ATM technology is no longer a novelty in affluent nations. In fact, the term "cashless society" is remarkably at work at the heart of the financial mainstream that many transactions are completed with the use of plastic cards. That is the ATM card, debit and credit card. However for developing countries, particularly in the rural areas, it takes quite a while for investments in electronic banking technology to set in and find integration with the routines of countryside communities.
It was only in early 2005 that ATM technology was rapidly set up in a number of far-flung municipalities and provinces of Mindanao--one of the main islands of the Philippines. In barely two years time, automated teller machines have successfully penetrated the rural mainstream to become an important financial tool. Apart from providing convenience and security in the handling of personal funds, it has become a way of life amongst rural folks.
For multinational firms and businessmen operating in rural Mindanao, ATM services offered by banks present in the locality avert them from the security risks related to the physical transport of payroll funds, in millions of pesos, from urban centers to remote municipalities.
It's actually interesting to see the contrasting effect of modern electronic banking devices set up in an otherwise laidback setting. More so with the long queues one is bound to observe in front of bank ATMs during the 15th and 30th of each month, as laborers line up to withdraw their salaries from the machine.
The ATM likewise finds purpose among the rural folks of countryside Mindanao. The thought of seeing their names printed on the ATM card makes them quite interested to open an ATM account. But more importantly, ATM accounts have become an effective alternative to costly fund transfer services.
In the past, parents based in rural Mindanao had to contend with the costs and delays prevalent with conventional remittance channels in sending allowances to children studying at the more urbanized cities of the Philippines. Today, the presence of a bank nearby and the availability of ATM services make it easier for them to send funds in real time, during banking hours.
It would probably take a few more years before ATM technology will find its way into every province and municipality of Mindanao. And this would depend largely on the willingness of local banks to invest and establish branches in areas where no banks operate. However, with the way things are going, setting up more electronic banking services in countryside Mindanao definitely holds much promise.