Navigating the digital evolution: The question of AI, accessibility, and the future of payments in a complex landscape

27 / 05 / 2024

Jacqueline Good Ziltener, Senior Business Development Consultant Financial at Worldline, offers her thoughts on this exciting and complex discussion.

4 min.

Young woman using a laptop

The payment landscape has been profoundly transformed in recent years, propelled by widespread digitalisation. Traditional cash transactions are increasingly supplanted by digital payment methods, offering consumers and businesses unparalleled convenience, efficiency, and security. The widespread adoption of smartphones has accelerated this shift towards digital payments, the proliferation of e-commerce platforms, and the emergence of innovative fintech solutions.

While the digitalisation of the customer experiences undoubtedly brings myriad benefits from an accessibility and usability perspective, it does raise questions regarding security, increased complexity, and the present and future of the digital divide. How can AI drive innovation, offer routes towards optimisation, and, at the same time, present itself as a threat concerning fraud prevention and payment security?

The power and potential of AI in payments

Artificial intelligence (AI) has emerged as a game-changer, unlocking new possibilities and transforming traditional processes, especially concerning fraud detection and prevention. AI-powered algorithms and machine learning technologies can bolster security, automate payment processing, and personalise customer experiences. Data powers the modern digital world, and in its vast quantities, this data is becoming impossible to analyse and implement purely by human input. Analysing these vast data sets in real-time through AI-powered solutions enables payment providers, such as Worldline, to identify patterns, detect anomalies, and mitigate fraud more effectively than ever.

Emerging AI algorithms can detect fraudulent activities and actively predict potential fraudulent patterns, thus mitigating a proportion of security concerns. By continuously learning from new data, these systems adapt and evolve to stay ahead of emerging threats, safeguarding transactions and protecting consumers and businesses.

However, with the added benefit of AI comes several caveats. Key among these is the fact that AI technologies are also available to criminal networks and bad actors. Security methods such as voice and image recognition can no longer be taken as incorruptible due to deep-fake technology, and AI algorithms can penetrate security networks and work against fraud-detection processes. It has become a question of who is willing to invest more in these AI innovations, and is that investment worth it for both fraudsters and the banks? To take a common trope in modern espionage fiction - many plot devices involve a return to 'analogue' security and payment methods because they either seen or proven to be ‘hack-proof.’ Proponents of the retention of physical currencies and traditional banking find themselves echoing similar ideas.

The question of complexity and the need for accessibility

With this balancing act, there are important discussions regarding complexity and accessibility. To react correctly to emerging trends and evolving threats, financial institutions have to embrace innovation and develop their offerings, especially to improve accessibility for their customers. However, this adds complexity. Consider the example of an iceberg. What is visible are the products and features such as biometrics, instant payments, and smart devices. Below the surface, however, unseen and growing, lies the expansion of interconnected services, complex digital infrastructure, regulation, increased competition and more.

As payment systems become increasingly sophisticated, there is a risk of excluding segments of the population, particularly those with limited digital literacy, physical disabilities or access to technology. Moreover, the proliferation of payment options and technologies can sometimes lead to confusion and frustration for consumers, highlighting the need for simplicity and clarity in payment solutions. A percentage of society also prefers physical currencies and traditional payment methods.

Financial institutions should, therefore, innovate their offering and services to minimise unnecessary complexity. By designing user-friendly interfaces, providing clear instructions, and offering support for diverse payment methods, providers can prioritise accessibility and ease of use. Investment can also be made into schemes that address digital literacy, bridge the digital divide, or formulate strategies to streamline services.

The question of the digital divide: Promoting inclusivity in payments

The digital divide remains a pressing issue, with significant disparities in global and regional access to digital technologies and services. While digital payments offer numerous advantages, including convenience and efficiency, they also risk leaving behind those lacking smartphone access, internet connectivity, or the necessary digital skills. This digital exclusion hinders financial inclusion and exacerbates existing inequalities, widening the gap between the digitally empowered and the digitally marginalised.

Globally, various countries are investing in multiple forms of instant payments, such as Pix in Brazil and UPI in India. How do these fit into a global payments system, and what more can be done to open the door to global digitalisation for so-called 'developing countries' and add realistic and actionable incentives for investment? The question of inclusivity in payments is complex and requires collaboration between governments, NGOs, local communities and financial institutions to expand access in the appropriate ways. 

In conclusion

Digitalisation is inevitable. Speculative trends are becoming concrete realities. Today, in payments, we see that most interaction comes via a smartphone, banking app or device. Human interaction is no longer the norm. This evolution of payments in the digital age is driven by a convergence of factors, including digitalisation, artificial intelligence, accessibility, and inclusivity. By harnessing the power of AI, prioritising accessibility, and bridging the digital divide, a more inclusive and equitable digital economy is achievable, as is a secure and robust, collaborative digital landscape. As we navigate the complexities of the digital age, it is essential to recognise the importance of accessibility and inclusivity in payments and to ensure that no one is left behind in the journey towards a cashless society. It’s clear that continual innovation is needed to cut complexity and address the needs of our rapidly changing digital world.

Worldline, a global leader in payment and transactional services, has been at the forefront of this digital revolution. Through its suite of cutting-edge products and solutions, Worldline has played a pivotal role in shaping the future of payments. From online payment gateways to contactless card terminals and mobile payment apps, Worldline's offerings cater to the diverse needs of businesses and consumers in an increasingly digital world.

Jacqueline Good Ziltener

Jacqueline Good Ziltener

Senior Business Development Consultant Financial at Worldline