Haitian wireless operator Voilà, a subsidiary of Seattle-based Trilogy International Partners, and Unibank, Haiti’s premier bank, have launched T-Cash, Haiti’s first mobile money solution. A groundbreaking, first-of-its-kind service in Haiti, hundreds of thousands of the country’s ‘unbanked’ population and Haitians in regions unreached by traditional financial service providers will now have access to a full suite of banking and m-commerce services through their Voilà mobile phone. By leveraging Unibank’s nationwide network of merchants and tapping into Voilà’s base of over 1 million subscribers, this partnership creates a valuable financial ecosystem with the potential to impact millions of Haitians throughout the country. In partnership with applications service provider MoreMagic, Voilà and Unibank have delivered their mobile payment solutions in a secure, hosted, and fully managed environment.
“We’re very excited to bring the latest in mobile technology to Haiti where the acute needs of the Haitian people require fast action and mobility,” said Brad Horwitz, President& CEO of Trilogy International Partners. “Voilà has been operating in Haiti for over a decade, and is well positioned to bring and expand its mobile money service to the entire Haitian population safely, securely and efficiently.”
Whereas there are very few bank branches per capita; over 85% of Haitian households have access to a mobile phone. With T-Cash, Voilà subscribers throughout Haiti now have the ability to complete domestic peer-to-peer money transfers, bill pay, payroll services, and expanded mobile commerce capabilities. An initial and unique feature of the T-Cash service will be a ‘mini wallet.’ The mini wallet allows Voilà subscribers to immediately activate the T-Cash service and store up to 2500HTG ($62.50 USD) by entering *700# on their Voilà mobile phone. This easy to use, mini wallet feature will allow for rapid, widespread adoption and access nationwide. Voilà and Unibank are gearing up to establish over a thousand affiliated merchants and cash in/cash out locations throughout the country by January, 2011.
“Unibank is proud to participate with its technological partner, Voilà, in the launch of the first electronic wallet service in Haiti,” said F. Carl Braun, Chairman of Unibank. “In doing so, Unibank perpetuates its tradition of technological leadership in the financial sector. The T-Cash service will be critical for the extension of banking services beyond traditional branches and the inclusion of the non-banked population particularly in rural areas. With the electronic wallet, financial services will be instantly available throughout the country,” Braun said.
The wide-scale commercial launch of T-Cash comes after an extensive nine month pilot program with global relief and development agency Mercy Corps. Mercy Corps’ pioneering efforts to use T-Cash in their humanitarian cash programs opened the door for Haiti’s rural poor and micro-businesses to gain access to financial services. The program provided an opportunity to test the new service, gauge user reactions, and incorporate feedback into training procedures and future service offerings. Customers’ response to T-Cash has been overwhelmingly enthusiastic, showing that Haitians are ready to embrace mobile money as a safe and reliable option to meet their transactional needs.
“It’s not the first time that I’ve had a phone, but this time it is different,” said Pierre Louis Jacques, a 43 year old Haitian father who participated in one of the pilot programs. “I wait for my payment eagerly and without worry. With my money, I’m going to buy food and pay for school for my children. I like this way of paying – the process is easy to learn and there’s less risk involved,” said Jacques.
Voilà has already been instrumental in providing local and international communications service to over one million Haitian customers, thousands of relief workers, a variety of international NGOs, and U.S. government agencies working in Haiti. Since the earthquake struck, wireless has been at the center of first responders’ efforts to identify and rescue survivors, spread critical information on vaccinations and food distributions, and provide health services.
Unibank has been actively involved in providing critical payment solutions for numerous NGOs enabling them to stimulate the economy through job creation programs, and provide lifelines to hundreds of thousands left destitute by the earthquake. The bank’s ability to open its doors to the public shortly after the events of January 12th was key to maintaining confidence in the banking system and provided the peace of mind its many clients needed to start the rebuilding process.