banks could validate mobile numbers and use these numbers as identities since the mobile numbers are pre-registered with valid identification document.
Sounding very optimistic and backed by statistics, Mr Muraino sees a time where the mobile phone would be used as a tool for virtually everything on the continent including identity.
“We will get to a point where the mobile device will be used in payments, not just through mobile money, but through the technology of infrared, where you can swipe the mobile device against an infrared enabled POS and then you receive your receipt, either through text or paper.”
Citing a personal example, Mr Muraino said in the last year or two, the only time he went to the bank was when he needed a statement.
“I virtually do all my transactions online or through mobile. I pay fees, utility bills and transfer funds from my home or office,” he said.
Through mobile phones, transfers could be made from account to account without seeing people going all the way to the bank to deposit money or make payments.
“The era of brick and mortar is fading away very fast. Now, banking halls are increasingly looking empty because of the mobile and Internet platforms. There will definitely be use of cash for minimal level of cash transactions but a lot of transactions will be done on our mobile devices.”
In the UK, 71 per cent of people prefer using credit cards to cash and half of the people polled said they would rather swipe their credit card than walk more than 100m to an ATM.
A quarter of Britons refuse to buy from businesses that are unable to process card transactions.
In Sweden, a MasterCard study showed that only three per cent of transactions involve cash. In fact, many Swedish banks no longer handle cash.
In South Africa, there is a shift to a cashless society too. The message is clear: the future of banking is digital and the future has already arrived.
A new report, the 2014 Global Findex, released recently, stated that from 2011 and 2014, 700 million people became account holders at banks, other financial institutions or mobile money service providers, and the number of “unbanked” individuals dropped 20 per cent to two billion adults.
He adds that mobile phone manufacturers are becoming more innovative with the security features of the phones.
“People can now block their phones when they are stolen and render the stolen phone useless. So now transactions can be done on a secured and trusted platform such as the mobile phone. So making payments, deposits and other banking transactions can be done on the mobile phone.”
Mr Muraino wants institutions and government to increase awareness so that people would know exactly the worth of the mobile phone devices in their hands.
“The people in the rural communities, especially, need to be informed and educated on the advantages and benefits of using mobile phone for banking transactions,” he stated.
He called for enabling regulations to support banking on mobile devices and then inform people about how secure and protected the platform is.
“The only problem is that people are scared that their monies will not reach their destination and might get missing in the system. People want to be assured that their monies are protected irrespective of the mode of transfer as long as they have gone through due process.”
Another regulation he is advocating is streamlining the relationship between the telcos and the financial institutions.
There is a silent war between the telcos and banks for the right of ownership for the mobile payment space and if measures are not taken to find a common ground for this emerging ecosystem, things could get intense.
There are successful partnerships between mobile operators and financial institutions in various countries, and they all point to one thing; there is room for both banks and telecoms in the mobile payment ecosystem.
“What the two institutions can do is leverage on each other’s strengths and work together to make banking easier for the general populace,” Mr Muraino noted.
The Global Findex database, the world’s most comprehensive database on financial inclusion, provides in-depth data on how individuals save, borrow, make payments, and manage risks. Collected in partnership with the Gallup World Poll and funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Global Findex is based on interviews with about 150,000 adults in over 140 countries.
From 2011- 2014, the percentage of adults with an account increased from 51 per cent to 62 per cent, a trend driven by a 13 percentage point rise in account ownership in developing countries and the role of technology.
In particular, mobile money accounts in sub-Saharan Africa are helping to rapidly expand and -up access to financial services.
Along with these gains, data also show big opportunities for boosting financial inclusion among women and poor people.
Technology also could spur account usage and transform the way domestic payments are made – a new topic probed in the 2014 Global Findex.
For instance, 355 million adults in developing countries who have accounts report sending or receiving domestic remittances in cash or over the counter, including 35 million in sub-Saharan Africa.
Moreover, 1.3 billion adults with an account in developing countries pay their trash, water, and electric bills in cash, and more than half a billion adults with an account in developing countries pay school fees in cash. Access to digital payments, through a mobile phone or point-of-sales terminal, creates opportunities to provide more convenient and affordable payment options.
In Latin America and the Caribbean, 28 per cent of adults make payments directly from their account using a debit card, as compared to 14 per cent in developing countries on average. Yet big opportunities remain to boost usage: 135 million adults have an account, but pay their utility bills in cash.
In sub-Saharan Africa, mobile technology has the potential to vastly expand financial inclusion. 34 per cent of adults now have an account, an increase from 24 per cent in 2011. 12 per cent of adults in the region, have a mobile money account compared to just two per cent globally.
Kenya leads with mobile money account ownership at 58 per cent, while Tanzania and Uganda have rates of about 35 per cent.
In Cote d’Ivoire, Somalia, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zimbabwe, more adults have a mobile money account than an account at a financial institution.
In Kenya more than half of adults who pay utility bills use a mobile phone to do so. And in Tanzania, almost a quarter of those receiving payments for the sale of agricultural products do so into a mobile account.
Global Solutions Limited currently runs three major service areas: software solutions, power and data centre; and provision of e-payment platforms.
“Appreciable number of financial institutions use the software solutions and we provide them with alternative power sources, including UPS, Automatic Voltage Regulator or stabiliser, cloud services, and complete enterprise solutions.
“We also have various e-payment platforms like ATMs and other services that enhance the portfolio of financial institutions. We are an end-to-end solutions provider to financial institutions and other sectors of the economy.”
Mr Muraino believes with Global Solution’s many e-solutions like the ATMs, mobile banking, e-wallet products and innovative point of sale devices, the company is hoping to revolutionise the country’s IT Industry.
“We are indeed here to make the change needed in the Ghanaian economy,” he declared.
By Iddi Z. Yire