Q&A with Mojaloop Foundation Director Adama Diallo, Head of Partnerships, Google’s Next Billion Users Initiative in Africa
With the launch of the Mojaloop Foundation as a charitable organization that will support the deployment of the Mojaloop open source software, the initial founding Sponsor members will take on the responsibilities of providing financial, technical and legal assistance to ensure the health and growth of the user community. Sponsor member Google will continue to contribute at multiple levels to the growth of Mojaloop and the Mojaloop Foundation.
We recently interviewed Adama Diallo, head of Partnerships for Google’s Next Billion Users Initiative in Africa. Adama will serve on the inaugural Mojaloop Foundation Board of Directors.
How did you first become aware of Mojaloop, and how did that lead to Google becoming a Sponsor member of the Mojaloop Foundation?
AD: As an organization, Google is passionate about people empowerment and social upliftment, especially when governments work with international organizations towards a common goal to reach people.
On a personal level, I am particularly driven towards initiatives related to health, education and crisis response, and even more so when giving women opportunities to participate in ecosystem development. There is an African Proverb that says, “If you educate a man, you educate an individual. But if you educate a woman, you educate a nation.” That kind of impact is what motivated me to be involved in this endeavor. For instance, studies show that women’s involvement in social programs has a significant impact on the overall wellbeing of communities in terms of health, education and economic upliftment, known as the “women ripple effect.” Imagine what women can do if we’re able to include them in the formal financial ecosystem and provide them with revenue opportunities?
On a larger scope, think what would happen if, at an organizational level, we were able to extend that empowerment to 1.7 billion people who are still excluded in the financial structure – we can bridge that gap and reshape the global financial landscape. Consider also that the level of complexity. In India, there are 1.2 billion people in just one country, India. Yet, Africa also has 1.2 billion people, but in 52 countries. Both regions are lacking empowerment and inclusion that would require multiple players across ecosystems functioning effectively, but in Africa’s context there is a lot of fragmented frameworks, so lots of opportunities are missed.
It’s a compelling challenge. Google believes that the Mojaloop Foundation can have a significant impact. Rather than a financial product or application that customers or institutions would interact with directly, Mojaloop is a layer that can enable organizations creating payment models to connect financial services products, applications and services that are in use in any given market. The impact may vary, either nationwide or continent-wide, but the interoperability across financial systems will open up opportunities and allow all payments solutions to scale.
Why is financial inclusion important to Google? Open Source? Interoperability?
AD: Our mission at Google is to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful. The “universal” aspect is a powerful motivator behind our efforts in bringing inclusive solutions to everyday needs for everyone, everywhere. You can say that inclusiveness is core to many things that we do. Our longstanding practice has been to provide open source platforms where we can build and support ecosystems and where anyone with the ability to provide solutions to an identified problem is empowered to do so without limiting others from their capacity to be involved.
Certainly, one of the things Google cares deeply about is financial inclusion. We believe in the resilience and stability of communities that are given opportunities to participate in their economic empowerment. We also believe in the need for an adequate, unifying framework across various players – traditional financial institutions like banks, tech companies and other financial service providers, regulators and governments, and other institutions – that enable them to work together. Interoperability among these players overcomes barriers that exclude the majority of people who are in most need of financial stability. It can strike the right balance between technological innovation, industry capabilities and consumer stability.
Google’s efforts are primarily focused on specific countries, including NBU markets, Our seats on the Mojaloop Foundation Board of Directors and Technical Governing Board will enable us to extend our assistance and share our knowledge more broadly to increase financial inclusion for the next billion users.
Can you talk a little about some of Google’s recent digital payments experience and how it will contribute to the Mojaloop Foundation’s mission?
AD: We want to share our learning with the rest of the world in bringing tested innovation principles, successful features, products and services to a software and reference model like Mojaloop, which is open source and accessible to everyone. We have experience working with various financial institutions and governments and will be able to provide informed guidance on bringing high-level, transformative impact on people’s lives.
For example, in India, Google has found a government eager for digital payments, a strong banking system and a new, but very interesting, payment infrastructure being set up by the banks and the government. The thought and effort put into their digitization has made India one of the world’s leading innovators in digital payments. We took a big bet on this and saw a strong start. A few key decisions that highlight our approach are:
- First, we worked very closely within the ecosystem in India and with key partner banks in the country.
- Second, we worked closely with the Indian government and the regulators and played a part in both helping to scale the system and ensuring that we were adding overall value to the solution in India.
- Third, we looked closely at how users and merchants were transacting and have done our best to apply deep technology to make not just the payment experience, but the overall engagement between consumers and merchants safer, faster, and more valuable.
To us, this best represents where we believe Google fits in:
- We want to bring our understanding of user experience, our ability to make complex systems simpler, faster and more secure using technology to more players.
- We aspire to be the technology and consumer experience partner to financial institutions and governments around the world to make financial inclusion a reality for everyone.
Google hopes to share our experience in India to help countries to embrace their digital transformation. There are many countries with the same eagerness for digital financial adoption and we would like to assist them in striking a balance between tech innovation and existing infrastructure stability. The Mojaloop Foundation’s open source community and collaborative approach will enable Google to collaborate with teams from different organizations and build solutions that can be used by anyone to implement interoperable financial services systems that uniquely serve the underserved.
We are dedicating engineering resources so we can contribute our experience working on open source initiatives and consumer tech, especially in creating platforms and supporting ecosystems. We also have expertise in designing and developing high-availability, high-throughput distributed computing solutions.
We are uniquely positioned to contribute to activating financial ecosystems. Our highly engaged developer and start-up communities have benefited from our numerous programs and have had a large scale impact within global ecosystems.
What other types of companies would most benefit from joining the Mojaloop Foundation?
AD: We believe that different types of companies (retailers, mobile network operators, service providers, small enterprises, etc.) from countries where the majority of people are coming online for the first time (India, Indonesia, Nigeria, South Africa, Kenya, Brazil, Mexico, Pakistan, Egypt, etc.) would have a lot to gain from joining the Mojaloop Foundation, and vice versa.
Mojaloop open source software and developer community provide an active pathway for companies to gain quick access to experts, report their concerns over unique use cases and get support to execute solutions more quickly and effectively. They can benefit from prioritization and they can even shepherd development. There are a lot of aspects in developing solutions that may take a lot of time, resources and effort if done independently. With an open source software like Mojaloop, there are a handful of ways to tap into those resources and scale locally relevant and very targeted solutions.
Mobile computing is changing pretty much every aspect of our life and the world of finance is going to be no different – it is, in fact, already at the inflection point. The lines between physical and online retail experience are blurring, and the more businesses move online, the more people are going to follow them online at a rapid scale, and the more digital financial services will be a constant in everyday lives. More and more companies, small- and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) and other organizations are going to need to provide interoperable services and, as members of the Mojaloop Foundation, they can help increase financial inclusion in a way that is relevant to them, with multiple players across markets working towards a more effective system for everyone, everywhere.