In Namibia, they have a completely different understanding of the phenomenon of “mobile banking” than we do in the United States. For the past two years, the First National Bank of Namibia has been dispatching small trucks–really, banks on wheels–to make the rounds of far-flung settlements in the vast Kalahari Desert, in southeastern Africa. The vans are equipped with computers and connected to the bank’s network via a satellite data communications hookup. It’s the old bookmobile idea transplanted to Africa and banking.
This intriguing bit of news comes from Stephen Lloyd van Rhyn, the bank’s head of information technology, who late last year installed an IBM mainframe at the bank’s headquarters. van Rhyn spoke at yesterday’s launch of the zEnterprise mainframe in New York City. Thanks to the reliability of the computer, he said, “we can set up accounts for bushmen in the Kalahari.”