Does Australia’s New Payments Platform hold some lessons for developing countries looking to design their own digital payments system? The Level One Project Guide, released earlier this year by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, would suggest so. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is one of the world’s most influential NGOs. It supports numerous initiatives, primarily aimed at health and economic development in developing countries. An area of interest for the Foundation has been financial inclusion, with a particular focus on how new digital technologies, such as mobile phones, can be used to provide low cost and accessible payment services to the poor.
The goal-posts are shifting in new "real-time" payments systems. It is safe to assume that if anyone, anywhere builds a new payment system, it will be real-time. That particular bar has been well and truly set by the UK's faster payments system, followed up by the Paym P2P mobile solution that started there last year. All round the world, countries that don't have a real-time alternative are working on how to get one. In the US, The Clearing House has announced its intention to develop a new real-time system, and the Canadian Payments Association is beginning its own debate on payment system modernisation. But the Brits are not resting on their laurels either - they have begun speccing out a new "world class payments system" as the next generation.
This time last year, I reported on the lodgement of an industry proposal to develop new real-time payments architecture for Australia. Rashly, I suggested that: - The Payments System Board would back the industry proposal (they did); - APCA would publish the proposal in full, so everyone knew what we were on about (we did); and - Industry collaboration on the new architecture would need to get going quickly if we were to have a shot at meeting the challenging timeframes set by RBA (and that happened too!)
The Real-Time- Payments Committee is on a mission. It has promised to deliver a proposal for new payments infrastructure to the Payments System Board at the Reserve Bank by the end of 2012, so that requirements, design and build can begin in earnest in 2013. The last time the industry did anything like this was in the early 90’s, when financial institutions worked with the Reserve Bank to set up the new infrastructure for high value payments in Australia: The Reserve Bank Information and Transfer System (RITS) and its feeder system, the High Value Clearing System.