DIGITAL FINANCIAL
INCLUSION

The
process of providing and ensuring access to appropriate and formal financial
products and services to the excluded and undeserved population of the society such
as weaker sections and low income groups at an affordable cost in a fair and
transparent manner by mainstream institutional players. through digital means
is called as digital financial inclusion. The goal of financial services made available via digital means
is to contribute to the reduction in poverty and deliver on the recognized
benefits of financial inclusion in developing countries. Financial inclusion
means the sustainable provision of affordable financial services that bring the
poor into the formal economy. An inclusive system includes a range of financial
services that provide opportunities for accessing and moving funds, growing
capital, and reducing risk. Such services may be provided by banks and other
traditional financial services organizations, or by non-bank providers.

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PROVIDERS

(i)                
a full-service bank offering a basic transactional
account for payments, transfers, and value storage via mobile device or payment
card plus point-of-sale (POS) terminal

(ii)             
a limited-service niche bank offering such
an account via mobile device or payment card plus POS terminal

(iii)           
a mobile network operator (MNO) e-money
issuer

(iv)            
a nonbank non-MNO e-money issuer

KEY COMPONENTS OF A
DIGITAL FINANCIAL INCLUSION MODEL

All
the four models function via three components

(i)     a
digital transactional platform,

(ii)  an
agent network

(iii)                       
customer’s access device.

With
these components in place, payments and transfers, as well as credit, savings,
insurance, and even securities, can be offered digitally to excluded and
underserved customers.

(i)    
Digital
transactional platform

A digital transactional
platform enables a customer to make or receive payments and transfers and to
store value electronically through device such as mobile phones that transmits
and receives transaction data and connects—directly or through the use of a
digital communication channel—to a bank or nonbank permitted to store
electronic value. Any Innovative digital financial service will typically
involve at least one bank and one nonbank in both the electronic storage and
management of data and the holding of customers’ funds. Two main factors that
plays a crucial role in protecting customer’s funds

a)      Participation
of the holder in a deposit insurance system.

b)      Specific
type of account in which the insured funds are held.

Coverage limits may apply
to the account that pools multiple customers’ funds as a whole or to customers’
individual balances. Even if the customers’ funds are insured, if they are
pooled and a third party (such as an MNO) is responsible for storing and
managing records of customers’ account balances, then there are certain risks
related to real-time accuracy and reconcilability of the records of the failing
holder of funds with those of the entity managing the accounts.

(ii)  Retail agent

Retail agents that is
armed with a digital device connected to a communications infrastructure helps
in transmitting and receiving transaction details will enable customers to
convert their cash into an electronically stored value and to transform stored
value back into cash. Depending on applicable regulation and the arrangement
with the principal financial institution, agents may also perform other
functions.

(iii)                       
 Customer’s access device

The device used can be
digital, such as a mobile phone that helps in transmitting data and information
or an instrument, such as a payment card that connects to a digital device
(e.g., POS terminal).

 

RISKS

Digital
financial inclusion also involves some risks for the same
vulnerable financially excluded and underserved customers that benefit them
from the opportunities. Access to digital financial services do not always
benefit the society without involving risks to customers as well as to the
providers. Digital financial inclusion introduces participants in the new
market and allocates them their roles and risks (both new and well known) in
different ways compared to the traditional approaches to retail financial
service delivery. The three key components of digital financial inclusion
models correspond to the three main triggers of new or shifting risks. They are

(i) the new
parties and arrangements involved in the management and storage of account
data   and the holding of customer funds.

 (ii) the digital technology.

(iii)
the use of agents as the principal customer interface.

These
three components, as well as the typical profile of the financially excluded or
underserved customers in question, introduce various risks such as operational
risks, consumer-related risks, and risks related to financial crime.

1.     
Novelty
risks

Lack
of familiarity with the products, services, and providers and their resulting
vulnerability to exploitation and abuse by the customers leads to novelty
risks.

2.     
Agent-related
risks

Agents and agent networks
introduce new operational, financial crime and consumer risks, many of which
are due to the physical distance between agents and the provider or the agent
network manager and the resulting challenges to effective training and oversight.
Operational risks include fraud, agent error, poor cash management by the
agent, and poor data handling. In addition to the financial crime risks of
fraud and theft (including data theft), agents may fail to comply with antimony
laundering and combatting the financing of terrorism (AML/CFT) rules regarding
customer due diligence, handling records, and reporting suspicious
transactions. Agents may also take actions that reduces transparency (e.g., on
pricing, terms, and recourse), engage in abusive treatment of customers which
includes overcharging or failing to handle sensitive data of the customers
confidentially. Agent-related risks due
to the new providers offering services are not subject to the consumer
protection provisions that apply to banks and other traditional financial
institutions.

