There has never been a more convenient time for people to be able to pay. Technology has finally brought us here, to the time where we might no longer need cash. Growing up in a developing country, I would have never imagined the possibility of me going out to a store or a cafe without having to bring cash. Now, I can simply carry my debit card and credit card and feel as secure.
Imagine a possibility in which people did not transact with bank notes anymore. The rise of fin-tech startups and banking initiatives help us to make payment easier. There are countless of fancy options being offered to us, for example contactless, QR code, mobile transfers, digital currency, and anyway you can possibly imagine. We have set our eyes looking at the benefits of a cashless society from our neighbor developed country. The problem with this is: all those fancy technologies might not work here.
Could it be that it might never about the coolness about the technology itself but how it can fit well with the market?
We, as millennials, tend to be attracted to the cool factor of the technology more than its real value. I must admit that I am also the victim of this factor. The coolest company will attract the best talent, will have the best publication and probably will be able to attract more funding than the company with a so-called mediocre product. Even in big corporate, the coolest idea with that wow factor will most likely win the pitch and will pull through into the market.
However, there are a lot of potential problem with adapting a very cool technology in a developing country. One of the main reason I can think of is: sometimes it doesn’t offer a real solution. A technology that can be adapted well to a developed country, say in the UK, can backfire into something that is totally unnecessary if put in the context of a developing country. What we commonly see is: a technology offering a cashless solution to buy your coffee but it cannot be used at your favorite coffee shop. What it offers you instead is a discounted price for some coffee shop that you don’t really like. The value of that solution has changed from the benefit of digitizing cash into a mere discount voucher.
The second example is an app on your phone that can help you to transfer your money to your favorite online shop but it will need you to click a link first, redirect you to a third-party website, fill out a form, get a virtual account, then still need to go to your mobile banking apps anyway to make the payment. Assuming the possibility that you get to the end of the process without having to run out of your mobile data in the middle or lost your signal or get distracted, it creates a longer and more complicated process. While it might work well in a developed country, the idea of online business in a developing country itself is built more on trust and relationship and less about automatization. These cultural differences could be the reason on why most of the innovations are not completely applicable to developing countries. At least not for another decade.
On the contrary, it is worth to note the negative side of cash. There is a reason on why mafias in the movie are carrying a suitcase full of cash and not carrying a debit card. The negative side of using cash itself is that it can be untraceable, I am not talking on when you accidentally laundry your $10 from your jeans (though I did that often), I’m talking about corrupts and criminals out there who benefit from using cash, for example, tax evasion and bribery. There will not be a written proof of payment or transfer when you use cash and that is the reason why some country like India promotes on going cashless. The idea of going into a cashless economy with the help of technology could very well be the solution to end corruption in developing country.
While I am not a big fan of cash either and being the millennials I am who constantly wants to do things faster and simpler, I will cheer on technology and have high hopes that technology will bring us to a “cooler” future where we finally pays off our student debt and can finally afford our own houses.