Interview

e-Banks: The new Mantra : R P Sinha, Deputy Managing Director (IT), State Bank of India

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R P Sinha
Deputy Managing Director (IT), State Bank of India

“Indian Banking Sector through its network of over 74,000 branches provides efficient and swift Cash Management System and Payment mechanisms ensures timely availability of the funds to the ultimate beneficiaries”

What does e-Governance mean to you?

e-Governance is the use of IT to improve the ability of government to address the needs of the society. It includes the publishing of policies and programmes related to information to transact with citizens. It goes beyond provision of online services and covers the uses of IT for strategic planning and reaching development goals of the government to the citizens.  It is a prime concern of the government today that the revenue deposited at various branches of banks throughout the country are collected expeditiously and every rupee to be spent on social sector plan schemes reaches the intended beneficiaries directly and promptly. It is, therefore, imperative that the Indian Banking Sector through its network of over 74,000 branches provides efficient and swift Cash Management System and Payment mechanisms to ensure timely availability of the funds to the ultimate beneficiaries.

What is the basic mantra of Indian economic development process?

Growth with equity is the basic mantra of Indian economic development process. Inclusive growth can be achieved if relatively low income group people in the society can have easy and affordable access to financial products and services. Banks can help bridge this divide by taking technology beyond urban centres to remote areas that are still unbanked and underserviced, by serving as a channel for credit delivery and innovative products to the poor and underprivileged sections of society. With an efficient deployment of technology, banks can step in and provide access to banking facilities viz. opening of no-frill account, money transfer services, payment of bills, etc. They can also provide payment solutions to conduct e-Payments with government Departments using Smart Cards/Credit Cards.  In this area, Financial Information Network and Operations Ltd. (FINO) is also rendering laudable service to the rural poor.

How has been SBI’s journey so far?

State Bank Group today has a network of more than 16,000 branches and more than 10,000 ATMs  spread all over the country – and all these touchpoints are interconnected and are all on core banking platform. State Bank of India, with its public sector character and behemoth size, has always stood the test of time and responded with speed and agility to the ever increasing requirement of the changing environment. State Bank Group has been the main banking arm of the government with relationship as old as two centuries. We have been pioneer in many IT initiatives of unprecedented scale and complexity and providing several e-Government initiative to state and central government.

SBI’s  e-Governance initiatives

  • ‘Online Tax Accounting System’ (OLTAS) for entire Direct Taxes Collection of the Government of India. 
  • 14 Centralised Pension Processing Centres for 2.61 million strong pensioners throughout the country.
    Refund Banker for Income Tax Refund:  Facilitating Income Tax Refunds directly to taxpayer’s account through electronic banking.
  • Citizen Service Centres ‘Jeevan:  With the State Government of Delhi- providing everything from Birth Registration to issue of Death Certificates.
  • Akshaya Project of the Kerala State IT Mission:  To provide payment gateway for channelising the proceeds of various utility and other payments collection
  • Cyber Treasury Services for tax collection:  Presently 14 State Governments have been provided with this facility.  This is likely to be extended to all State Governments within a year.
  • AP Online:  A kiosk based citizen portal of Government of Andhra Pradesh.
  • MP RTO:  A special project of Government of Madhya Pradesh for online collection of all Transport department dues.
  • Online Bus Ticket Booking for Karnataka Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC).
  • e-Freight:  Services for Railways.  More than 100 large corporates are using our online freight payment services.
  • e-Gram Project of Gujarat Government:  Providing e-Governance services in villages of Gujarat.
    Bhamashah Financial Empowerment Scheme:  With Government of Rajasthan- Using biometrically identifiable Smart Cards for upliftment of poor.

What  is the back bone of your IT infrastructure?

The backbone of our IT infrastructure is the Leased Line Network “State Bank Connect” the largest among Indian banks. We plan to extend the network, further, to many more touch points by adding many brick & mortar branches as also a large number of ATMs for the year ending March 2010. We faced a lot of bottlenecks in providing connectivity to our branches for implementation of Core Banking Solutions but these impediments in providing leased line connectivity in remote areas were overcome by deploying alternate technologies like VSATs.

What is SBI’s roadmap for e-Governance?

Our social commitment, unparalleled reach, diverse customer base and state of the art technology infrastructure have put us in a unique position to take the e-Governance initiatives to every nook and corner of the country. We are deploying technology innovatively to provide financial services at affordable cost to the hitherto unreachable and unbanked or underserved rural poor. We have taken upon ourselves to open smart card based ‘No Frills’ accounts in 1 lac unbanked villages through Point of Sale (POS) instruments handled by the Business Correspondents, under the financial inclusion initiative. Over 1 million ‘No-frills’ (basic) Savings Bank accounts have been opened in the names of beneficiaries into which the government benefits are paid. SBI Tiny Cards (based on Smart Card technology) have been provided to the beneficiaries who can withdraw money by simply swiping their SBI Tiny Card on a hand held device with the Business Facilitator (or Business Correspondent) who could be, say, the village postman. State Bank Group is the market leader in credit linkage of Self Help Groups (SHGs) with a market share of 43 percent. The Group has successfully met the challenging target of credit linking 1 mio SHGs that has benefited 1.38 crore families.

Since e-Governance is administered through the use of IT, the geographical reach of IT and IT enabled services would determine the reach of e-Governance initiatives. 

Recently, SBI partnered with Goa government’s e-Governance initiative with the launch of Cyber Treasury. What advantage it brings to tax payers?

This initiative will enable tax payers to make online payment of taxes of Government of Goa like Value Added Tax (VAT) and Central Sales Tax (CST) to begin with.

What are your future plans?

Efforts are on to set up a payment gateway to further facilitate collection of government dues.  As more and more banks move on to core banking, the government is also working on Core Accounting Solution (CAS) as a centralised solution. CAS is aimed at eliminating paper work at various levels and introducing electronic exchange of information between government departments and banks based on which banks are to process the transactions. CAS aims at setting up a single server for all departments of the union government across the country connected to CBS servers of all transacting banks. This will ensure real time connectivity. CAS integrated with CBS of banks will also help the government in tracking movement of funds. A team of technical officers from SBI is presently working in the office of the CGA for development of the Core Accounting Solution and its integration with our Core Banking Solution.

I am extremely positive that we can put in place world-class IT platforms which the government wants, to achieve the highest standards of excellence with data integrity, efficiency and accuracy being the hallmarks.  

Sandeep Budki
sandeep@egovonline.net

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