Transport tack to key in digital financial inclusion

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With the successful test run of the Automated Fare Collection System (AFCS) for the country’s light rail transport system last week, a Smart eMoney official on Thursday said he is optimistic that the unified ticketing scheme using the contactless “Beep” cards will boost ePayments adoption in the country and help unlock digital financial inclusion for Filipinos.

“Transport is one of the keys to jumpstarting electronic payment ecosystem in emerging markets and the recent successful trial of the touch-and-go light rail payment Beep card is good in pushing take-up of more digital financial services,” Orlando Vea, president and CEO of Voyager Innovations and Smart eMoney Inc. (SMI), digital subsidiaries of PLDT and Smart Communications Inc. (Smart), said.

In the long run, this transport initiative will help unlock financial inclusion by providing benefits especially to the unbanked and uncarded.

Vea, a veteran technology executive, entrepreneur and co-founder of Smart, now heads Voyager Innovations and Smart eMoney, which are both pioneering new solutions in areas intersecting digital and financial services, among other industries.


Voyager and Smart eMoney are also leading a private-sector initiative in financial inclusion among various private and government partners.

Vea shared the vision for inclusive and innovative digital financial services during the “Partnering Toward Digitizing Payments: A Collaboration Driving Electronic Transactions” event attended by CEOs and heads of leading companies, government agencies, international humanitarian and aid agencies, international development organizations and financial institutions.

Electronic payments
Besides improving experience of commuters, the unified light rail ticketing scheme using these contactless “Beep” cards is seen spurring a host of other applications.

For example, the government plans to use electronic payments for other transport modes such as buses as well as for tollways.

Looking at global experiences, users of the Octopus Card in Hong Kong and EZ-Link in Singapore use their transport-system cards to pay for parking, meals, as well as buy items from groceries and convenience stores.

“Majority of our light railway commuters are also uncarded. This is a good development for everyone as it will usher a more cash-lite society because our commuters will soon be able to have their own cards and use them electronically,” Vea said.

For the trial run in Light Rail Transit 2, limited number of single run Beep cards can be purchased for P20 at designated areas at the Legarda Station in Manila.

The minimum amount required for topping up the card is P12 and the maximum is P10,000.

The Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) foresees that pilot tests will be expanded in other stations.

The AFCS is the Public-Private Partnership (PPP) project of the DOTC being currently deployed by the AF Consortium, which counts Smart, Metro Pacific Investment Corp., Manila Electric Corp., Ayala Corp. Infrastructure, Globe Telecom and Bank of the Philippine Islands as among the partners.

The project is being helmed by AF Payments Inc. (AFPI), a joint venture of Ayala Corp. and First Pacific.

It includes the development, design, installation and deployment of the new unified ticketing system, provision of contactless media, maintenance of the system during the concession period and operation of a central clearing house.

Smart eMoney has been at the forefront of electronic payments since 2000, having pioneered Smart Money, the world’s first mobile cash card linked to a phone and Smart Padala, the leading brand for electronic remittances.

In 2014, Smart eMoney, in partnership with LandBank and various government and humanitarian agencies, helped disburse the largest block of conditional cash transfers and humanitarian aid, with over P5.2 billion over-the-counter cash payments to more than a million household beneficiaries.

Meanwhile, fueled by Voyager’s innovative platform, the LandBank Mobile Loan Saver program for government employees has processed over P2.6 billion in loans in less than 10 months since it was introduced in September last year.

All these efforts are aimed at increasing financial inclusion among Filipinos through digital financial services.

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