Google and Kenyan Matatus

Nairobi has a rather unusual private bus system called “matatus”. They are pretty kooky, but the system works. And up until now, it has worked pretty much on a cash only basis. The drivers like that, apparently so that they can “manage” their tax bills. Google is trying to see if it can make this a cashless system. Think it will work? I am skeptical, but it is an interesting experiment. Gizmodo offers this thought

it’s weird to think that Kenya—where millions of people ride matatus every day—might soon be regulated by Google-based currency, with the tech company slowly collecting the Gmail addresses of users. In a country where cash is king, it seems like most people would prefer to opt-out.

That touches on the most interesting thing. We are already used to the idea of “discount cards” that we use at the checkout line. In some stores, this gives you points that add up to small amounts of money. I use that kind of card here in Tartu when I buy groceries. I use the bonus points to round off the purchase so I don’t have to carry around pennies. If Google and Apple have their way, soon I won’t need that card. My smartphone will have a collection of card data and Google or Apple will become currency managers. Hold on to your hat! Here we go!

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