Xynteo´s Leadership Vanguard: Improving access to transit and digital payments in Bogotá

Xynteo´s Leadership Vanguard: Improving access to transit and digital payments in Bogotá

In June, a team of participants (catalysts) from Xynteo´s Leadership Vanguard were in Bogotá, Colombia, exploring the megacity´s transport and digital access to payments. The team aims to create a commercial project that can improve access to transit and digital payments for some of the poorest urban dwellers in Bogotá and accelerate human-centered development around the city´s backbone – its transport network. 

The Bogotá megacity

Bogotá is a relevant place to explore as it is a megacity with over 10 million inhabitants and seeing rapid ongoing development. In recent years, the government has invested heavily in infrastructure projects such a new metro, cable car system and the BRT (Bogotá Rapid Transit) system, a bus network that transports people through major hubs in the city.

Transport and access to digital payments

In Bogotá, around 2 million people use mass transit and commute on average 100 minutes per day.

In spite of the developments, the Bogotá transportation infrastructure has systemic challenges. As the most traffic-congested city in Latin America, many inhabitants rely on the public transportation system to move around the city. A major challenge is that many transit users, especially the poorer parts of the population who live a day by day cash-based existence, must queue for sometimes over an hour in the morning to buy a bus ticket.

At the same time, Bogotá’s denizens face challenges related to digital and financial access. Only about half of the population has bank accounts and 40 percent of all households and 75 percent of all micro businesses lack internet access.

The fact that the majority of small shops (tiendas) in Bogotá are still cash-based creates challenges for both the businesses and their suppliers. “Many small shops operate in the informal cash sector, making it difficult for them to access credit or to manage their stocks and relationships with consumer goods suppliers. This exposes them to the increased risks – they are more likely to being robbed, and less able to stock the goods they would like to be selling due to a lack of available credit”, said Doree Marentette, Principal at Xynteo, who facilitated the field trip along with Xynteo´s Mahima Sukhdev.

Transport and access to digital payments

Internet access is an important focus for the Colombian government, which in 2014 launched the `Vive Digital´ programme, seeking to connect 27 million users to the internet by 2018.

Speaking with a member of the Mayor of Bogotá’s team, during the field trip, the catalysts found that there is a push within local government to support the 44,0000 small shops in the city to move from cash to digital payments, with over 2,000 already receiving support.

The Leadership Vanguard catalysts, who come from EDP, Unilever, Mastercard, and the ICRC, aim to create positive impact and change by focussing at this intersection between digital access, financial inclusion, and improved mobility.

The idea – inclusive financial mobility

 In Bogotá, the catalysts held a two-day workshop with the aim to co-develop a project, an intervention, which will improve the financial mobility and access to transport for the poorest populations in Bogotá. The intervention also aims to improve access to digital payments for small shops.

Transport and access to digital payments

The workshop was attended by senior representatives from Leadership Vanguard participant companies including Mastercard, EDP, Unilever, as well as a number of innovative financial inclusion start-ups and non-profits.

One of the catalysts from EDP – Energias de Portugal, Sandra Rodrigues, highlighted that the upcoming intervention also can improve energy efficiency for small shops. “In Bogotá, we became aware that most of the small shops struggle to pay the electricity bill, and sometimes need to turn off the fridges in order to reduce the payment at the end of the month. Although the main focus of the intervention is financial mobility directly, I really believe that EDP can bring an offer of energy efficiency services to this project and indirectly also contribute to financial mobility through reducing costs”, said Rodrigues.

Jorge Noguera, Division President, Central LAC, International Markets at Mastercard was one of the catalysts joining the trip. “The power of collaboration to solve was evident when our companies, fintech startups, NGOs, and government came together to turn individual projects into a single project that would benefit all. Our focus now is to continue developing cross-collaboration agreements to create an impactful project in Bogotá”, said Noguera.

In the following months, the team will continue to co-develop these ideas with workshop attendees into a commercially viable project – a systems intervention – which they will be presented at the end of the Leadership Vanguard programme in November and will go on to pilot in late 2018 / 2019.

The Leadership Vanguard is a year-long programme where senior leaders from across industries and around the world collaborate intensively to incubate commercial solutions to the problems that threaten the future of growth.

Read other stories from the Leadership Vanguard here.

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