The case for introducing a universal access to payments index
The traditional view of going digital is unsettling to many because it represents a fundamental shift in the way we interact with the world. For centuries, we have been accustomed to interacting with physical objects and spaces. We have held books in our
hands, made purchases and spoken face to face. With the advent of digital technology, these experiences are becoming increasingly mediated by screens and more and more difficult to access in person.
This shift can be unsettling because it can make us feel disconnected from the physical world. When we make a payment with a mobile device or via the screen of our computers, we are not interacting in the same way that our parents and grandparents did. We
are not able to feel the weight of the decision in our hands.
Take cash for example, some commentators have said that we could see completely cashless economies within the next 5 years. This is a very bold claim and I very much doubt that any economy is in a position to be fully digital within the next five years.
Those making these claims base their opinions on limited data, a lack of understanding of what it takes to create the right environment to make this possible and a failure to recognise the challenges we face.
Until now the only way people could explain how far a country was on its journey to a fully digital economy was to focus on the traditional measures of cash in circulation and the estimated percentage of spending made in cash. Neither of these measures provide
a suitable answer and are in many ways deeply flawed. This one sided approach looks at the transition in a negative way by focusing on what we are losing rather than what we are gaining. It unsettles a great many people and offers no indication of the journey,
its impact or its benefits.
Having an index would be a valuable tool for understanding the digital transition because it provides a way to measure change over time. By tracking changes in an index, you can identify trends and patterns that may not be apparent from looking at individual
data points. This information can then be used to understand the factors that are driving transition and to develop strategies for managing or mitigating its effects.
For several years I have been exploring if anyone really is ready to go fully digital and, if not, what if any building blocks are in place to even start to make this a reality. Viewing this challenge on a global scale will allow countries to reflect not
only on their own progress but also that of other countries. This helps widen the debate, strengthen transition plans and ensure the implementation of models that don't unsettle.
An index makes sense because it is essentially a roadmap to understanding the journey we go on from cash heavy to a digital economy. This is far from a simple straightforward journey of tracking cash use and access points. We must openly evaluate the progress
being made and the barriers that need to be overcome. As with any journey there are a great many distractions along the way. It takes a great many years of hard work, investment and collaboration from a variety of stakeholders to make this happen, as well
taking into account external factors such as the economic climate.
By bringing the information together we can tell the story of how far each country is on its journey. By indicating where countries currently are (and where they need to get to) they can develop more detailed plans to deliver a fully digital economy.
In conclusion, an index for payment transition would be a valuable tool for tracking change and developing the collaborative strategies needed to reassure people that creating a fully digital economy it's the right thing to do. With a universally accepted index
we can benchmark progress and highlight the ways to close the digital divide by showing :-
Where you are on your journey
Areas for improvement
How to boost your performance
How to take advantage of the opportunities available
We badly need an index to help governments and regulators find the right information and monitor the underlying trends and patterns in our shifting payments landscape.
It must be designed to be representative of the entire building blocks of our payments landscape so that It can allow us to track the evolution of the payments industry, identify areas of improvement and hopefully identify new opportunities and challenges.