After two days of panels, a Startup Battlefield and a 24 hour hackathon, TechCrunch wrapped up another successful Disrupt NY event with thousands of attendees. Visa joined in on the fun by sponsoring the Disrupt hackathon, where 700 developers descended on New York City for a chance to win $8,500 from Visa.
My Visa colleagues Lee Mokri and Sofia Mata-Leclerc were on-site at the hackathon helping developers throughout the night and eventually awarding the prizes. The Hackathon was a way to generate more awareness and create a forum to discuss improving payment security, and make learning about security more engaging and digestible. We tapped into the incredible creative talent of the developer community to take a new approach to this challenge. After working through the night, developers submitted numerous creative concepts, making it a tough choice for the judges.
The grand prize winner, Theo Rushin, Jr., created a game designed for kids and parents to play and learn about online security, together. The runner-up, Frank Denbow, was recognized for creating a phishing game that delivers tips throughout each stage of play.
The GSMA mWomen Programme, a partnership between USAID, AusAID the GSMA and Visa, has recently launched the GSMA mWomen Design Challenge http://designchallenge.mwomen.org/, sponsored by Qtel Group. This is a competition seeking creative solutions for making the smartphone user experience more intuitive for technically illiterate users, particularly women, in developing countries. Julia Burchell, GSMA mWomen Knowledge Manager, discusses the context for the challenge and the impacts it could have for the mobile industry and for resource poor women around the world.
Mobile as a testament to human ingenuity
Mobile phone use in the developing world is exploding, yet women risk being left behind. 21% fewer women than men own a mobile phone in low- to middle-income countries. In Sub-Saharan Africa, the gap is estimated to be 23%; in the Middle East, 24% and in South Asia it rises to 37%.
The result is a mobile phone gender gap estimated to be 300 million women in the developing world without access to this potentially life-enhancing tool. And this tool is a powerful one. GSMA research, conducted in partnership with the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women, has shown there is a range of benefits associated with women’s mobile ownership: 93% of women surveyed felt more connected to family and friends, 85% felt more independent and 41% said owning a phone had improved their ability to make money. Mobile phones also can be used to help manage money, and for many unbanked people in emerging markets, mobile money services offer the first step to financial inclusion.
However, a range of barriers stand in women’s way of realising these benefits, including cultural barriers, a high total cost of mobile ownership (which includes device cost, airtime top-up and charging) and a lack of basic and technical literacy.
These barriers are not insurmountable. For example, it is possible to use a mobile phone, despite the inability to read or write; millions across the world do every day, including some resource-poor women. As our recent study, “Striving & Surviving” demonstrated, women take advantage of the “proximate literacy” of their family and friends, and many teach themselves through trial and error. The ability of people under such constraints to use a tool designed for users with greater resources at their disposal is testimony to both human ingenuity and the great value the tool adds to their daily lives.
The GSMA mWomen Programme aims to promote improved mobile ownership and usage by resource-poor women in emerging markets by 2014. We aim to help bring precisely those kinds of life-enhancing mobile services that many women currently lack, such as health information, mobile money and better connection to family and friends, into the hands of women across the developing world.
Phones getting smarter
The phones discussed in our study were feature phones, the most common in developing markets, with basic voice and SMS capabilities. These feature phones were originally designed to meet the needs of those that could afford them: urban, literate males with incomes that could support the costs of the device and its continued use, including airtime top-up and battery charging.
Over time, however, the standard feature phone will face competition from the richer experience available on smartphones. The price of smartphone devices is dropping, and usage of smartphones is increasing across the world. Smartphones are now available for as little as US$80 in Kenya and other countries, and these prices continue to drop. Strategy Analytics projects that smartphones will gain in share at a rapid pace in emerging markets. In India, the organization projects that the pace will increase by 856% between 2011 and 2016, and by 239% in Indonesia over the same period.
People across the developing world will find ways to use smartphones to meet their needs, whatever their resource and skill levels. Given that women make up the majority of the world’s poor, illiterate and unempowered population, they are unlikely to be the first adopters of these technologies. While the devices eventually will become the standard, particularly given the upswell of second-hand mobile devices entering these markets, the women currently underserved by mobile risk falling further behind.
Here at the GSMA mWomen Programme we’re asking, what if smartphones were designed to meet the needs of low-literacy women? What if the tools were geared towards serving the needs of those with limited disposable incomes and access to power? What if we could improve the smartphone user experience now to prevent resource-poor women from continuing to miss out in the future?
