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QR codes make late entry into under-banked Cambodia

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QR codes can reduce the invisible costs associated with cash. Photo supplied

QR codes make late entry into under-banked Cambodia

Cambodia has struggled to increase the number of digital transactions in its economy, but Quick Response codes, a technology commonly known as “QR,” could be the solution to rapidly and cheaply reduce cash usage in the Kingdom.

QR codes allow for money transfers from one entity to another, usually a customer and a merchant, through a barcode that can be scanned by a smartphone or a QR reader device. The technology eliminates the need for cash and can make instant transfers between bank accounts.

The technology remains relatively unknown in Cambodia but several players in the financial sector are looking to transform the payment market by introducing Cambodia’s young and technology savvy population to QR code applications. Tomas Pokorny, CEO of soon-to-be launched digital payment company Pi Pay, said that QR payments are highly adapted for Cambodia’s growing digital payment sector.

“QR code payment is one of the best available options for leapfrogging the standard and more conservative payment methods used around the world,” he said. “It is more affordable and less invasive than card payments for example, and utilises already existing smartphone software that does not require any other equipment, like a card reader, that is necessary in other payment methods.”

Pokorny noted that deploying this type of cheap technology made particular sense in a country with a low-banked population, such as Cambodia. It reduces costs for both merchants and customers and enables payments with either low or inexistent payment fees, he added.

“Being able to deposit cash into a system that uses QR is more secure than carrying money around,” he said. “QR code payment is particularly suited to an ‘under-banked’ population like Cambodia, where cash has traditionally been kind but where smartphone ownership keeps rising at a staggering rate.”

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Acleda Bank CEO In Channy has implemented QR codes. Heng Chivoan

In Channy, president and CEO of Acleda Bank, said that his institution had made QR code payments available to its customers through its Toan Chet mobile application launched earlier this month. He noted that the service had already seen rapid adoption, with the application growing to 22,500 registered users and 391 merchants.

“We hope to have 2 million active users in five years,” he said. “It is like a mini bank in their hands, and there are no fees involved.”

Digital payments solutions like QR codes reduce the invisible costs associated with cash, Channy explained, eliminating risks of counterfeit or torn bank notes. He added that it also reduced the burden on governments and official institutions like the National Bank by reducing the amount of bank notes needed to be printed, saving time and money.

For merchants, QR codes would also drastically reduce the costs of accepting digital payments, allowing for widespread adoption, even for smaller businesses with less capital, Channy said.

“For the merchant, investment for a point of sale system costs them at least $400, but for QR, there are no additional costs, you just print the code,” he said. “It is secure, convenient and quick. The customer does not need to come to the bank branch and it saves a lot of time for them.”

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