NITI Aayog and MicroSave Consulting organised an international webinar on 5 June to discuss and share lessons from India’s successful cash support payments to the most vulnerable during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Panellists for the webinar included NITI Aayog CEO Amitabh Kant; SBI Chairman Rajnish Kumar; CGAP, World Bank, CEO Greta Bull; National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI) CEO Dilip Asbe; and Hari Menon, India Country Director, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF).
Graham Wright, Group Managing Director, MicroSave Consulting, moderated the discussion.
The esteemed group discussed the role of India’s digital financial infrastructure in successfully making direct transfers to targeted groups in a timely manner and making vital financial assistance available to the vulnerable during the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. This was made possible only due to a robust digital financial infrastructure established over the past five years acting as a model worth replicating by other developing countries.
A big step towards customer centricity and establishing a direct connection of the government with the people was enabled by the Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana (PMJDY), said NITI Aayog CEO Amitabh Kant. The Yojana successfully enabled zero-cost, zero-balance bank accounts. It is equally noteworthy that of the 380 million PMJDY bank accounts opened to date, around 53% are in the names of women.
Technology has been a great enabler, especially in the Aspirational Districts of India, he said. ‘Agents are using computers, mobile phones and micro-ATMs to conduct transactions.’
In April 2020, close to a billion UPI and 403 million AePS transactions were recorded, he said.
BMGF Country Director Hari Menon pointed out that the creation of India’s robust digital infrastructure has not been an overnight process but a sustained effort to lay its foundational layers: building digital infrastructure, targeted G2P transfer initiatives, PFMS linkage and NPCI’s role in enabling digital payments.
India’s decision to adopt a deliberate design choice of building digital infrastructure as a public good has been the key to its success, said CEO CGAP World Bank Greta Bull. She also mentioned three crucial elements for building a robust digital financial infrastructure: digital identity, digital database and digital payment.
SBI Chairman Rajnish Kumar mentioned that as 65% of India’s population have personal bank accounts in public sector banks, the provision of financial services to these citizens during the pandemic was easily facilitated through efficient functioning of 62,000 Bank Mitras.
Looking towards the future, CEO NPCI Dilip Asbe said enabling the One National One Card system is a step in the right direction and we must tread that path while continuing to focus on financial literacy and bolstering cybersecurity.
The panellists also discussed practical insights from rolling out the (emergency) cash support transfers, covering both Cash-in Cash-out (CICO) agents and payment infrastructure, and how countries can build digital financial infrastructure amid the Covid-19 crisis.
The webinar ended with the panellists answering questions sent by invitees and those raised by the online audience. The recording of the webinar is available on https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Diim1KSOzUw&feature=youtu.be
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