The Best of Times

That’s not to say that everyone needs to become a computer programmer, Wladawsky-Berger says. “You don’t need people to become programmers or even Web site designers,” he says. “But they have to feel comfortable using the Web, and they have to feel comfortable using apps. When there’s a new application that could help them, they have to learn how to install it, and learn how to use it.” Applications, especially those designed for mobile devices, are making it easier than ever to use technology, he adds.

In his current work, Wladawsky-Berger is researching and promoting the growth of mobile payments in the new world of online commerce.

Nigerians now have Paga, a mobile payment system developed for the “unbanked” consumer.

To be responsive to customers, entrepreneurs and small businesses need to offer their customers the option to pay in whatever form they want to; they must take advantage of the growth enabled by cellular phones and digital wallets.

“More and more over time, people will have digital wallets in their mobile devices,” he explains. “And their digital wallets will contain their money– in credit cards, in different financial instruments, and some in pre-paid cards. They will be able to use their mobile devices to pay for lots of things, from getting on the subway, to taking a bus, to taxis and grocery stores.”

The technology is ubiquitous; there are already five billion cell phones in the world, he points out. “The whole notion of digital money with cellular phones is a way of bringing everybody into the economy. Not just people who are better off, but absolutely everybody.”

This is good news for small businesses, as mobile payment technology supports electronic transactions with very little overhead. “They don’t need a lot of equipment, just consumer electronics. It accepts the payments, and sends it to their bank immediately. Very small businesses will be able to accept digital and credit-card payments in a much simpler way than in the past. And that is good for everybody. It makes it much easier for people to buy things, and it makes it easier for small businesses to compete and accept all kinds of payment forms– just like bigger businesses.”

Indeed, Wladawsky-Berger, adviser to the world’s largest corporations, says we are entering a world increasingly driven by entrepreneurial individuals or businesses.

In the last installment of this series, Wladawsky-Berger explains how technology is making this revolution possible, and how every business  can benefit.


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