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Collaborating to drive mobile commerce in the Middle East

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The next time you’re in Dubai, see if you can spot the fast-moving commuters on the RTA public transport network. If you look closely, you’ll probably see they are using Go4it cards, launched by UAE bank Emirates NBD 16 months ago and whose success was celebrated at Cards & Payments Middle East earlier this month with an award ceremony.

Go4it is a unique all-in-one banking card combining both payment and contactless transit functionalities that has been hugely popular, as our survey of Dubai residents has shown: 82% expressed a strong interest in solutions that combine payment and contactless transit eTicketing. Not only was our partnership with Emirates NBD to facilities Go4it recognized with an award at Cards & Payments Middle East, but the move towards simpler transactions for a seamless experience is something that mobile expert and bestselling author Brett King also spoke about.

He started off exploring whether bank branches are still needed and outlined the resistance he faces from retail banks in promoting disruptive technologies such as online or mobile banking. The truth is that technological breakthroughs change buying habits. Where we once would have bought an entire album in a record store, we now download the individual track we want from iTunes.

The same goes for our transaction preferences. With more convenient and secure opportunities available, why wouldn’t we choose one card that can offer payments and contactless travel instead of carrying multiple cards? Cash has already transitioned to cards and we’re slowly embracing contactless payment, so why shouldn’t we expect mobile wallets to be the norm in future? My colleague Fred Martinent was debating this very same topic over in New York recently too at a conference called Wallet Wars.

I think it says a lot that the Mobile Wallet Workshop my colleague held, outlining how mobile payments can contribute to m-commerce growth, was ‘sold out’, with attendees lining up outside to listen in. We know that wallets are going mobile (Isis, PayPay, Square, MCX, etc) and that many players are jostling to become the ‘Angry Birds of mobile commerce’. Unlike the Angry Birds game, however, mobile commerce requires us all to collaborate, to create an eco-system where new innovative services can thrive.

So, here’s to collaboration, whether between banks and transport operators, or between payment providers and mobile operators. Technological breakthroughs will continue to happen – it’s up to the eco-system to provide the support to hand them to the person on the street.

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