Pt Fortin goes cashless

Mark Lyndersay
Mark Lyndersay

BitDepth#1232

ALDWYN WAYNE took a deep breath as he began his remarks at the auditorium of the Point Fortin Borough Corporation.

Wayne’s speeches are driven by a barrel-chested bluster that he’s made his signature, but for a moment he was just a Point boy again.

“I wasn’t on the programme, I was in Las Vegas, but I was feeling this one,” he said. “I’m just glad it is in Point Fortin. This is home.”

Wayne cut short his annual attendance at CES and flew to TT to be at the launch of the pilot project to introduce cashless transactions in Point Fortin.

The Cashless City pilot project is a collaboration between WiPay, the TT International Finance Centre (TTIFC) and the borough corporation.

The Wayne name has been part of business in Point Fortin for decades, as the elder Wayne worked his way up a ladder of equipment repairs, from oilfield equipment to electronics.

Now his son is back to fix business in TT and it meant a lot to him to start this phase in his heartland.

It’s a bit of a stretch to describe Point Fortin as a city, but there’s no denying the growth of the town over the last three decades. In the 1970s, it was the two roundabouts on the Southern Main Road that slowed traffic down enough to bring in business that didn’t come from the oil businesses that bordered the town.

Navigating the town is considerably more challenging now. One of the roundabouts is blocked, and businesses have begun to spread into the small side streets threading off the Southern Main Road.

Along those streets are vendors that Wayne wants to move from dollars to bits.

Sharing that vision are the town’s new mayor, Kennedy Kendel Richards Jr and the TTIFC’s CEO, Omar Sultan Khan.

The appointment of Richards as mayor in December 2019, a childhood friend who was talking about using technology to build a digital municipality, added more sparks.

Wayne had cashless terminals, Richards was keen to get started and the TTIFC was looking for sites to launch a pilot project, part of its National Cashless Society research project.

The whole initiative came together on a WhatsApp group.

The TTIFC had worked with TT Rideshare on cashless transactions and will do more work on implementing the concept this Carnival.

The project began with four terminals and the first was put to use at the corporation. Three were deployed at what Richards described as “up-and-coming businesses with a good clientele.”

WiPay will deliver 50 more terminals next week and plans to deploy 100 in total in Point Fortin at no charge. The pilot project targets small and micro-businesses and PWC will verify the volume and value of transactions driven by the project. The corporation will select the businesses and vendors. Participants must have a bank account to use the terminal.

WiPay’s wireless terminals use SIM cards and accept payments from InfoLink (Linx) and credit cards. Payments on the service will attract a three per cent transaction fee drawn from the customer’s account. After the yearlong pilot, it will be up to each terminal operator to decide whether to absorb the charge or to pass it on to the customer.

The corporation’s IT lead, Joel Jack, will be the first point of contact for vendors experiencing hiccups or needing a briefing on using the devices. WiPay will back up that support system, but really wants small businesses to experience the advantages of digital transactions.

“It will be a beacon of change for the rest of the country,” Wayne said. “This is the corner where we are making the turn.”

Mark Lyndersay is the editor of technewstt.com. An expanded version of this column can be found there

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