14ymedio, Ricardo Fernández, Camagüey, 8 December 2017 — The first online financial transactions have been delayed for two decades in Cuba. The new service, called Kiosco, allows the payment of electricity and telephone bills, in addition to the repayment of bank loans, but is not exempt from technological setbacks and has not yet managed to gain the trust of customers.
There was an empty chair in front of the Kiosco computer this Thursday at the Avellaneda Street branch of the Bank of Credit and Commerce (Bandec) in the city of Camagüey, where electronic payments can be made through a “self-service terminal.”
“So far no one has tried it and everyone is still standing in line for the tellers,” laments a worker, confirming that people who enter the bank prefer to interact with an employee, partly because they are not familiar with electronic transactions.
The Island’s poor internet penetration makes electronic payment a novelty. Among the 5.7 million savings accounts in the country as of the middle of last year, at least 50% have a magnetic card, but only a small share of account holders have had experience with electronic payments.
To use Kiosco you need to have a multi-bank card, which can be obtained at the same branch as your debit card. There is no bank in Cuba that issues credit cards for private customers.
“I do not want my money to evaporate because I do something wrong and send it to somewhere where is disappears,” says Monica Salgado, a retired teacher from Santa Clara, another province where Kiosco also operates. The woman receives her pension through a magnetic card that she refuses to use in the new service because she wouldn’t receive cash.
In the beginning, the service was offered exclusively to companies, but this year it began to offered to private users, although it cannot be used to buy products in the country’s stores, pay for an interprovincial bus ticket or book a room in a hotel.
The new service can also be accessed through an internet connection in the Wi-Fi zones that the Telecommunications Company of Cuba (Etecsa) has installed across the island over the last two plus years, places where one hour of internet time costs one Cuban convertible peso, the daily salary of a professional.
However, as soon as you enter Kiosco’s digital site, the navigator gives you a warning: “This connection is not private, it is possible that some attackers may try to steal your information.” This message demonstrates that there is a problem with the certificate of authenticity, something common in national sites.
After entering the access data, the internet user accesses a private area where they can check the balance and transfer money to other accounts in the same bank. They can also download the Mobile Transfer application, designed for the Android operating system, which allows several operations through USSD codes.
“It’s not much yet, but soon we may be shopping at Amazon,” says Roberto Carlos, a 16-year-old who was with his mother at a Wi-Fi hotspot in Havana on Friday. The young man dreams that in the near term “we can buy applications in Apple stores and Google Play with this system.”
Electronic banking works through different payment channels, such as ATMs, POS terminals, the digital site of the application or mobile applications.
Beyond technology, Pinar del Rio economist Karina Gálvez, from the Center for Coexistence Studies, comments that “the environment and infrastructure” in Cuba which surrounds everything related to electronic commerce or virtual payments. “I think you have to give it time to see how it works,” she advises.
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