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Should public transport switch to cashless transactions?

Something to consider during the pandemic

Are we ready to do away with coins and bills? PHOTO FROM PIXABAY

Before joining VISOR, I used to work in a bank as a manager for its electronic banking division. I specifically handled the mobile app which was surprisingly useful as I could pay all my bills electronically with it. However, one major challenge I had was getting more and more people to use the app. A huge chunk of the bank’s clients prefers face-to-face transactions.

And that’s a shame, really, given the obvious benefits of electronic payments in terms of time and money saved from traveling to and from bank branches or mall business centers. But in this day and age where physical distancing is the new norm, contactless transactions are no longer just a mere convenience. It has become a necessity.

PayMaya certainly thinks cashless is the way to go. PHOTO FROM PAYMAYA

Fortunately, technology that makes cashless payments a reality already exists. For example, digital financial services provider PayMaya is working with the Department of Transportation (DOTr) and the Land Transportation Franchising Regulatory Board (LTFRB) to give public utility vehicle (PUV) operators and drivers electronic payment alternatives. This is in line with a government directive mandating taxis and ride-share services to offer patrons more choices when it comes to contactless transactions.

PayMaya’s cashless payment solutions can be implemented in several ways. Operators and drivers can download the PayMaya app to readily have a QR code within their mobile devices that customers can scan. Or in the case of some taxis in Baguio City, the vehicles have the QR codes printed out as decals which can be scanned by passengers. With all these technologies, there is no physical exchange of money and the transactions remain truly contactless.

Ideally, this should be easy to carry out. Almost everyone has a smartphone with access to mobile data, something which apps like PayMaya need to work. However, there are certain challenges that come with shifting to a cashless system.

A lot of payments these days are done electronically. PHOTO FROM PIXABAY

Concerns about security and privacy come into view. Contactless payments could become the next target for hackers. In addition, the resilience of infrastructure is no small matter. Our country is constantly battered by natural disasters which may render supporting systems unserviceable. And lastly, customers who aren’t tech-savvy may resist change and their preference to deal with cash has to be respected.

While a completely cash-free society is still a distant reality, it should not hinder widespread adoption of contactless payment solutions. Take for instance the Octopus card used in Hong Kong. Around 95% of the city’s population aged 15 to 65 use this card on public transport, restaurants and convenience stores. It would be nice if our country had a similar system given the clear and present threat of the coronavirus.

Miggi Solidum

Professionally speaking, Miggi is a software engineering dude who happens to like cars a lot. And as an automotive enthusiast, he wants a platform from which he can share his motoring thoughts with fellow petrolheads. He pens the column ‘G-Force’.