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M-PESA: Progress and Prospects

M-PESA: Progress and Prospects

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Published by: Alexander Ainslie (AAinslie) on Jul 15, 2010
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10/25/2012

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In
Innovations
,less than two years ago,Nick Hughes and Susie Lonie describedhow they conceptualized,piloted and,in 2007 launched,M-PESA,an award-win-ning money transfer technology based on mobile phones.
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Much has happenedsince then.This article looks further into what happened next,focusing on the local con-text and commenting on what the future might hold.I will try to demonstrate thatbesides the simple and innovative product,the characteristics ofthe local mobiletelephony and banking sectors contributed greatly to the successful adoption anddiffusion ofthe money transfer service.This is a good example ofa service whosetime had come and whose implementation occurred in the right context.ABOUT KENYAKenya,considered an economic hub ofEast Africa,lies astride the equator.Tanzania lies to the south and Uganda to the west;to the southeast lies over 3300miles ofIndian Ocean coastline.In 2007,Kenyas population was estimated at36,913,721 and its growth rate at 2.8%.More than a third ofthe population livesin urban areas;Nairobi,the capital,is the largest city,with approximately 3,000,000people.
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Like people in many emerging markets,most Kenyans are not used to makingelectronic payments.At the national level,most transactions are in cash.A survey © 2009 Tonny Omwansa
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Tonny Omwansa
M-PESA:Progress and Prospects
Innovations Case Discussion:
M-PESA
Tonny Kerage Omwansa is a lecturer at the Faculty ofInformation Technology at Strathmore University in Nairobi,Kenya.He holds a BSc.in Computer Science from Nairobi,Kenya and MSc.Computer from Kansas,USA.Besides consultancy in tech-nology issues,he has done extensive research in Mobile Transactions in Africa and published various reports including use ofairtime transfers,mobile banking,virtual currencies as well as regulation ofmobile transactions.His research interests are inmobile transactions,socio-economic impacts oftechnologies in emerging economiesand role oftechnology in regulation.He is enrolled for a PhD pursuing economics of technology with an emphasis on regulation.
 
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established that over 80% ofAfrica’s small tomedium-sized enterprises (SMEs) conduct their transactions using cash.TRENDS IN KENYA’S MOBILE TELECOMMUNICATIONS SECTORUntil 1998,the Kenya Posts and Telecommunications Corporation (KPTC) was amonopoly providing all telecommunication services;it was established after theEast African Community broke up in 1977.In 1998,Kenya’s Parliament enactedthe Kenya Communications Act (KCA 2008) to regulate the communications sec-tor.
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Based on the KCA,five companies were created from the KPTC:
The Postal Corporation ofKenya (PCK),established under the PostalCorporation Act of1998
Telkom Kenya Ltd (Telkom),incorporated in April 1999 under the CompaniesAct of1948
The Communications Commission ofKenya (CCK),an independent regulatorofall communications services in the country 
The National Communications Secretariat (NCS),a communications policy advisory think-tank within the Ministry ofInformation and Communicationsresponsible for communications services
The Appeals Tribunal set up to resolve disputes between operators or betweenCCK and the operators.It has three members:a chair,who should be an expe-rienced advocate at the High Court ofKenya,and two technical experts,onefrom telecommunications and the other in postal services.
Tonny Omwansa
Figure 1
.Growth ofmobile phone and land line users in Kenya.
Sources:
CCK website,June 2008;Safaricom prospectus for 2008
 
 M-PESA: Progress and Prospects
Although the KCA did not allow a monopoly—or even a duopoly—ontelecommunication operations,the government granted Telkom an exclusivelicense for five years up to June 2004,to allow Telkom to adjust to a competitivebusiness environment.Telkom was responsible for all local access,national tele-phone services,Internet backbone networks,and very small aperture terminals(VSATs) as well as all international gateway services.Today,it is still the only national fixed telecommunications services operator.In September 2007,Telkomwas also granted a mobile license and began offering those services using code-division multiple access (CDMA) 2000 technology.Mobile phone services in Kenya have operated as a duopoly with Safaricomand Celtel taking the lead since 2000.The original intention ofthe KCA—to liber-alize telecommunications in Kenya—has largely been met.Growth was tremen-dous:from 17,000 mobile subscribers in 1999 to 11.3 million by December 2007.
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In December 2007,France Telecom acquired 50% ofTelkom Kenya and proceed-ed to launch its Orange brand in Kenya in September 2008.Now called TelkomOrange,it has rolled out and aggressively marketed its mobile services,which runon GSM (global system for mobile communication) technology.In November2008 Econet was launched,bringing to four the total number ofoperators.Figure1 shows how the number ofboth mobile phone and land line users has grown inKenya over five years.THE REGULATORY ENVIRONMENT FOR M-TRANSACTIONS IN KENYAThe growth in the mobile sector was primarily a result ofthe friendly regulatory environment the KCA created in 1998.However,KCA only regulates communica-tions services;it does not address electronic commerce,mobile commerce,ormobile banking.In 2006,the Kenya ICT Policy was published to promote electronic commerceand other electronic services such as mobile banking and mobile transactions.
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Butthe country still lacked a clear framework for electronic transactions,which itneeded to participate effectively in the new internet economy.It needed an appro-priate and comprehensive information bill to address the specific details ofelec-tronic transactions including the critical laws for this sector.Though Kenya’s gov-ernment did publish the Electronic Transactions Bill of2007 to address electroniccommerce issues such as recognition ofelectronic transactions and electronic sig-natures,it has not enacted the Kenya Information and Communications Bill of 2007.
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Many interested parties—including mobile operators,merchants,banks,entrepreneurs and consumers—want to see the accurate and inclusive ICT enact-ed soon,to enhance trust in electronic transactions and more specifically,mobiletransactions.
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