Interview

‘Usable Tech’ can Make FI Happen: CGM, NABARD

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Only bringing in new technology should not be the motto of the government for making financial inclusion more penetrative; instead technology and connectivity should be such that they can be used by everyone, feels Subrata Gupta

Google has become an integral part of our life. We have got so used to it that it feels as if we are using it since birth and it’s something without which we cannot live. Technology is there everywhere now, we cannot avoid it and it is the base for financial inclusion. However, we are missing out on one critical point and which is something I have learnt by implementing core banking solutions in 201 cooperative banks over the years.

When we go to the field, there are various components like the technology provider, infrastructure, etc. Then you have the user on one hand and the recipient on the other. Usually, when we talk about technology and ways of providing it, we lose focus of the person who is going to use it.

Using technology is a learned skill and does not come just like that. I will give you a simple example of immediate payment systems (IMPS). We, in collaboration with GIZ, conducted a pilot field study on how a micro finance institution gets all the money routed through IMPS methodology from the borrowers. In the study we found out that it takes a period of three months for a person of rural background to feed the numbers in the right way in a device for remittance; this is perhaps one part where a lot of investment and work needs to be done for financial inclusion to be really successful.

“Usually, when we talk about technology and the ways of providing it, many a time we lose focus of the person who is going to use it.”

Another issue which demands attention is the problem of connectivity. Cooperative banks which have branches in far flung areas like Ladakh and Andaman Nicobar islands face tremendous problems in connectivity. In one of the places in Arunachal Pradesh where we were implementing a project, the authorities got desperate and said they would go in for leased line connectivity. But when an evaluation was made it was found that it would cost something around Rs. 13 lakh to put that line at that particular place only.

Now, given the kind of cost for technology, it may be there but I cannot have that prohibitive cost to serve small customers in a rural area. So there is a requirement that we should ensure to take care of the connectivity part in rural areas, otherwise financial inclusion in the way we are thinking might not be able to serve the purpose. Second thing which I would reiterate here is that there is tremendous need for capacity building, both for the person who will be using the technology and the person who will be delivering it.

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