Bio-metric technology is the future for Rwanda's cashless society

The significant growth in the use of mobile money and electronic cards at Point of Sale (PoS) devices and Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) is hard to ignore. This has enabled the country to make huge inroads in its goal toward achieving a cashless economy, a development that has attracted numerous investors offering e-transaction services.
Using your fingerprint to authorise payments could be the next step for electronic payments in Rwanda. As the government and stakeholders devise more ways of enabling a cashless economy. (Net photo)
Using your fingerprint to authorise payments could be the next step for electronic payments in Rwanda. As the government and stakeholders devise more ways of enabling a cashless economy. (Net photo)

The significant growth in the use of mobile money and electronic cards at Point of Sale (PoS) devices and Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) is hard to ignore. This has enabled the country to make huge inroads in its goal toward achieving a cashless economy, a development that has attracted numerous investors offering e-transaction services. 

Most of these platforms require users to either own mobile phones or acquire debit or credit cards to have some sort of electronic wallets, where they can pull and effect payments for services or goods bought. This usually translates into an extra cost for the common man who may not afford a mobile phone or a card.

However, new technology that uses bio-metric identification means could help eliminate such unnecessary costs today, according to industry experts.

“Bio-metric identification makes cashless transactions easy and secure because one can use his or her fingerprint at a Point of Sale (PoS), or have his or her photo taken or voice recorded using a smartphone for quicker identification,” said Pascal Nyagahene, the chief executive officer of MobiCash Rwanda, an electronic payments solutions provider.

Nyagahene said since the National Identification Agency (NIDA) database keeps fingerprints or photos of Rwnandans and other people resident in Rwanda, a service provider using bio-metric identification to effect clients’ electronic payment is assured of their identity, a key objective when it comes to security on electronic payment platforms.

“Two people can’t have the same identification, even identical twins, which makes it more secure compared to other means, which require one to only have a password that can be hacked into,” he explained.

Nyagahene argued that use of bio-metric technology is the future for countries like Rwanda, which is aspiring for a cashless society.

Realising the advantages, some service providers, like MobiCash, have already started adopting the use of the technology, rolling out bio-metric-enabled PoS and smartphones for its agents to facilitate payments for Rwanda Revenue Authority (RRA) fees and utility payments. Regional insurance giants, UAP and Britam insurance are in the process of rolling out biometric cards to medical service to ease service delivery at partner hospitals in the country.

“If you are insured with Britam, we give you a card that has your demographic information and a list of the medical insurance benefits you are entitled to. When you go for treatment at a partner hospital, you just use your card at the front desk to help identify you,” explained Reuben Kibiru, the chief executive officer of Britam Insurance Rwanda.

He urged Rwandans to embrace the technology, saying the capabilities of bio-metric technology are immense.

“We need to work together with the service providers and government to make this happen,” said Kibiru.

Challenges

Some members of the public are still reluctant to use the innovation due to superstitious beliefs, such as “the world is ending and the devil will use the technology to control people”.

The global world of retail payments is rapidly advancing, technologically, giving rise to many future possibilities to authenticate transactions more efficiently. This will allow service providers to securely attract and connect with customers.

“If it is now possible for an individual to make payments on the move via mobile devices, accessing multiple payment methods; using bio-metric means should make them feel more secure in the knowledge that their sensitive data is protected against fraudulent activity,” noted Sunday David, a technology student at the University of Rwanda’s College of Science and Technology.

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