Pay-with-a-Selfie, a human-centred digital payment system

Ernesto Damiani, Perpetus Jacques Houngbo, Rasool Asal, Stelvio Cimato, Fulvio Frati, Joel T. Honsou, Dina Shehada, Chan Yeob Yeun

Mobile payment systems are increasingly used to simplify the way in which money transfers and transactions can be performed. We argue that, to achieve their full potential as economic boosters in developing countries, mobile payment systems need to rely on new metaphors suitable for the business models, lifestyle, and technology availability conditions of the targeted communities. The Pay-with-a-Group-Selfie (PGS) project, funded by the Melinda & Bill Gates Foundation, has developed a micro-payment system that supports everyday small transactions by extending the reach of, rather than substituting, existing payment frameworks. PGS is based on a simple gesture and a readily understandable metaphor. The gesture - taking a selfie - has become part of the lifestyle of mobile phone users worldwide, including non-technology-savvy ones. The metaphor likens computing two visual shares of the selfie to ripping a banknote in two, a technique used for decades for delayed payment in cash-only markets. PGS is designed to work with devices with limited computational power and when connectivity is patchy or not always available. Thanks to visual cryptography techniques PGS uses for computing the shares, the original selfie can be recomposed simply by stacking the shares, preserving the analogy with re-joining the two parts of the banknote.

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