Leapfrog

Wednesday, December 31st, 2014

We played this game as kids, one would rest his hands on his knees and bend forward. The second would take a running start and bound over the first kid by placing his hands on the bent back in a frog like vault. A successful vault would result in the two kids bent forward and the third now attempting to vault the two and so on. Typically after the third there was the real danger of the vault bringing the whole lot down with the leaper landing on some unfortunate kid’s back. We learnt later that this was an ancient game, played all over the world, known commonly, and appropriately, in English as leapfrog.

Still later, we learnt that our poor old childhood game was played, with equal zest, by companies and indeed by entire countries. Only, instead of little boys taking running starts, the leaping was done by new technology. Telephony is a good example. Thousands of miles of copper wire was laid across continents to enable people to talk to each other, regardless of the physical distance between them. Tone dialing telephones graduated to pulse, quality of voice improved significantly and the network of copper cables kept expanding till it covered the world. Well, actually it covered the industrialized world, leaving vast swathes of the globe without the resources to compete. Then, as predicted by Nicholas Negroponte, came the big switch. Wireless telephony. No more need to lay copper, a few cellular towers could cover a city with mobile telephony – the developing world grabbed this opportunity to “leapfrog” generations of land line telephony and vault directly into a mobile world. And now, this mobile revolution has enabled the creation of leapfrog technologies in a number of different areas.

Financial Inclusion, is critical for developing countries, as they strive to pull billions of people out of poverty by enabling them access to financial systems. The first step is on-boarding. On-boarding at its most basic, involves the applicant filling out a paper form. In some cases this paper is carried through, but more commonly the information is rendered electronic by manual entry into a computer system. The natural next step is to enable applications to be entered digitally on Web Forms, progressing to Mobile Apps and finally Smart Apps. The result – increased throughput, reduced errors and a dramatically better user experience.

Clearly a leapfrog opportunity.

But increased access to financial services brings with it potential for fraud, money laundering, and a host of undesirable activities. To manage the risk, there must be a corresponding leap in establishing customer identity.

Identity management follows a similar progression. The spectrum here goes from people with no way to establish their identity, to some who have paper documents, to combinations of paper documents with machine readable elements, to biometrics verified on-line and in real-time. The relationship between the technology progression for on-boarding and for Know Your Customer (KYC) is obvious. Paper on-boarding can only support paper documents and so on. Ob-boarding using Smart Apps coupled with on-line biometric KYC, offer the most convenient, safe and effective granting to the financial systems for new customers.

Now a leapfrog opportunity over two rows of technologies – Leapfrog2.

Having access to the financial systems is of little value unless one can move money, typically in the form of Payments. The Lydians first revolutionized payments by creating currency – coins, that were a far better payment mechanism then the existing barter system. The Medici banks introduced checks, two thousand years later. Bank cards, networked credit and debit cards became popular in the last 50 years. The last few years have seen an explosion in payments technologies – Mobile, Wallets, Digital currency are just a few examples. So there is an opportunity to on-board with effective KYC and enable payments – safely, seamlessly and globally.

Leapfrog3.

IDmission’s flagship system of engagement INFORM coupled with Ada our platform on the Cloud, brings to the modern enterprise all the technology necessary to enable Leapfrog3.

Playing leapfrog as children, we never made successful leaps longer than three, with the third frog bearing the brunt of the attempted fourth leap. But we never stopped trying. So this really is about LeapfrogN.

It just so happens that N=3 at this point in time.

My best wishes for a wonderful Christmas and a truly great New Year.

– Ashim