Smart Card Talk : August 2011 : SCALA Associate Director’s Letter

SCALA Associate Director’s Letter

Dear SCALA–Smart Card Alliance Latin America Member and Friends,

As most of you know, EMV has become an important topic for SCALA member organizations, financial networks, issuers, acquirers, and merchants. On several occasions, SCALA has been asked for an industry roadmap for EMV migration due to concerns about the lack of knowledge and impartial information in the market. These issuer, acquirer, and market leader concerns drove SCALA to develop an EMV migration roadmap for Latin America.

After getting help and available EMV information from the U.S. Smart Card Alliance Payments Council, the SCALA Financial Payments Council established a special committee to modify existing information and develop new information to fit the needs of the Latin American and Caribbean markets. At the very beginning of the Latin American EMV roadmap white paper development, SCALA leadership quickly discovered why many issuers, acquirers, and private label networks were getting confused in this process. The confusion was creating some resistance by these institutions to promote EMV migration.

These concerns were the focus of the SCALA Latin American EMV roadmap project. We would provide easy-to-understand charts showing the different options for EMV migration, their benefits, and the processes that would eliminate current confusion. Given that many players are involved in EMV implementation, SCALA divided the white paper topics and sections based on the components required.

After finalizing the EMV Roadmap white paper and sharing it with other SCALA Financial Payments Council members, it was clear that this white paper would be a great success. We made some minor modifications to the best practices document and officially published the white paper, “Card Payments Roadmap in Latin America: How Does EMV Impact the Payments Infrastructure?” on August 22, 2011. You can find the white paper on the SCALA web site, at

The publication of the EMV roadmap with such excellent industry participation and collaboration got me thinking about the factors that help us to accomplish chip migration in Latin America and the Caribbean. The primary factor is removing all doubt about the technology, the process, and the expected outcome. As the industry representative for Latin America and the Caribbean, SCALA needs to consider this factor in all smart card project deployments. For any smart card project to be successful, as with the development of a white paper, SCALA must advocate the approach that, if implemented correctly, will work without a shadow of a doubt.

In past months, I have participated as an independent observer in several pre-bid standardization of terms and conditions for government tenders. The environment of distrust between government institutions and the private sector shows a need for improvement. Many member and non-member organizations have called for the Alliance to participate in these processes due to concerns about fairness and equal treatment, and to ask if these tenders are rigged. Sometimes it is difficult for the Smart Card Alliance to maintain an impartial position on these topics–especially when there may be some misunderstanding due to local cultures, laws, and procedures.

I know it is hard for governments to establish communications with solution vendors about particular solutions without creating a false sense of preferential treatment or corruption. In these cases, it is recommended that government institutions consult with the Smart Card Alliance and review its resources when developing tender specifications. Using SCALA resources would help to eliminate the doubts associated with these projects and allow government organizations to consult with the private sector to get impartial information on solutions and deployment approaches. This will help government organizations to obtain factual, impartial industry information for tenders, rather than relying on supplier sales presentations. These easily-fixable mistakes can ruin the government’s image and credibility in our industry, leads to challenges by commercial organizations, and create requests for SCALA to create an official industry posting against a particular tender.

The Alliance desire is to stay on the technology side of the discussions and avoid as much as possible the legal and political aspects of projects. Nevertheless, we establish direction based on priorities of our member organizations and the industry.

Smart Card Alliance Latin America–SCALA is an independent, impartial source of information, friendly without holding judgment. We are willing to work with anyone to provide impartial educational information on smart chip technology, applications and implementations. We welcome both government and private sector organizations to work with SCALA to reduce the risk of smart card implementation through education in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Have a wonderful month!

Edgar Betts
Associate Director, Smart Card Alliance Latin America (SCALA)