Bill Gates on Mobile Payment Technology and the Role of Philanthropy

Microsoft Founder Bill Gates recently sat down with Bloomberg TV to talk about mobile payment technology and how it can facilitate his philanthropic goals of helping the poor, which he has been involved in since stepping down as CEO of Microsoft.

Gates discussed how prohibitively high fee structures can limit the effectiveness of smaller donations, and emphasized the need for an efficient digital structure to help get financial products to the poor, specifically via mobile phones.

Banking the Unbanked

Today, some of the world’s poorest villages are gaining access to the Internet via inexpensive smartphones. Gates pointed to the success of such technologies in countries like Kenya, Bangladesh, and Somalia, where mobile payment technology initiatives have gained ground.

With so many regulations in those regions, Gates hopes that the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation can use these new technologies to help reduce costs, particularly for smaller transactions. To avoid these overhead costs, implementing Bitcoin donations had been discussed; however, Gates mentioned that Bitcoin technology makes the process anonymous, which may lead to money laundering issues.

A pure digital-to-digital transaction may likely face opposition from financial institutions in these areas. Gates hopes that, with help from governments, this is possible.

Bill Talks Apple Pay

In the interview, Gates mentions that “Apple Pay is a great example of how a cell phone that identifies its user in a pretty strong way lets you make a transaction that should be very, very inexpensive.” He went on to point out that such payment systems will continue to be popular based on industry standards, such as NFC. He also mentioned that Apple will help ensure such standards, and that mobile payment technology gets critical mass on mobile devices.

Gates was quick to deny any involvement from Apple CEO Tim Cook to help Microsoft in developing a similar system. He mentioned that Apple’s product was not concerned with efficiency for small amounts of money. He hinted that Microsoft would prioritize taking such a product and making it dramatically better.

What do you think? Can Microsoft improve the mobile wallet?

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