Microsoft partnered with mobile money solution provider ItsLikeCash to promote financial inclusion, the first phase especially focused on the segment of the Philippine population with limited access to income opportunities and technology support.
The partnership is in line with USAID’s ongoing E-PESO project, which rallies the public and private sector to promote electronic payment usage. The project aims in the long run to implement a single and interoperable electronic payment platform for all transactions in the country. This enables more people to be part of a formal economy and contribute to inclusive economic development.
In the Philippine Development Plan, the government has identified financial inclusion as necessary for real growth. However, approximately two thirds of the population are still unbanked and have no access to financial services. ItsLikeCash, together with Microsoft, hopes to change all that through an easy-to-use mobile payment platform and e-payment ecosystem that extends financial services to low income and unbanked Filipinos.
ItsLikeCash is a cloud-based alternative cash storage and payment method housed on Microsoft Azure. Similar to mobile phone prepaid cards, ItsLikeCash utilizes unique digital codes that enable users to withdraw or deposit from their ItsLikeCash accounts through SMS and over the phone. With ItsLikeCash, users can give digital codes where they would typical pay in cash in exchange for goods. Users must withdraw an amount from their accounts to generate unique digital codes that they can send for receipients to then deposit to their ItsLikeCash accounts.
According to an ADB study, high transactions and low levels of financial literacy have hindered quantity and quality of financial products and services that can be accessed by the poor. ItsLikeCash lowers the barries of entry for Filipinos, allowing them to instantly open an account simply by purchasing an ItsLikeCash prepaid card or registering through SMS. The solutions give Filipinos a springboard for tapping a broader range of financial services that can help them build assets, manage finances, and participate in the formal economy.
ItsLikeCash, which has been rolled out for pilot testing, has brought the financial service of banks to technologically challenged communites and cooperatives in Nueva Ecija. The resulting microfinancing, and operations such as electronic transfers, for small to medium businesses even without internet have meant agility for better chances of success.
Extending enabling technology to community enterprises is a goal that Microsoft and ItsLikeCash share and eventually hope to adapt and scale for other sectors, including organizations that serve the public, not just in the Philippines but across the region.
“Our partnership with ItsLikeCash reflects our belief at Microsoft in harnessing the power of technology to improve communites. ItsLikeCash is an easy-to-use but powerful tool that can empower low-income Filipinos to manage their finances and open opportunites. It becomes all the more important that its foundation is built on the highly secure platform of Windows Azure,” said Karrie Ilagan, General Manager for Microsoft Philippines.
Microsoft, through its BizSpark Plus program, will be providing ItsLikeCash with access to a secure cloud plaform Azure, tools such as Visual Studio and Office, as well as technical training courses and support.
Andy Eugenio, Founder and CEO of ItsLikeCash, said “Security is critical for the mobile payment solutions that ItsLikeCash provides. Microsoft cloud solutions meet the most stringent international and industry-specific compliance standards. Choosing Azure is an assurance to customers of our secured service. We could have initially rolled out this enabling system anywhere in the world but we chose to start at home with fellow Filipinos who will benefit the most.”