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WhatsApp Jumping the Digital Payments Gun in Indonesia

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WhatsApp, the messaging app owned by Facebook, looks like it is done waiting around for the integration of Calibra and Libra onto its platform to allow digital payments. It is now in preliminary talks with multiple digital payments firms in Indonesia.

Mobile transaction services are a rapidly expanding business; one that the likes of WeChat in China have already tapped. WhatsApp has been lagging in this regard, despite having the potential to integrate Facebook’s stablecoin Libra into its platform in the future. 

However, WhatsApp is forging ahead while Libra figures out how it will navigate the quagmire of regulations before it. That being said, this may be a foot in the door by WhatsApp Indonesia to help integrate Libra when it is ready. 

Calibra wallet, which would operate through WhatsApp and other Facebook-owned platforms, does not look like it will be able ever to breach places like India where cryptocurrencies are de facto banned.

In Indonesia, digital payment laws are also relatively strict too, and thus, a Reuters report speculates that Facebook’s dealings in Indonesia could become a template that they later use to dodge local regulations; those of which are aimed at a ban on foreign digital wallets.

This move by WhatsApp in Indonesia is quite a forward-thinking one. They are reportedly in advanced talks with several digital payments firms not to mention approaching state-owned Bank Mandiri, which has its own digital wallet.

While there is no mention of the word ‘cryptocurrency’ in any of these talks, it all falls into the plan with Facebook’s overarching goal, which is a move into digital payments. 

“As Mark [Zuckerberg] has said earlier this year… we are looking to bring digital payments to more countries,” a Facebook spokeswoman told Reuters.

Now, these digital payments will probably start in the traditional sense with this move by WhatsApp Indonesia, but this could be the precursor to rolling out cryptocurrency offerings, having already established the groundwork in places around the world.

There is this feeling of an impending rush to provide the best and most effective global digital payment system; it is not only Facebook that competes here, with a few bold startups, like Metal Pay, claiming they are going to win the race. 

But, those with a little experience in the game, like Square, Circle, and Skrill, are already on this path, but obviously, lack the interconnectedness that messaging apps bring.

However, in this race, it has also become clear that cryptocurrencies can play a big role – especially globally – but that does not mean that they are ready to be the technology these systems are pegged on. 

Instead, they look as if they will be part of the package when it comes to offering digital payments – be it from traditional Apps, Facebook, or the messaging apps entering the waters.

Darryn Pollock
Darryn has been interested in the blockchain and cryptocurrency space since he heard about Bitcoin in 2015. He then decided to use his journalism degree to report on this fascinating fintech space in 2016, and has not looked back since.

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