On mobile money and the interoperability of telecom networks
What are the major elements hindering the faster integration of mobile money services?
DIEMELEOU BILE: Despite the fact that the Central Bank of West African States (Banque Centrale des Etats de l'Afrique de l'Ouest, BCEAO) regulates the banking sector, when we speak of mobile money we need to keep in mind that the networks used for these transactions fall under the jurisdiction of the telecommunications regulator. Thus, we need to have convergent regulations regarding these services. We have met with the banking regulator in the past, but communication channels have yet to be opened; this would facilitate stronger cooperation between our departments and promote more complementarity in our policies.
Unlike the Central Bank of Kenya – who was an integral part of the success of mobile money in Kenya – the BCEAO does not accept digital signatures, even though they are recognised by law. Still, when supplying an authenticated digital signature, banks are required to have a physical signature from customers; this greatly hinders their ability to cater to people who are unable to easily access an agency, such as those in rural areas. At the level of the ARTCI, we have made available the necessary services needed to enable the digital signature to be binding; there are a number of digital certification service providers in Côte d’Ivoire that issue electronic certificates. Those willing to provide digital signature services are already engendering their licensing procedures, so it is now the role of the BCEAO to legitimise this service so banks can take advantage of these technologies.
ARTCI is putting in place its own digital signature platform to help with e-government projects and facilitate administrative procedures, in the context of the World Bank’s doing business index. From a legal standpoint, the law on electronic transactions already provides the terms and conditions through which a digital signature can be considered legitimate – this includes an outline of what constitutes as a credible identification process.
What measures are being taken to lower the risk of cybersecurity threats?
BILE: The ICT sector is quickly being integrated throughout various aspects of the Ivorian economy. The development of projects such as the e-government, the advent of new data centres, and the Protection of Personal Data Act will make cybersecurity a key element in the sustainable development of the sector. Cybersecurity threats have taken a central role in our policy discussions since 2009, and we are leading a series of initiatives to eradicate – or at least mitigate – any potential threats to cybersecurity in our networks.
This year we plan to adopt and apply the national plan for cybersecurity, finalise the aforementioned digital signature platform, engender the audit of all networks and information systems to ensure their compliance with international standards, and verify that 50 companies from the public and private sectors adhere to the requirements stipulated under the Protection of Personal Data Act.
Moreover, the Côte d’Ivoire Computer Emergency Response Team, who became an official member of the Forum of Incident Response and Security Teams in September 2016, will help to increase our capacity to respond to threats and provide us with information and expertise to further enhance our proficiency.
How is interoperability of mobile money services being addressed?
BILE: Again, a distinction must be made here. The BCEAO provides the licences for the issuance of mobile money, while ARTCI provides technical support by making sure mobile operators have unstructured supplementary service data (USSD) codes available, thereby guaranteeing operators are able to use the telecommunication network to provide financial services.
The BCEAO’s current regulatory framework provides a basis for these transactions, thus, we have taken the decision to request that all mobile operators make interoperability between their platforms available, starting from 2017. The opening of these USSD gateways will allow users to make transactions from one operator to another, without platform interconnection, resulting in a better experience for consumers and healthier competition among banks. However, we will need to go through an auditing phase first, to ensure that all operators adhere to this decision.