Jamaica Establishing Framework for Mobile Financial Services
The Government of Jamaica is in the process of establishing a policy to guide the development of mobile financial services in Jamaica, Finance Minister Audley Shaw stated at a conference on Friday. One of the convenors of the Mobile Financial Services Conference, Dr. Maurice McNaughton of the UWI, says it will serve as the basis for developing a framework which draws on the experiences of other countries which have already gained experience in mobile banking, to guide local regulators.
A comprehensive guide to assist policymakers in crafting the appropriate framework for the broad-based introduction of mobile financial services in Jamaica is to be completed within two months, says Dr. Maurice McNaughton, Director of the Centre of Excellence of the Mona School of Business.
Dr. McNaughton was discussing the outcome of the Mobile Financial Services Conference in Kingston, on Friday, December 10. Mobile financial services use wireless handheld devices, such as mobile phones, to pay bills, do money transfers and traditional banking, as well as other transactions.
“We are going to produce a document with a solutions framework which says, given all we know and understand, if maximizing financial inclusion is the primary goal, here is what needs to be done,” Dr. McNaughton stated. “It will be a guide to policy makers and regulators in terms of moving forward. I believe commercial interests will also benefit considerably from the contents.”
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), at The 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, Executive Director of the MSB and Dr. McNaughton.
“It was, by all measures, a successful event,” Dr. McNaughton stated. Local and international experts made presentations to more than one hundred key local stakeholders, including the major Jamaican financial institutions and telecommunications firms. Other 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.
Keynote speaker at the conference, Minister of Finance & the Public Service, the Hon. Audley Shaw, told the regulators in the audience that, “Your role will be critical in ensuring that we create the appropriate balance in our Regulatory Framework that encourages innovation, while at the same time, mitigating any risks and concerns.”
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 said that mobile banking should not be used only to provide another convenient channel 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 increased availability of financial services to the micro, small and medium size enterprises of the private sector.
Carl Rosenquist, a strategic business and IT consultant with extensive expertise in international mobile phone payment systems told the audience about the alternative models for mobile financial services platforms that can be implemented.
Dr. Dawn Elliott of the Department of Economics at Texas Christian University and Joshua Haynes, a Development Technologist with Development Alternatives Inc. spoke about the Economic Imperatives and potential outcomes of introducing mobile financial services.
The issue of Regulatory Concerns was addressed by Hugo Daley, Chief Executive Officer of Transcel Ltd; Menekse Gencer and Camille Busette, Chief Executive Officer and Affiliate respectively, of mPay Connect, Inc., based on recent detailed studies of the Jamaican Regulatory environment.
There are several commercial business models that have emerged in other parts of the world, some bank led, some of telecoms led, with others by a third party, and Edmundo Jenez, General Manager, JETS Ltd., operators of the Multi-Link Debit Network, discussed some of the Commercial and Governance Dimensions of the shared infrastructure approach.
Professor Hopeton Dunn, Director of The Telecommunications & Policy Management Program at Mona School of Business, UWI, Dr. J P Shim, Professor and John Grisham, Master Teacher of Management Information Systems at Mississippi State University discussed the Research Agenda that would be required to support the development of this sector. This was a key aspect of the Conference which not only took lessons learned from other jurisdictions but also incorporated local cultural and demographic nuances to inform the best practices for Jamaica.
“As successful as the Conference was, it is not an isolated event, but part of a process that will serve as an important catalyst for ongoing dialogue with the key stakeholders, government and the regulators to move to the next level,” Dr. McNaughton said. “We have a lot more work to do.”