 

3.     
Digital
technology-related risks

The
poor quality and unreliability of the digital technology causes risks like
disrupted service and lost data which includes payment instructions (e.g., due
to dropped messages), as well as the risk of a privacy or security breach
resulting from digital transmission and storage of data. These privacy and
security risks are of a great concern as large number of agents handle
customers’ transactional and other data and the profile of previously excluded
and underserved customers.

ADVANTAGES

1.     
Helps in easy access to formal financial services such as payments, transfers,
savings, credit, insurance, securities, etc. Migration to account-based
services typically expands over time as customers need to gain familiarity and
build trust in digital transactional platform. Government-to-person payments,
such as conditional cash transfers, that can enable digital stored-value
accounts provides a path for the financially excluded into the financial
system.

2.     
Both
provider as well as customers have to incur only a small amount of costs
through this digital transactional platform. It also allows customers to transact locally in irregular, tiny amounts,
helping them to manage their characteristically uneven income and expenses.

3.     
If the customer has any additional financial
services needs and financial circumstances, it is made possible by the payment, transfer, and
value storage services embedded in the digital transaction platform itself, and
by the data generated within it.

4.     
It
aids in promoting the economic
empowerment by enabling asset accumulation and, for women in particular, increasing their
economic participation.

5.     
It reduces the risks of loss, theft, and other financial crimes posed by
cash-based transactions, as well as the reduced costs associated with transacting in cash and through
informal providers.

ISSUES ON POLICY MAKING
HORIZON

1.      Product-
and model-specific issues in digital financial inclusion.

In some countries, credit
and insurance products are also offered in addition to payments, transfers, and
value storage, to previously excluded and underserved customers via digital
transactional platforms. Such products and the complex relationships among the
banks and nonbanks combining to offer them introduce both operational risks to
the provider and customer risks. When the products are bundle such as life
insurance packaged with a prepaid mobile plan, both regulation and supervision
becomes more complicated which will require coordination among regulators

2.      Consumer
protection issues.

New financial services
and products offered digitally to excluded and underserved customers pose
challenge to the traditional thinking about disclosure and recourse and raise
other consumer protection issues. Some policy makers are leaning towards
product standards and guidelines to complement digital innovations in
disclosure and recourse. If the consumer suffers a loss, liability can be
unclear due to the multiple parties involved in service delivery: both agents
and third-party providers of communications and technology services.

3.     
Increased need for cross-sectoral
coordination and communication.

Digital financial
inclusion requires significant cross-sectoral coordination and communication
among regulators and supervisors. This is true both at the country-level (e.g.,
credit, insurance, and investments offered via digital transactional platforms require
the attention of multiple financial regulators and supervisors, and may call
for involvement of the telecommunications regulator as well) and at the global
level of SSBs and other international bodies, such as the International Telecommunications
Union.

4.      Customer
identity—new opportunities and challenges in the digital context.

Financial identity for
poor people carries the potential for both inclusion and AML/CFT gains, but
also raises privacy and fraud risks when services are delivered digitally. Meaningful
and manageable privacy principles which will involve work at both the national
and global level offers the prospect of win-win solutions.

 

DIGITAL JAGRITI

Lack of awareness of digital
financial literacy, especially among the rural population is a major challenge
in the country, more so in light of the Government’s recent demonetization and
plans to make India a cashless economy. There is an urgent need to create
awareness among the citizens, especially in rural and semi-urban areas
regarding basics of digital finance services.

The project titled “Digital Finance for Rural India: Creating Awareness
and Access through CSC’s aims to enable the CSCs to become Digital
Financial hubs, by hosting awareness sessions on government policies and
digital finance options available for rural citizens as well as enabling
various mechanisms of digital financial services such as such as IMPS, UPI,
Bank PoS machines etc. This
project intends to target around 1 crore (10) Million rural citizens across
India such as Farmer, Women, Marginalised Section, Hawkers, Small Traders and
Artisans and would reach out to all 2, 50,000 Gram Panchayats across the
country through 200,000 CSCs which are operational across rural and semi urban
locations. The overall objective of the
project is:

·        
Create
awareness in rural India through workshops and awareness drives.

·        
To
enable the CSC’s to become Digital Financial Education Hubs, by hosting
awareness sessions focused in their community and Panchayat.

·        
To
sensitize and enable merchants at Panchayat level to use Electronic Payment
System.

·        
To
enable citizens to access and use electronic payment system (EPS) such as IMPS,
UPI, Bank PoS machines etc.

