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India Laying The Foundation To Enable Widespread Digital Financial Inclusion

Tuesday, 08 December 2015, 09:45 Hrs

As India continues to build digital platforms for public financial services, eminent leaders convened at a panel discussion today, titled "Transforming India Through Digital Financial Inclusion". The session was presented by National Association of Software and Services Companies (NASSCOM) and supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The discussion was focused on enabling the creation of an ecosystem in India for viable digital network channels of financial services to reach the poor and the unbanked.

Panelists at the session included Sh. Jayant Sinha, Honorable Minister of State for Finance, Bill Gates, Co-Chair and Trustee, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, S.S. Mundra, Deputy Governor, Reserve Bank of India (RBI), R.S. Sharma, Chairman of Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), and R. Chandrashekhar, President, NASSCOM.

The discussion comes in the wake of the government's progress on universal digital financial inclusion. Recent policy announcements and steps taken by the authorities will allow India's poor and unbanked citizens access to a convenient, safe and secure way to save and spend money in digital form, and help build an economy that includes-and benefits-everyone.

The conversation highlighted critical areas that require attention for India to expand the reach of digital financial services to all its people across the country. Panelists shared their perspectives on what is required of stakeholders - providers, investors, government and regulators - to ensure that every Indian household has access to a wide range of digital financial services.

Commenting on the productive discussions, Sh. Jayant Sinha, Honorable Minister of State for Finance, said, "The government is focused on maximizing the access and availability of opportunity for every citizen of this country. We are putting in place the building blocks for digital social security architecture through initiatives such as Prime Minister's Jan Dhan Yojana, Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) program, and the RBI's new Payments Bank regulations. We believe these reforms will set the stage for every Indian to give true social security."

Bill Gates, Co-Chair and Trustee at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, added, "Everyone benefits in an economy that includes everyone. The challenge is making sure that digital financial services make it to the hardest-to-reach customers. India is working to make that happen. I'm optimistic that India can build a diverse and competitive marketplace for regulatory-compliant and commercially viable digital financial services."

NASSCOM President, R Chandrashekhar commented, "Digital financial inclusion is what India needs to catapult itself to the next phase of rapid, equitable growth. Participation of private players and a regulatory framework that supports rapid adoption of newer, more cost effective technologies and solutions on a continuous basis are very important for accelerated rollout of technology enabled services. The technology industry has been working with the government and regulators to enable solutions that make financial services accessible to citizens across the country."

Benefits of Digital Financial Inclusion 

The discussion highlighted the benefits of Digital Financial Services (DFS):

  • Especially beneficial to the poor who, once linked to India's digital financial system, can access cash in a simple, safe way.
    • They can save their money in secure, interest-bearing accounts, send money at a click of a button and directly receive social welfare payments in their accounts.
    • Poor people can't afford to spend their limited assets on usage fees - and digital cuts transaction costs by up to 90 per cent.
    • Poor people in rural and remote areas have the least access to bank branches and other financial services - but 90 per cent of the world's poor are covered by a mobile signal, India has about 970 million mobile connections. Digital accounts via mobile can reach pretty much everywhere.
  • DFS is ideal for providers too. Transitioning to DFS creates a huge new business opportunity by making banking accessible to millions of people.
  • Everyone benefits from an economy that includes everyone. When all the money circulating outside the formal economy gets captured within it, it creates new relationships between customers and providers and inspires growth in the surrounding digital economy.