Decades-old technology powers mobile banking in Central Asia


A firm led by former workers at America Online -- remember them? -- is using old-school text messaging technology to bring mobile banking to Kyrgyzstan. Since October, more than 40,000 people, 2,000 merchants and 80 bank branches have signed up for the service.

How does this work?

Customers visit existing kiosks where they add funds to the mobile phones, but instead they deposit money to their online bank accounts. The money is linked to the person's mobile-phone number, and they can now pay bills or buy items using a traditional messaging-based system.

"It's essentially like text-messaging the transaction to a merchant or to a peer," says Darren Feeley, founder and chief executive of GeoPay. "The beauty of this is that it provides lightweight, basic financial services for those who ordinarily would not have them."

The bare-bones IT is a boon in parts of the globe where local infrastructure is sparse but mobile phones are plentiful. As these IT-challenged nations enter the 21st century, they are adopting new technologies for their daily lives including the ability to pay bills and buy goods and services.

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