At the 2017 European Ethereum Development Conference (EDCON) in Paris, Asia payment gateway Omise announced it is creating a de-centralized e-money network that will allow for mobile money compatibility using the blockchain. To facilitate this, Omise will be launching a new open-source, Ethereum-based e-wallet platform called Omise GO. Thomas Greco, special advisor to Omise and advisor to Ethereum, describes this goal as a "decentralised inter-Asia M-Pesa."
M-Pesa is a mobile phone-based money transfer, financing, and microfinancing service that was launched in 2007 by British multinational telecommunications company Vodafone. M-Pesa allows users to deposit funds in an account stored on a cellular phone, send balances using secured SMS messages, and exchange deposits for regular money. Since its introduction, the service has experienced tremendous success. In 2013, M-Pesa accounted for 43 percent of Kenya GDP and had a user base of 12.2 million active users. Currently, M-Pesa holds over 80 percent of the mobile operator market share in Kenya due to its affiliation with Safaricom, a leading communications company in Kenya. Omise hopes to accomplish the same using the Ethereum blockchain.
Omise chose the Ethereum blockchain because it offers a secure way to foster inter-operability between mobile money networks and could simultaneously cut remittance costs (which according to the World Bank is already low) throughout the region. However, Greco has expressed that the platform is aimed to benefit millions of the unbanked people in the region. Furthermore, use of the blockchain allows for the creation of a shared standard, a feature that companies and governments can benefit from.
“The shared ledger allows us to have one standard for all these different e-wallets that are currently siloed away from each other,” said Greco. “We can give them a reason to trust each other without having to know each other's data, because there are also privacy features that we will implement in order to keep their business consumer data safe from their competitors.”
Omise is currently based in Thailand, Japan, Singapore, and Indonesia, with plans to expand to more countries. As a result, a successful implementation of Omise GO across the region could assist with creating a stable banking alternative for the unbanked population and create an ecosystem for e-money adoption in countries with currencies susceptible to strict regulations and manipulation.