PayPal: Singapore gov't can 'make' mobile e-commerce market

Mobile e-commerce slow to take off in Singapore but government-led project aims to change that

Unsure that market forces alone can do the job, PayPal is betting Singapore's government can spur the development and adoption of mobile e-commerce applications in the Southeast Asian city-state.

PayPal is working with the Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore (IDA) to develop mobile e-commerce services through a project called Digital Concierge, the first time the online payment company has worked with a government in this way, it said.

"We want to make the market, rather than wait for it," said Rahul Shinghal, Asia-Pacific head of mobile products at PayPal, during a phone interview.

Originally conceived in 2007 by IDA and the Singapore Tourism Bureau as a mobile information service for tourists, Digital Concierge has evolved into a much broader plan focused on the development of mobile services in Singapore.

Last year, IDA sought the help (PDF) of companies to develop mobile services and to provide the technology components needed to build them. One of those technology components is a mobile payment platform, including software libraries that can be used to add payment capabilities to mobile applications, which PayPal will provide.

Mobile e-commerce has yet to take off in Singapore. Whether the Digital Concierge effort can spur wider adoption of mobile e-commerce applications, such as online shopping, restaurant reservations and ticket purchases, in Singapore remains to be seen. But PayPal hopes IDA's efforts to bring companies together to build mobile e-commerce applications will act as a catalyst that leads more business to use the technology, Shingal said.

Globally, PayPal said the volume of mobile payment transactions is rising, from US$25 million in 2008 to $141 million in 2009. The company expects to handle $500 million worth of mobile payment transactions this year.

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