As this Covid-19 induced lockdown drags out globally, more businesses, as well as individuals, have gone cashless for reasons of convenience and safety in efforts to avoid spreading the coronavirus. Engaging in online commerce or using digital forms of currency to re-engineer societies around the world has been born out of necessity rather than just convenience.
Cards are germy but cash is scandalously worse, studies have shown that paper bills can contain bacteria that lead to the spread of viruses. Bills are designed to last up to 15 years giving them ample time to accumulate all sorts of germs. Experts say the virus does not spread by penetrating the skin on your hands but is transferred from the hand to parts like the mouth, nose, or eyes which is very possible after handling cash.
Cashless and contactless payments are preferred and recommended during this crisis but sticking to this could pose a threat as well because not washing hands after touching your phone, credit card, or a payment terminal makes one just as susceptible to potential infection.
The World Health Organization (WHO) released a statement on March 9th recommending that people turn to cashless transactions to fight the spread of Covid-19 resulting in a number of governments and retailers across the world taking action. China had thousands of banknotes destroyed or disinfected to eliminate the spread of the virus. South Korea followed suit, and in the US, the Federal Reserve started storing banknotes that came in from Asia before recirculating them back into the economy.
Many retailers banned the use of cash in their stores to keep employees and customers safe, opting for contactless payments instead. For those observing the lockdown, online shopping has become the safest option. Thankfully, we live in a time where some of the infrastructure required to complete online purchases is in place.
This pandemic is pushing for the number of digital transactions to soar more than physical cash transactions and this could be the push needed for some countries to become truly cashless. Doing this is how we can boost financial inclusion and support the most vulnerable in our societies.
The benefits of going cashless are limitless- digital payments are convenient and are increasingly necessary for the current circumstances as more and more individuals are able to open bank accounts online and transact digitally without ever having to enter a physical bank branch.
Regardless, we should note that the transition from cash to cashless is not all that straightforward. Online payments may seem easy enough, but they still remain a lack of standardization in the system that delays payments and creates friction.
Some time ago, it was estimated that smartphones would replace cash and cards altogether by 2020. Right on schedule, a growing number of businesses are adopting no-cash policies, including certain airlines, hotels, rental car companies, restaurants, and retail stores. In Sweden, even the homeless and churches accept digital cash.
Is Nigeria ready or even capable of fully going cashless?
For years, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) urged citizens to limit the use of cash and patronize alternative payment channels. The apex bank introduced the cashless policy in 2011 which was to be relaunched in April 2020 according to reports from before the emergence of the public health crisis. Since the introduction, the rise in alternative digital modes of payment like NetPlusPay has gained popularity. This policy was introduced based on the Nigerian economy’s’ heavy reliance on cash in daily transactions and also the need to facilitate financial inclusion efforts served up the sturdy basis for the need to transition to a cashless society.
However, the innovation and operations of the policy are not without limitations:
- Poor infrastructural facilities.
- The digital divide resulting in a sizeable bit of the population being cut from the economy.
- Difficulty in imbibing the e-payment culture due to illiteracy.
- Widening urban-rural schism as a result of the cost of the internet in rural areas is still prohibitively expensive, making the divide unlikely to be overcome anytime soon.
These limitations cannot be sidelined especially as the pandemic persists, Nigeria is in a desperate position to boost the development of its payment system even with the rising use of digital cash/payments, a larger percentage of Nigerian rely on informal activity without access to digital banking.
Facebook takes on Zoom with its new video chat feature
Video-calling services have seen a sharp rise during the coronavirus pandemic with options like Zoom and its daily active users growing to 300 million.
Virtual Meetings have exploded in recent months with the Coronavirus outbreak forcing people to start working and socializing from home. Video-calling services have seen a sharp rise during the coronavirus pandemic with options like Zoom and its daily active users growing to 300 million in April.
Another popular option, the Houseparty, owned by Fortnite-maker Epic Games has been downloaded more than two million times as at the beginning of March and other apps, such as Microsoft Teams, offer premium features for free.
With the current trend and the need to meet the demands of teleconferencing, Facebook is jumping into video chat game with its product feature, Messenger Rooms, a new feature that will allow up to 50 people to take part in a video chat, even if they don’t have Facebook accounts.
Facebook has had a long and notorious history of expanding its features to emulate major competitors, from first launching stories on Instagram in 2016 as a clone of Snapchat. Now Facebook wants more of the video market and is trying to take on the now popular video sharing platform, Zoom (ZM).
Previously, the messenger video calls were limited to eight people but with this new video feature ‘Messenger Rooms,’ users can currently host a meeting with up 50 people at once with no time limit on its messenger app, it will also be added to the company’s other applications- WhatsApp will see that the maximum number of people who can simultaneously join a video call will increase from four to eight.
This new feature will be available on beta versions of WhatsApp for both Android and iOS. For making a video call with up to eight people, your WhatsApp must be running version 2.20.133 on Android and version 22.214.171.124 on iOS. The other condition is, the other participants that you’re looking to video and voice call, must also have the same beta version of WhatsApp running on their devices.
What’s the Catch?
