A cashless economy is defined as a situation in which there is little or very low cash flow in the society so that every other transaction and purchases are made through the electronic channels like mobile payments, electronic transfers, internet banking, multi-functional ATMs, debit card and credit card. The main benefit of the cashless economy is that all the electronic transactions that are made through the electronic medium make it impossible to sustain the black market.
Even though cash transaction is predominant in many countries, there are few countries that follow the cashless economy like Sweden, South Korea, Kenya, Somaliland, and Canada. And countries like Nigeria, Hong Kong, Australia and Singapore are also trying to step into the cashless economy. This concept of cashless economy is beneficial for the poor, with the development of the mobile money platform. So people can digitally pay their bills without having a bank account.
Kenya is the global leader in the mobile money program and they have been practicing the digitalized money payment through M-Pesa. The M-Pesa is a money transfer process done through the mobile platform, even the micro financing and financing works through the mobile money transfer. Similarly, in Somali- the country that was devastated by the civil war has a good mobile subscription where fifty-one people out of one hundred people have the mobile access and the banking system is replaced by the mobile money platform. In a day, a person can transfer three thousand US dollars through the mobile money transfer system of the Hormuud Telecommunication Company.
Switching to the Cashless Society
The Tufts University’s Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy conducted a research analysis to determine the countries that will benefit when switched to the digital payment system. One of the members in the research study was the senior associate dean of the international finance and business, Bhaskar Chakravarthi. He said that the research was conducted under four main perspectives of the cost of cash, those of the users or consumers, banks, business, and governments.
The perspectives of cost of cash
Users or Consumers: The cost includes the cost of the ATM fees, the traveling costs to go to the bank branch or ATM where they can withdraw the cash.
Banks: They face the logistical cost that includes transporting the money, storing and restocking the money, especially in the developing countries with highly secured infrastructure challenges.
Business: In the business, the cost includes the storing of cash and keeping it safe and transporting it through the well-secured vehicles.
Government: The government has to spend on the printing cost and the amount of cash the government never collects for the under report and unreported cash or tax gap.
According to the report, the United States alone has spent two hundred billion dollars only to keep the amount in circulation. The report suggested the names of the countries that have the potential to unlock the values and move on the cashless economy, and they are the Netherland, Germany, Czech Republic, Belgium, Spain, France, China, Japan, Brazil and the United States.
Americans- Cashless economy and online privacy
A survey report shows that around sixty-two percent of the Americans make use of the credit card, debit card, and the electronic payment mode to make the transactions and purchases. The people are slowly shifting from the paper transaction to the digital transaction and they feel that it is much safer to stay without the paper cash. About fifty-six percent of the population between the age group 18 to 29 suggests that they feel great comfort without the cash in hand and forty-two percent of the adults and thirty-two percent of the senior citizens welcome the digital economy.
But, they are also worried about the privacy and security factor involved in the online banking platform, this the primary reason for the population to accept the cashless economy. However, they are comfortable in making mobile payments like PayPal and other mobile money transfer systems.
Though the cashless economy can prevent the money laundering, tax evasion, fraud, and terrorist financing, and it also demolishes the black market. But, when every transaction is made through the internet, there are possibilities of issues leading to the security. The traceable information has the advantages and disadvantages when it comes to the money transaction, the government traces the transaction for the betterment of the people, but the anti-social base can also use the same process and corrupt the system.
The current status of the technology is quite dangerous, like the lack of strong fraud detection system among the online shopping websites, so when a criminal activity or fraud happens in the account- it is closed and the cash backup becomes handy. And because of this issue, many people will have their account locked in the cashless economy until the case is resolved. Another factor is that the use of the personal computers to access online shopping sites and management sites where credentials are required are being compromised at greater rates. Without the use of high-end security system, the users might not feel safe in accessing the computer and make any kind of transactions.
The challenges faced by the Countries
Before entering into the world of the digital transaction, the countries have to face many technical and economical modifications in the society. And the switch from the physical cash system to the cashless society might be very expensive because the country needs proper infrastructure to implement the digital economy. And asking people to adapt to the new technology is quite risky because physical cash is a real-time experience for the people.
However, the cashless transactions are a transparent way of doing the business and each transaction records are tracked and stored in a secured database. But, this might not be welcomed by all the people in the society. And the time consumed during the cashless transaction is higher than the physical cash transaction and requires the individual to have a smartphone so as to make a transaction and use the debit or credit cards in some banks and retail stores.
With the advanced technology and the development of the mobile and internet connectivity, many people in the developing countries possess a smartphone and better data connectivity. The World Bank released a report that about two million people around the world did not have a bank account in 2011, but the number kept increasing in the later years and there was twenty percent increase by the end of 2014. And eight percent of the adults in the United States do not have any kind of savings account, money market account or checking account because they either find it more expensive, while some are not qualified for it.
Potential issues in the digital economy
The cashless economy also has its own issues and problems, like the consumers might find it easy to handle cash in their hand rather than having digital money and some of the credit card firms take a cut of the transactions made on the cards. Already there is a financial crisis happening in the European market as people want to use more physical cash because the government has imposed limitations on the transactions using the physical cash. And cyber security is another major concern because of the frequent news about the hackers breaking into the payment system of the retailers.
There is a long way to go, before completely adapting to the digitalized system of transaction and purchase.