Bangladesh is planning to launch a countrywide mobile payments system by early 2018, according to a policy adviser with the Prime Minister’s Office quoted by GovInsider.
Anir Chowdhury heads Bangladesh’s public sector innovation agency, Access to Information (a2i), and was reported as saying the system would be established in partnership with Bangladesh Bank.
The system will sync up with Bangladesh’s bKash – a subsidiary of Brac Bank – which allows citizens to purchase goods and services through SMS messages.
According to Chowdhury, this service will also be made available at 4,500 computer centres across the country.
These computer centres work as the last-mile service delivery of digital services for rural families. A total of 1,200 of these centres also provide mobile financial services.
In a previous blog post for the World Bank, Chowdhury wrote that an overwhelming proportion of the population remain unbanked and the poor farmers living in remote villages are the most deprived of such services.
The blog further claimed that the prevailing top-down mindset in the banking industry should be overhauled and transformed into a bottom-up approach that appreciates the perception of the poor and their need for financial services.
Through this system, these unbanked citizens who normally deal mostly with cash will be able to make payments with their mobile phones, Chowdhury wrote.
A key goal of the upcoming mobile payments initiative is to create a method to include the rural population in the financial system as the branch-based banking system has largely failed in this regard due its high service charge.
The joint initiative between a2i and the Bangladesh Bank is called the Digital Financial Services Lab+.