October 18, 2022

Mobile Money for Regenerative Economies

Introducing the Kolektivo Wallet

Mark Pereira

Zed Labs, specializing in developing Web3 software for mobile devices, leads the development of the Kolektivo Wallet. The Kolektivo Wallet is a unique, community-first wallet built with a mobile-first approach on Celo, and is a vital product of the Kolektivo Framework. In addition to this post, we recommend the Kolektivo Bluepaper or its summary to better understand the Framework.

By the end of this year, the first Kolektivo community economy will be launched in the Caribbean island of Curaçao. It leverages a set of institutional tools provided by the Kolektivo Framework, which aims to enable local communities to launch and coordinate their own regenerative economies.

Among the most crucial of the framework’s tools is the Kolektivo Wallet — a cryptocurrency wallet tailored to the specific needs of a local community. It’s built with lessons learned from years of testing the CuraDAI wallet — a pilot precursor to Kolektivo — and years of learnings from Zed Labs’ mobile consulting efforts. The CuraDAI wallet retains a community of users and merchants in Curaçao who now transition to the Kolektivo Wallet.

A Wallet for Kolektivo

Guilder, euros, and dollars are the initial currencies accepted by this MVP Wallet.

Starting from Ground Zero

To achieve adoption we need to overcome the lack of digital financial services available in Curaçao. To this end, the Kolektivo Wallet provides a service similar to Mobile Money — an electronic payments service widely used in many countries across Sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia, East Asia, and the Pacific. Mobile money is touted as a revolutionary tool for expanding financial access in low-resource environments. With it, users may store, send, and receive money using their mobile phones. This safe and easy method for electronic payments makes mobile money a popular alternative to bank accounts.

Mobile money has grown worldwide to be a trillion-dollar industry. It is helping to lift hundreds of thousands of people out of poverty and provides a similar number of employment opportunities. Mobile money is more convenient than current solutions: according to a recent study, there are 20x more cash-in and cash-out locations than bank branches, and seven times more than ATMs. African countries like Kenya have leapfrogged traditional banking systems by using mobile phones to store and spend money. Ultimately, mobile money is what financial inclusion looks like.

Built on Celo — A Mobile-First Blockchain

“If you can text, you can crypto”

The Kolektivo Framework leverages the latest Web3 innovations in support of its real-world constituents, such as ecological impact organizations or merchants in a community. This is a rapidly growing user base, yet many of them lack basic crypto understanding and have specific UX needs. As a starting point, the Kolektivo Wallet is a fork of the Celo ecosystem’s popular Valora wallet: an open-source, mobile-first product appropriate for local and non-crypto-savvy communities. Using Valora’s already-existing wallet infrastructure and the Celo blockchain we get a host of benefits, such as:

  • The possibility to transfer crypto-assets with little more than a phone number. A user can transfer funds to anyone, even if they don’t yet have a wallet.
  • The integration of the Bidali marketplace, which provides practical access to many goods — such as phone data credits or popular gift cards, bridging to foreign imports that were previously inaccessible for many.
  • Celo’s low gas fees which can be paid for in multiple currencies, make payments simple and hassle-free.
  • An in-wallet fiat ramp, streamlining the acquisition of kGuilder or other Celo tokens, as well as a developing ecosystem of ramps using the Fiatconnect API standard.
  • As an added bonus, Celo works towards being a carbon-negative blockchain, consistent with the values of Zed Labs, Kolektivo, and the regenerative finance (ReFi) movement.

Although the Kolektivo Wallet sits on the shoulders of Valora, it also differs, providing a number of additional features we found crucial for the local economy detailed below.

The Kolektivo Wallet’s Toolkit

Kolektivo Wallet’s key user interfaces

Zed Labs has carefully considered what wallets require to be real solutions for real-world user communities, evaluating and developing features that support their needs. Through research in the Curaçao field, we’ve strived to emphasize the active role of users by conducting interviews, observation, prototyping, and producing user scenarios. From these scenarios, Kolektivo’s Minimum Viable Wallet Product (MVP) has emerged, with benefits like:

  • Quick and easy payments for local services. Wallet holders can conveniently purchase everyday goods from local businesses as well as purchase mobile top-ups thanks to an upcoming partnership with Bidali. In the future, support for paying regular household bills — such as utilities — will be included.
  • Digitizing local business operations. Small and medium-sized business owners can easily accept payments using the Wallet with lower operating costs than traditional point-of-sale terminals.
  • Integrating payments into business websites. Business owners can offer e-commerce services to their customers and receive local payments via the Wallet. This integration is ideal for customers new to online commerce.
  • Receiving local and international payments online. It goes without saying that the primary advantage for Wallet users is that they can receive payments and remittances in cryptocurrencies, which opens up a whole new world of decentralized finance. For small-island states like Curaçao, this is critical, as payments to and from the island are generally difficult to make using traditional financial services.

A workshop focused on ReFi, Blockchain and Green Technology was held in Trinidad in September 2022, and was our first opportunity to test the wallet live. Participants were able to exchange tokens, test wallet features, and buy food and drinks. This first full-scale test was an undeniable success, and is leading to the full wallet launch at the Kolektivo Festival on October 22nd. Photo credit — Alasdair Bell.

Moving past MVP, we plan to work on features that are required for real-world user communities, but not yet ubiquitous for wallets. They include:

  • Capsule Labs Key Recovery Protocol. Because many real-world users lose or misplace the mnemonic phrase of traditional cryptocurrency wallets, Zed Labs is working together with Capsule Labs to introduce a key recovery feature, enabling users to recover their wallet. This feature was influenced by Zed Labs’ ongoing user research on wallet key management — concluding on the importance of self-custody.
  • An integration of Safe in the Kolektivo Wallet, specifically geared towards local business teams to co-manage their funds. With Safe’s multi-signature signing, selected digital asset transactions must be approved by multiple designated members of a company or organization — enhancing fund management security and transparency for merchants.
  • Gas payments with kGuilder and other community currencies. While Celo supports gas payments in multiple currencies, kGuilder will not be one of them on the MVP launch. We are working on a proposal to submit to Celo’s governance to not only list kGuilder as a gas token payment option, but future Kolektivo community currencies moving forward. In the meantime, users of the wallet will receive a small amount of CELO tokens to cover their gas payments.

In Conclusion…

Any economy needs a reliable way of payments to scale. Photo credit — Alasdair Bell.

The Kolektivo Wallet’s north star is to connect Web3 with the real world. We believe our research and mobile development experience has produced an unrivaled experience for previously underserved communities, and hope to see Kolektivo’s blockchain primitives such as community currencies provide independence, prosperity, and resilience for local and indigenous communities. Zed is proud to team up with Kolektivo to offer Curaçao a wallet that suits their needs. Our 2022 wallet MVP is only the beginning of a crucial and audacious project, aiming to soon include dozens of other local bodies. Stay tuned…!

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