Note: this project is now archived; it was part of my doctoral thesis.
DigiTally is an overlay payment scheme for use on mobile phones, whose goals are to extend mobile phone payments to areas with poor connectivity and reduce transaction fees. DigiTally enables two people to do a payment transaction by simply copying short strings of numbers between their phones. This doesn't need either smartphones or a network connection. Either phone can upload the transaction later, once it gets a network connection. A short-term goal was a pilot project to explore the factors that affect payment service uptake.
Mobile payments are available in many less developed countries. There are over 200 operators worldwide, and mobile payments have been transformative in as many as 20 such countries. They can support local payments, migrant remittances, and other financial services such as microcredit, savings, and access to government welfare and subsidies.
The Gates Foundation called for proposals for a means of extending mobile payments to people living in areas with poor or no network service. We created a model, called DigiTally, that enables two people to do a payment transaction by simply copying short strings of numbers between their phones. This doesn't need either smartphones or a network connection. Either phone can upload the transaction later, once it gets a network connection.
The goal of the project was to develop and test a mobile electronic purse system, whose design and implementation will be put in the public domain, so that anyone can use it. The idea was to extend phone payment systems so that people can make payments in areas that have no network, or where service is intermittent or congested. It can also enable payment service providers who are not phone companies and who therefore face nonzero marginal network costs to cut these costs by making small or repeat transactions on a store-and-forward basis. Our plan was to develop our design into a model that we can test in the field.
This project was supported by a grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.