Electronic wallets owned by private sector used to disburse benefits in Honduras
A third-party, privately-owned electronic wallet platform is being used to disburse welfare benefits in Honduras.
The Single Voucher is a one-time subsidy delivered through an electronic voucher that can be exchanged for food, medicine and /or medical supplies.
The benefit is disbursed in the form of a voucher that can be used in authorised establishments, namely supermarkets, pharmacies, grocery stores throughout the country. According to a Powerpoint presentation by the WHO and Honduran government agencies, through UNDP, the Honduran government contracted a firm to conduct the “electronic wallet management process”. According to that presentation, transfers were made to beneficiaries through an electronic wallet mechanism, which "operated with a digital certificate that was sent via text message to the beneficiary".
When a third-party is involved in discharging a public function, heightened transparency and accountability requirements should apply. The fact that the name of the firm contracted by the government is not disclosed in the presentation raises legitimate questions about the nature of the arrangement entered into, as well as the data processed by the electronic wallet platform, and any relevant data-sharing agreements. At the time of writing, it is unclear how data was used by the third-party.
Further, the fact that disbursement of the voucher is necessarily tied to SMS services means that access to welfare support is premised on having access to a mobile phone, which many individuals may not have. As such, the system may not be accessible to all.
Writer: WHO/Honduran government agencies
Publication: Powerpoint presentation