Women & mobile: the smart choice
To help answer these questions, we were very excited to launch the GSMA mWomen Design Challenge at the recent Social Good Summit in New York. The competition seeks to engage the global digital design community to create solutions to make the smartphone user experience more intuitive, particularly for women in developing countries who struggle with technical literacy. Entries can be submitted until 14 December, 2012, and the winners, who will be announced in February in Barcelona at GSMA’s Mobile World Congress, will receive prizes up to US$20,000. The winners also will have the opportunity to speak with potential investors interested in commercializing strong innovations.
So, we are calling on you and your networks, be they programmers and product designers or entrepreneurs and innovators, to help redefine the smartphone user experience for resource poor women. Check out the challenge at http://designchallenge.mwomen.org/ today!
Visa’s mission is to become the best way to pay and be paid for everyone, everywhere. Our premise is simple: to deliver the security, simplicity, and personalization merchants, financial institutions and consumers demand as payments technology continues to evolve.
While there are many new players in the payments space, Visa is a trusted brand around the world for the security, reliability and convenience that come with Visa’s 50 years of experience creating one of the largest payments networks in the world – capable of processing up to 20,000 transaction messages per second. We think we do the hard part better than anyone else – and our reputation is proof of that.
V.me by Visa is our new service designed to take the friction out of commerce wherever consumers shop – online today, and soon via mobile device or at a retail store. Click a mouse, touch a mobile browser, or wave at the point of sale to access any major payment network account – V.me will deliver the simplicity and personalization promised by Internet and mobile payment technologies in ways consumers can trust.
Over the last several months, we’ve launched the V.me website, the V.me Developer Center and have internally tested the service with employees. We have now reached another milestone with the beta launch of V.me with our first online merchant as we move toward the commercialization of V.me in the United States.
In the U.S., V.me is now available in beta for consumer enrollment and online merchant checkout at Rakuten Buy.com, a leading retail marketplace with more than 18 million customers. The V.me acceptance mark is now visible on the Rakuten Buy.com login/checkout pages allowing consumers to enroll Visa and non-Visa accounts in V.me and make online payments with a simple username and password through the merchant’s website. Users can also set personalized alerts to receive near-real-time notification of transactions on enrolled Visa accounts.
While our focus is currently on the U.S., we are also working on plans for how to scale V.me in additional countries around the globe to ensure that the V.me experience meets Visa’s standards for security, convenience and reliability as it becomes more broadly available.
In the coming weeks and months, we’ll be adding more top eCommerce merchants that will accept V.me. Rakuten Buy.com is the first of a group of merchants that will trial enrollment and online capabilities for V.me as we focus on building acceptance among the top eCommerce retailers. This will ensure that consumers who sign up will be able to use V.me at their favorite places to shop.
Regardless of where a consumer signs up, their information is entered and stored on Visa’s secure servers; they can add Visa and non-Visa accounts from any issuer; and use V.me at any merchant that accepts V.me.
We’re excited about the role V.me will play to strengthen the entire commerce ecosystem, making it easier for consumers, merchants and financial institutions to do business with one another.
Six months ago, we announced our global innovation strategy to deliver the next generation of payments. Today, we’re introducing two important building blocks in that effort: opening Visa to developers via the Visa Developer Center – including the introduction of the V.me by Visa digital wallet brand and global acceptance mark – and the new Visa Mobile Prepaid product designed specifically for consumers in developing countries. These milestones reinforce Visa’s ongoing efforts to give consumers more places and ways to pay and be paid, as well as provide financially excluded consumers with secure and reliable financial services.
Embracing the Developer Community
With the Visa Developer Center, we’re standing behind our belief that some of the most innovative ideas for the future of payments will come from leading-edge software developers. We’re arming the developer community with the tools to build person-to-person payment capabilities, domestic and international remittances, and other applications by providing access to Visa tools, API’s, documentation, and code. Visa is also improving access to the separate developer resources of CyberSource, Authorize.Net, PlaySpan, and the new V.me digital wallet. We’re excited about the future innovations 3rd party developers may conceive through the Visa platform, and look forward to payment applications not yet imagined today.
Our First Joint Visa and Fundamo Product
After acquiring Fundamo just over five months ago, Visa is introducing its first jointly developed product: the Visa Mobile Prepaid product. The new product, a Visa prepaid account that can be accessed through a simple menu on a mobile phone, enables consumers in developing countries to send and receive funds, make purchases online or at merchants where Visa is accepted, and withdraw money at ATMs. It brings Visa’s high standards for security, reliability and interoperability to consumers who have lacked access to formal financial services. The product is the result of a new mobile money platform that connects financial institutions and mobile network operators with VisaNet.
Stay tuned for additional progress in the weeks and months ahead.