What happened: Alibaba-backed mobile payment tool Alipay has added a new feature that allows the families of prisoners to transfer a monthly sum of RMB 1,000 ($150) to each inmate. Previously, people looking to deposit cash for their family members in prison had to do so in person at the facility. Beijing is the only city in the country that allows money transfers to incarcerated family members.
Why it’s important: Mobile payments have gradually found their way to civil services as the government attempts to keep up with the country’s changing spending behavior. Both Alipay and WeChat, which support utility bill and public transportation payments, have been driving this trend. Alipay already allows users in the eastern Chinese province of Jiangsu to apply for electronic marriages licenses within its app. The company has also trialed digital IDs in Zhejiang’s Hangzhou and Quzhou, and Fuzhou in the southeastern province of Fujian. Meanwhile, Tencent has been working with Beijing authorities to create health cards for residents.