Kenya to Kansas; Mobile Money to Robocalling

It is hard to believe that it was just a year ago that the Risk & Assurance Group (RAG) first visited Africa. A few weeks ago we held our second two-day conference in Africa with wonderful hosts Safaricom in the vibrant city of Nairobi, Kenya.  And yet there is barely time to pause for breath as we ready for our first RAG event in North America.  Sprint are opening their doors to host RAG and bring together like-minded professionals from operators to share knowledge and experience for the betterment of everyone.  As always the event is free for employees of telcos. Academics, regulators, and representatives of relevant government bodies may also register for free. The two days will maintain the spirit of openness and collaboration that is now synonymous with RAG.

I learn a great deal for each region we travel to and it’s a humbling experience when you realise how little you knew about a market’s unique challenges. North America will be no different for me. I’m already learning of the pain being caused by illegal robocalling, number spoofing, account takeover and the market’s unique factors for customer satisfaction and retention. The event will take me deeper into the issues and closer to the champions trying to improve prospects for their companies and consumers alike.

Sprint and RAG will be joined by representatives from T-Mobile USA, CenturyLink, TELUS, Rogers, AT&T and others to discuss these issues and more, and what they are doing to combat them.  I’m incredibly excited about Eric Burger (CTO of the FCC, and Research Professor of Computer Science at Georgetown University) joining us to talk about technology risk and compliance at the FCC, where he will present on the importance of regulation and how it is set, new regulatory initiatives for accurate location information to support emergency services, and setting the scene for a wider discussion on the impacts and solutions for illegal robocalling.

It’s natural to reflect upon what was learned at each event, and that is also true for RAG Nairobi.  Each region is unique and has much to teach others.  Take mobile money in Africa for example.  Though centred in Africa, the viability and applications for mobile money extend far beyond the shores of that continent.  Growth of mobile money continues elsewhere, with rapid uptake in South Asia. A government report issued in 2016 suggested that up to 7 percent of US citizens don’t have a bank account and almost 1 in 5 Americans are under-banked and under-served financially by existing financial providers.  As the maturity and evolution of mobile money continues, there remains a real possibility for it to be adopted all over the world, helping to benefit the poor and rural communities without incurring the costs of existing banking services.

RAG has held conferences in many interesting regions and Africa is no exception.  It is special to me because each and every person who attended, contributed and shared their knowledge and experiences helped to make the event successful.  They have adopted RAG’s principles of openness and collaboration, as confirmed by the feedback we received. Furthermore, the ground breaking work on mobile money that continues across the African continent is unparalleled anywhere else in the world. This shows that Africa is a cradle of innovation that delivers new technology which serves the needs of millions of people.

We all understand that risk and opportunity go hand-in-hand. Established industries and markets can become complacent and adverse to risk.  This explains the damage done by OTT services to traditional telecoms revenue streams.  African operators face challenges from fraudsters, and also suffer from sensationalized media reporting. They must also be wary as governments opportunistically take advantage of new revenue streams before the services have delivered mature benefits to the full economy.

The providers of mobile money services are working hard to ensure the reliability and security behind their services. It is in their interest to deliver the best possible experience to customers so that trust is established and user growth continues.  But there is only so much that providers can do to ensure the safety of funds held by customers.  Africa still suffers from a great deal of social engineering fraud, designed to con people out of their hard-earned money. I spoke with Joseph Nderitu, Head of RAFM at Vodacom Tanzania, after the RAG Nairobi conference about what is being done to combat this trend in opportunism.  Whilst vendors and operators are always working to find ways of identifying and preventing illegal and immoral exploitation across the entire value chain, the first line of defence remains the customer.  Joseph told me that the service providers are doing what they can to educate users (using television and radio broadcasts, online videos and roadshows) about the dangers of sharing their confidential information.

Tanzania leads the way by showing how mobile money interoperability will boost the economy. This broadening of the proposition is essential for continued expansion.  The simplicity of services and cross-operator support also increases take-up of mobile services, enriched by related applications, and improves loyalty in a fickle market.

I cannot wait for the next instalment of RAG’s African adventure, and I cannot wait to see what innovations the New World has to offer us in Kansas City.

Register for our Kansas City conference to come and witness the RAG experience for yourselves.

Rob Chapman
Rob Chapman
Rob is the Chair and Chief Operational Officer of the Risk & Assurance Group. He chairs meetings of the RAG Committee and is responsible for the planning and execution of each RAG event. Rob's goal is to bring together professionals from across the industry and drive RAG's agenda forward.

Rob started working for RAG full time in 2018, having served as Chair on a voluntary basis for the previous four years.

Before joining RAG, Rob was a senior consultant at Cartesian. He has worked in revenue assurance and billing roles for TalkTalk, Verizon Business, Energis and Hutchinson 3G.