Although these Messenger Rooms won’t be completely private, WhatsApp video and voice calls with up to eight people, will be end-to-end encrypted so no one else can view or listen in on private conversations, not even Facebook. Basically, end-to-end encryption is one of the main Unique Selling Points (USP) of the new video feature. Facebook is working to bring the security protocol to Messenger and Instagram Direct, so users will potentially be able to cross-platform chat across all these services one day, it’s easier said than done.
Like house party, the messenger rooms will let people drop in and out of the group video chats while the “room” is open just the way people have the ability to bump into each other in the physical world. Another catch of the new video feature is that users can create a Messenger Room that will be able to keep their room private, block unwanted participants, and send invitations to people who are not on Facebook.
Facebook is working to prevent the reoccurring issues its competitor’s faced like the “Zoombombing problem,” which let uninvited guests drop into video calls to abuse participants or share pornography. The company is working with cryptographers to make the links for the Messenger Rooms difficult for hackers to guess. Although, publicly discoverable rooms will be listed at the top of the Facebook news feed and chats will not be end-to-end encrypted. Possibly, this would be one of the reasons why Facebook may successfully take on Zoom with its security and end-to-end encrypted tactics.
Other features of the new video feature include:
- The ability to add eight people to a WhatsApp video call – up from four.
- The return of “Live With”, which lets users host Facebook Live streams with another person, to bring guests or performers on to their show.
- The ability to watch Instagram live videos on desktop computers.
- Participants will be able to use augmented reality filters and change their background in real-time.
Tech Roundup S02E19
The Nigeria tech space has seen major validation from global investors over the last few years, and reports
We conclude our Fintech Roundtable series, this time with a discussion on Fintech related investments.
The Nigeria tech space has seen major validation from global investors over the last few years, and reports show that over $400 million went into Fintech startups in 2019, and amid Covid-19, Nigeria based Fintechs have announced new rounds of investment this year but will this trend continue.
To help us unpack this, this panel discussion was led by Deji Sasegbon, Director of Platforms at EchoVC and a returning guest on
We covered several topics but focused on what investors might be doing differently going forward and how Investments in Fintech ideas and businesses across Africa might be impacted going forward.
Hope you find the episode interesting.
Digital Financial Literacy, a must for every Nigerian in Post-COVID
Nigeria has set a 95% digital literacy target for the next ten years under a Digital Economy Strategy in order to ramp up the contributions of the ICT sector to the Nigerian economy.
The importance of digital literacy in the furtherance of Nigeria’s economic growth is a topic that has proven to be extremely paramount especially in these forced changing times.
Truth is, talent training outlets are not in short supply in Nigeria; from Decagon to Learn Factory; there are a number of programmes offering advanced and specialized digital literacy skills in fields like software development, machine learning etc.
As a matter of fact, Nigeria has set a 95% digital literacy target for the next ten years under a Digital Economy Strategy in order to ramp up the contributions of the ICT sector to the Nigerian economy and last year, the sector accounted for 13.8% of the nation’s GDP which is more than the oil and gas sector on which the country has previously been heavily reliant.
The Lagos State Government since this pandemic collaborated with Microsoft Office to train 18,000 secondary school teachers on digital literacy in order to equip, train, and engage them to deliver on their duties through technology during this lockdown period.
(READ MORE: Digital financial services amid COVID-19)
However, digital financial literacy is a niche that still has not become mainstream as many would assume. For the reason of the evident gap in the country, we have companies like NetPlusDotCom organizing webinars to educate Nigerians on the importance of an inevitable shift to digital payments and financing post-COVID-19.
Unfortunately, there are a few challenges hindering the growth of digital financial literacy in Nigeria, they include:
- Policy Implementation: Already set regulations geared towards promoting digital literacy are not readily implemented.
- The regular school curriculum does not reflect a component of digital literacy skills that would be relevant in the future of work.
- High costs of infrastructures such as the Internet and power is one of the challenges faced in promoting digital financial literacy in Nigeria.
- There is a digital divide due to the existence of unreached communities who are not aware of the concept of digital literacy.
- Digital literacy has been termed too difficult to conceptualize resulting in unnecessary complexity for the understanding of the process to a layman.
- Resistance to Change: The general attitude of people towards change and what digital literacy offers, is a hindrance in promoting digital financial literacy.
- Skepticism of many unenlightened Nigerians.
- More citizen engagement and awareness of existing and new policies on digital literacy.
- Investment in research and development by the government and other institutions to help Nigerians be more conversant on international standards as it concerns promoting digital literacy.
- There should be a collaboration between organizations whose works are centered on digital literacy with schools in actualizing a more robust curriculum.
- The government should provide tax incentives/ reliefs for telecoms to enable them to reduce the costs of data. Telecoms can also provide ICT parks to allow for access to the internet.
- On inclusion, collaboration between Government, Multilateral organizations, and civil society groups should be considered to reach underserved communities possibly in the local language so as to avoid the language barrier.
- To ward off resistance to change, there should be orientation programs on the need and importance of digital literacy using the bottom-top approach of reaching out to grass-root individuals.