Monday, 27 September 2010

During a recent journey through China I visited metropolitan Hong Kong, isolated Xi'an in central China and the southern city of Guangzhou. Here a few impressions of that magnificent country.
(c) Michiel Willems 2010

Monday, 13 September 2010

spending cuts in the UK

My latest radio 1 report in Holland, about spending cuts and tax rises.
Click on the link and my item starts right away - in Dutch:

New card to make Bangkok cashless

Bangkok Smartcard System (BBS) has announced a partnership with Australian smart card developer Vix ERG to develop, design and deliver a smart card that can be used for micro-payments in Bangkok’s transportation, retail, service and tourism sectors.

The card can also be used as an access card at companies and universities. Nelson Leung, Executive Director of BSS, said on 28 July that “the system will initially provide support for an integrated payments solution for the Bangkok metro and transit systems”. It will then be extended to “provide support for micro-payments in Bangkok”.

With the launch of the card, BBS is attempting to take a major step towards the creation of a cashless society in Bangkok.

“[BBS’ mission is] to direct Bangkok towards a sophisticated cashless society”, said a Spokesman for BSS. “The card system makes payments easy for transit and retail networks. When consumers have the card, it means that they have less cash and fewer cards to carry as the card can also function as an employee or student card. Coin change problems are eliminated.”

Published in the August issue of E-Finance & Payments Law & Policy, copyrights apply.

Biggest US telecoms to give m-payments a major push

The two biggest US mobile phone operators, AT&T and Verizon Wirless, are planning a partnership with Discover Financial Services and Barclays, two sources at Bloomberg confirmed to E-Finance & Payments Law & Policy.

Under the plans, which experts claim will give m-payments a major push in the US, payments would be processed through Discover’s network – the fourth biggest US payment processor – while Barclays would be managing customer bank accounts. AT&T declined to comment on the partnership, but did not deny such plans are being made. “Mobile payments are a next logical step for consumers and we are looking at new ways”, said Mark Siegel, Executive Director of Media Relations at AT&T. Laura Gingiss, Senior PR Manager at Discover, also did not deny the partnership. “I cannot say anything else than that Discover is evaluating technology solutions”, she said.

The plans would establish mobile payments through near field communication (NFC). Under the plans, payments will be made by waving a smart phone in front of a terminal.

Mobile payments are not as widely used in the US as they are in Europe and Asia. Dave Birch, Consultant at Hyperion, expects the US market to change soon. “While AT&T and Verizon may have taken the market by surprise, plenty of others will be rolling out mobile payments. This will serve as a pathfinder, steering the US in a similar direction to Europe and Asia.”

“This is definitely a game-changer”, said Richard Crone, Consultant at Crone Consulting LLC. "The one who enrolls is the one who controls, and the wireless carriers are the only ones that have the mobile credentials. This has become a race for enrollment.”

The partnership poses a direct threat to Visa and Mastercard, America’s biggest payment processors. “Mobile carriers have an advantage over Visa and MasterCard in the race to control the market because the phone companies have access to their customers’ mobile numbers and bank account information”, said Crone. “All other businesses, be it a bank or retailer, must first get their customers to opt-in, and register their mobiles.”

Crone also expects m-payments terminals to be installed soon in the US. “All new payment types start with merchant acceptance and big retailers are the sleeping giant in the US mobile payments race”, he said. “Trust me, the top 50 retailers will have a phone application by the end of the year.”

This article was published in the August issue of E-Finance & Payments Law & Policy, copyrights apply.

Friday, 3 September 2010

Maputo burning

Some familiar streets on GMTV this morning. The news that more than 7 people have died in Mozambique's capital Maputo in the last two days took me by surprise.

When the first images came in, I had to think of a trip I made to the Southern African country - one of the world's poorest - several years ago; where have the days gone you could walk around Maputo freely, sit on the beach till dawn and play table football with some locals?

MOZAMBIQUE'S capital MAPUTO endured a second day of deadly rioting over rising food prices as the United Nations warned that the effects of a global spike in the cost of staples would hit the world's poor the hardest.

Shops were looted, cars set ablaze, roads barricaded and one of the Maputo protesters killed, bringing the death toll to seven after two days of violence prompted by soaring bread prices. One of the dead was a six-year-old girl on her way home from school. Youths have blocked roads with burning tyres. Troops have been deployed to restore order.

The US State Department and the UK Foreign Office have urged their citizens to avoid all unnecessary travel and remain at your residence/hotel, especially after dusk. The US and UK Embassies will only provide emergency ervices. All non-emergency embassy employees remain excused from duty.

downtown Maputo
central Maputo
Sunrise in Maputo, seen from the north
in front of the Maputo train station, built by the Portuguese
Sjoerd found it hard to say no
going back to South Africa

Mozambique yesterday and today

Mozambique yesterday (picture BBC)
Maputo 2 Sept 2010,