·        
To
inform rural citizens about government policies and about digital financial
options available to them

DIGITAL FINANCIAL INCLUSION AND UN
SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT GOALS

Countries can achieve
their 2030 Sustainable Development Goals by adopting digital payments and
financial services. Digital financial
inclusion directly supports ten of the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals

 

GOAL

IMPACT FROM DIGITAL FINANCIAL
INCLUSION

No
poverty

·        
Poor people and small businesses
are able to invest in their future
·        
More government aid reaches the
poor as leakage is reduced

Zero
hunger

·        
Farmers are better able to invest
during planting seasons and smooth
consumption between harvests
·        
More food aid reaches the poor as leakage
is reduced

Good
health and well-being

·        
Increased
government health spending as leakage is reduced
·        
Financial
inclusion for women can increase spending on health care

Quality
education

·        
Digital payments to teachers reduce
leakage and absenteeism
·        
Micro tuition payments increase
affordability
·        
Financial inclusion for women can
increase spending on education

Gender
equality

·        
Digital reduces women’s physical
barriers to gaining an account
·        
Women have more control over their
finances and their businesses

Affordable
and clean energy

·        
Mobile pay-as-you-go schemes create
access to clean energy
·        
Better targeted subsidies increase
use of renewable energy

Decent
work and economic growth

·        
Greater pool of savings increases
lending capacity
·        
Data history of poor and small
businesses reduces lending risks

Industry,
innovation and infrastructure

·        
Digital finance enables new
business models and products
·        
More public and private capacity to
invest in infrastructure

Reduced
inequalities

·        
Financial inclusion gives greatest benefit
to very poor people
·        
More government aid available as
fraud and theft are reduced

Peace,
justice and strong communities

·        
Digital records of financial
transactions increase transparency and enable better monitoring of corruption
and trafficking

DIGITAL FINANCIAL LITERACY

Digital
Financial Literacy is the knowledge and skills for effectively using digital
devices for financial transactions. It is simply the ability to have a
relationship with a bank/Financial Institution to keep the money safe, use facilities
to transact using own money in the most secure way and to be aware of one’s own
financial identity

IMPORTANCE OF DIGITAL FINANCIAL LITERACY

 As
India focuses on the biggest digital transformation in recent history, Union
Budget 2017 had a section on Promoting
Digital in the budget speech apart from Policy
Provisions in the Union Budget to impact these
changes. Keeping this in mind, it is necessary to empower every citizen with
the information and knowledge necessary to join the revolution and help India
progress along the path of a Less-cash economy.

TENETS OF DIGITAL FINANCIAL LITERACY

(A) Inform citizens about government policies, initiatives
and digital financial options available for them

It
is essential to ensure that every citizen regardless of financial status,
current literacy levels and geographical distance from the main cities is
empowered with all necessary information. India is a diverse country with
languages, cultures changing every 100 kilometers, to standardize a method or
approach to imparting a program with mass impact is next to impossible. Thus a
standard template can be created which can be customized to meet the needs of
various target groups. A decentralized approach lead locally with the
assistance of local communities is the best and most efficient way. The
government should make policies but local administration should be take the
responsibility of measuring success along with periodic program tracking and
reviewing success parameters.

(B) Building Awareness of Digital Payment Methods

Digital
Financial Literacy is the (convenient) marriage of all three paradigms:
Digital, Finances and Literacy. An Individual and family may be at various
different stages of each or all put together. The government provides
volunteers for building such awareness among people. For example, for a rural
farmer who doesn’t even own a bank account, a USSD method of payment on mobile
is not suitable. However, helping the farmer open a bank account and learn to
understand how to put cash and withdraw from the bank account can be the first
step followed by how to use a bank card and transacting on mobile.

 (C) Imparting
knowledge of Safety and Security of Digital Payments

In
a digital world, safety and security is of importance to everyone. Thus the
knowledge of safety and security need to be imparted in the minds of people
using the digital payments.

FACILITATORS OF DIGITAL FINANCIAL LITERACY

(A) Digital Payments Infrastructure to allow digital
transactions: Merchants and Consumers

“The
goal of education is not to increase the amount of knowledge but to create the
possibilities for a child to invent and discover, to create men who are capable
of doing new things. ”

–         
Jean
Piaget

Creating
possibilities and avenues for customers (consumers using the service or
merchants providing the service) is key to ensuring the education drive bears
fruit and allows the citizens of a Digital Economy to transact digitally as
effortlessly and without barriers. Consumer choice is paramount and should
drive what merchants provide for payments as well

(B) Assisting less-cash behavior shift

Some
amount of hand holding will be needed through this transition period. Its
foolhardy to presume a onetime effort can result in long lasting change. Using
public service communication channels like National TV, Radio, Print and
Digital campaigns will ensure the message is delivered to recipients and
reiterated many times over. consumer issues and pain points with active
listening and fast action are other necessary actions.

(C) Incentivizing less-cash behavior

The
most effective method in introducing trial and creating a habit is incentives,
carefully timed to an individual’s progress in usage of a product with periodic
interventions to ensure instant gratification and drive habit change. Monetary
incentives such lotteries, cash backs and prizes will certainly motivate
individuals to first try and later stick to paying digitally.