25 stores enrolled so far

Al-Kut local pioneers interactive map for card-friendly shops

AL-KUT – In a tech initiative in Al-Kut, an software engineer working for a local bank has developed an interactive map pinpointing shops that accept electronic payments via smart cards. The brainchild of software engineer Haider Al-Waeli, this project quickly garnered interest from local merchants eager to register. This movement is part of a broader, government-endorsed shift towards reducing cash transactions, a change that international bodies have encouraged. Although Iraq has been slower to adopt electronic payments compared to regional and international benchmarks, it is now making progress.

Discussing the motivation behind the initiative, Al-Waeli said, “The idea came to me with the increasing adoption of POS devices in stores by electronic payment companies.” He noted the significance of this shift for employees who receive parts of their salaries on these cards and are required to spend electronically. “I plan to create a database accessible to everyone, including information and locations of entities that operate with electronic payment on the map,” Al-Waeli stated.

Haider Abd Ali Al-Waeli has a degree from the Technological University in Machinery and Equipment Engineering, has launched the first website in Wasit. Al-Waeli, whose interest in computer software began during his university days, currently works at an Al-Rafidain Bank branch in Wasit, focusing on engineering rather than financial tasks.

Since its launch, the initiative has seen significant engagement, with 25 shops in Al-Kut joining the map. Al-Waeli expressed optimism about the program’s expansion, stating, “The interactive map so far includes 25 shops and stores in Al-Kut since I launched the program on Monday morning, with continuous requests to add more stores to be verified.” He also plans to integrate a feature for public feedback on the shops’ electronic payment systems, aiming to address the issue of underutilization of POS devices.

For shop owners interested in joining the initiative, Al-Waeli mentioned, “An electronic form is available for shop owners to add their information and a photo of their shop, store, or company front to be included on the map after verification.” This streamlined process encourages more businesses to adopt electronic payment systems, reflecting a city-wide push towards digital integration.

The push for cashless transactions in Al-Kut reflects a broader, international drive towards digital financial services, championed by global institutions and policymakers for their potential to spur economic growth and enhance financial inclusion.

The points out that moving to a cashless model could significantly boost the GDPs of both mature and emerging economies by reducing friction in the flow of money transfers and financial oversight.

Despite these potential benefits, transitioning to digital payments is not without its challenges. Transaction fees, the need for robust digital infrastructure, and consumer trust issues, particularly concerning cybersecurity, are significant hurdles. However, examples from countries like Singapore, South Korea, and Sweden demonstrate that with the right strategies and regulatory frameworks, these challenges can be navigated successfully.

“The tools are in place. All that is required to move forward is the will to act,” notes an article published by the Boston Consulting Group, emphasizing the need for concerted efforts to encourage digital payment adoption.

Despite the innovative push for electronic payments, including the offer of free point of sale devices in Al-Kut, uptake has been slow, partly due to merchant resistance to the 1% transaction fee. However, taxi drivers in the city have shown a notable shift towards electronic payments at fuel stations, suggesting a broader acceptance and integration of digital payment methods across Al-Kut.