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Digital Sweden then and now: mobile payment

In the first of our series of articles about how Sweden's digital landscape has changed in the past five years, we look at mobile payment
First published on April 21, 2015

In 2010, our Digital Sweden special edition examined how this Scandinavian country had embraced digital technology to make its citizens' lives easier and streamline the provision of government services. From eHealthcare to mobile banking, Sweden was on the cutting edge when it came to digital adoption.

Five years later, what has changed? For one thing, when we shot the cover image, iPads had just made their debut - to much skepticism. Since then, however, almost 260 million iPads have been sold globally, and they and other tablets are being used for everything from streaming TV and movies to collecting payments in shops.

But that's just one way the world of digital technology has moved on in the past half decade. Over the coming weeks, we'll be comparing what we said about Sweden then with what's happening now.

First up: mobile payment.

Buying tickets and goods using mobile phones had become mainstream. "A simple text message enables you to buy bus and train tickets or book a class at your local gym," we wrote. "Buying an SJ [train] ticket on the internet means that you don't need a paper ticket at all - you just show the inspector the eTicket on your mobile when you're on the train."

mPayment had also been introduced in snack machines, meaning Swedes could buy a soft drink or snack even if they didn't have cash on them.

Today, Sweden is the most cashless society on the planet: more than 95% of transactions are digital.

There are four different mobile-payment commerce platforms in use. Payments can be made in supermarkets by scanning the QR code on an item via the Seamless app, or with WyWallet, the software created jointly by the country's biggest mobile phone operators.

And Swish, a joint venture between Sweden's major banks, allows users to transfer money via mobile phone - handy when splitting restaurant bills, for example.

Even homeless people who sell magazines designed to give them an income now accept virtual payments using the iZettle mobile payment system - a move that has helped their sales rise 59%. And tourist attractions such as Abba the Museum have been cash-free for over a year.

In fact, four out of five purchases in Sweden are made electronically, Niklas Arvidsson, associate professor of industrial dynamics at Sweden's Royal Institute of Technology, told the Guardian. Most of Sweden's major banks operate on a cash-free basis where possible, and public transportation systems have also stopped using money.

Mobile payment is speedy and convenient, but there's another, less obvious, benefit: robberies involving cash theft are said to be at an all-time low.

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