Thailand has digital cash

Thailand has digital cash

Thailand is nominally a developing world country: you can’t drink the tap water, minimum wage is 6$/day (if you live in the capital), and oh yeah, it’s a military dictatorship.

So why does it have digital cash and a better mobile network than Canada?

This is a 90 Baht credit (about 3$ CAN) for my electronic wallet, attached to my mobile phone simcard. I bought at the 7-11 on the corner. I can use it to add minutes to my mobile phone, and according to True Corporation I can use it to pay my electricity bill, taxi driver, or to transfer money to my friends.

People in Africa have been using pay-as-you mobile phone minutes as defacto digital currency for a while now. A common scenario: your brother in the capital city is arrested by a traffic officer and shaken down for a bribe which he doesn’t have money to pay? He calls you up, you go to the local store, buy a pay-as-you-go card for 5$, text him the number, which the cop enters into his mobile phone and — voila! digital currency.

Jan Chipchase, in his TED TALK, said “whatever we design, the street will take it and find ways to innovate”. I’m curious to find out exactly how much hackery-goodness is happening South-East Asia. My guess is: a lot. Why? Because necessity is the mother of invention, and there is also little legacy infrastructure to contend with, having never had too much infrastructure in the first place. Finding out if I’m right about this is one of the reasons I moved here.


2 Responses to “Thailand has digital cash”

  1. 1 taiko January 5, 2008 at 11:39 pm

    Don’t know if u heard about this yet.
    Last year ( i can’t remember when)
    the cash system of AIS ( taksin is the old owner)
    was hacked, the hacker used the card ID, edited
    the card value then sold it at the higher
    (than the initial value) price (but less than
    the edited value). This is a big news last year
    and AIS lost lot of its profit.

    Recently the competition of the
    mobile phone service in thailand is very high.
    One thing i just noticed and it makes me surprise
    is another new way to the minute in to the mobile:
    you can use the “public cellphone” (only the true’s)
    to do that.

    I wonder what will happend next.

  2. 2 taiko January 5, 2008 at 11:42 pm

    arghh, what’s happend?? my comment disappeared!

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A blog about culture and technology in South-East Asia.

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