Mobile Money technology: why does Tom, Mere or Hari need it?

By Mereseini Senikau-Tuivuniwai,

Microfinance Focus, March 1, 2012: What exactly is mobile money? It’s not cash appearing out of your phones or tap water running off your mobile phones. So what is it? What are those advertisements talking about? Why are fishes suddenly falling from the sky? Over the last two years, the Pacific Financial Inclusion Programme (PFIP) has been working in partnership with AusAID to identify innovative ways to provide access to financial products to the low income population of Fiji. Mobile money services is an innovative and cost effective way of reaching this vulnerable population. It helps to reduce the cost of transactions and is a convenient method to send and receive money, pay bills and a safe place to store money (mobile wallet).

Vodafone’s MPAiSA or Digicel Mobile Money is an alternative method of payment providing users with an instant, secure, affordable and convenient means of accessing financial services anywhere in Fiji using the two major networks. Registration to this service is free of charge and and when you store money on your mobile, there are no maintenance charges. Like they say, “your mobile is your bank!” The service is designed so that anybody on the street, from a shoe shine boy, a factory worker, a disabled person, anybody on an island from a farmer, a single mother, and a teacher can easily register for mobile money. And they would all be able to pay utility bills, hire purchase payments and send money from the comfort of their living rooms or under a coconut tree in the village without having to incur transportations costs. It’s all instant with just a few clicks.

What use is mobile money to me? At a recent mobile money training, the people of Savusavu related how convenient mobile money would be to their everyday lives. Villagers in their district would spend one to three hours travelling to Savusavu town to pay their bills, buy groceries and other necessities, sometimes spending as much as $10 alone on transportation costs. With mobile money service, they can pay their FEA bills, courts payments etc. without having to travel into town.

In 2010, PFIP gave grants to the two leading mobile money companies in Fiji to launch their mobile money services in 2010. There has been great success in reaching large number in subscriptions; however to date the usage of this service still remains low and this is not uncommon in other parts of the world where mobile money has been introduced. To explore the traction of mobile money in Fiji, PFIP in partnership with Tebbutt Research conducted a survey* across 1020 households in Fiji in December of last year. The aim of the survey was to analyze the factors that prevented people from using these services and to gather people’s perception on the use of mobile money and their reluctance to use this service.

Some of the key highlights of the findings are:

1. Gap between Awareness and Action – 90% of the users of MM (Mobile Money) said they are aware of ‘sending money’ as one of the transactions of MM but only 34% ever sent money once!

2. Adopt AIDA Approach – Awareness, Interest, Desire, Action -- It is not sufficient to create awareness about product benefits and transactions but MNOs (Mobile Network Operators) should create interest and desire to use these services. This is highlighted as 18.3% of the respondents said ‘they don’t need to use the service and 12.4% said it is a waste of time’.

3. STP -- Product Segmentation – Need for appropriate Segmenting, Targeting and Positioning strategies of the different transaction types of MM as – Among MM Users, only 23-25% of 45+ people pay bills, whereas more than 40% of 18-29 pay bills using MM, it is similar for top-ups highlighting that it is important to 'Target' products that are aligned to the demographic profile of clients, people relate to products differently based on their age, gender and location, 92% send money in Suva area whereas only 75% do in Western Division

4. Value Added Service -- Unlike mobile communication, mobile money is a value added service and client would not prefer to pay for it unless they perceive a ‘tangible’ need for it, which requires focus on product segmentation as selling MM as a Mass Market is not a viable approach (refer to charts on page 12)

5. Niche marketing and targeting is key as not everyone has a relative to send money and this was a common reference among MM prospects and prospects begin to associate MM with only one transaction type – i.e. sending money. Therefore it is all the more important to focus on product segmentation and target specific locations and demographic profiles


An interesting approach is now being taken by Vodafone Fiji who has embarked on a partnership with a local NGO, Partners in Community Development Fiji (PCDF) to provide MPAISA training for their communities. Piloting in one of the hard to reach places, Savusavu’s Wailevu District became the first district for Vodafone to commit and engage with their customers. PCDF serves 15 communities in the Wailevu District of Savusavu and through this partnership, community facilitators were introduced to Vodafone’s MPAISA service; they explored the uses and benefits of this mobile money platform; exposed to practicality of this service and trained on how to register customers. This approach is termed below the line marketing, where companies establish a one to one relationship with customers, gauging their needs and tailoring marketing messages to suit them.

“I used to see advertisements on TV but after undergoing the training today, I now fully understand the benefits of mobile money and wished I had been using this service earlier.’’ These were sentiments expressed by most participants who underwent Vodafone’s MPAISA training on Thursday, 16th of February, at the Provincial Administrator’s office in Savusavu.

The participants related their own experiences and expressed how convenient mobile money would be to their everyday lives. Villagers in their district would spend one to three hours travelling to Savusavu town to pay their bills, buy groceries and other necessities, sometimes spending as much as $10 alone on transportation costs. With MPAISA or any mobile money service, they can pay their FEA bills, courts payments etc. without having to travel into town.

PCDF’s Wailevu District Facilitator, Samuela Qolikoro, expressed , “The training today has broadened our knowledge. For us-mobile money can make our lives easier as people can cut transportation costs and other expenses by accessing various services and bill payments via their mobile phones- it’s really convenient and cheaper!”

Another participant mentioned how this service would really benefit the people especially during bad weather when buses would refuse to travel to villages. With mobile money they would still be able to engage in financial transactions without leaving their homes.

The initial phase of the training involves training the community facilitators who will then go out into their own villages and communities to educate people on MPAISA and then register them to benefit from MPAISA’s mobile money services. It is hoped that similar approaches will be carried out in all communities and by other network providers. Mobile network operators can use these below the line marketing approach to target areas where there is high air time distribution and promote the use of these services which could be very essential for various geographical landscapes in rural, inland or maritime islands of Fiji.

PFIP will share the results of these surveys with stakeholders in Fiji and gauge ways to increase the uptake of mobile money as a financial tool to provide access to financial products like savings, remittance, insurance and safe transactions at a low cost for people.

The Pacific Financial Inclusion Programme (PFIP) is a Pacific-wide programme helping to provide sustainable financial services to low income households. It is funded by the Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID), the UN Capital Development Fund (UNCDF), the European Union and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and operates from the UNDP Pacific Centre.


*Survey: Detailed findings of PFIP-Tebbutt Mobile Money Omnibus Usage and Perception Survey will be made available soon on the PFIP website. For further information about this research survey, please contact Mr. Ramanathan Subramanian @ or Mr. Joep Roest @

About the Writer: Mereseini Senikau-Tuivuniwai is the Knowledge Management & Scholarship Coordinator with the Pacific Financial Inlcusion Programme based in Suva, Fiji. She can be reached at

(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent opinion of Microfinance Focus. Microfinance Focus does not take any responsibility for correctness of the data presented by contributors.)

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