Plans for Bangladesh to develop a digital financial program for the majority of consumers with no access to banks—many of them in rural areas—are beginning to take shape.
Bangladesh’s central bank is supporting development of a nationwide mobile payments system set to launch in 2018 that will be accessible to the country’s 160 million citizens, according to reports.
Instead of attempting to extend traditional banking operations to rural areas, Bangladesh aims to bring financial services to the far corners of the nation through 4,500 computer-enabled centers the government will set up in villages, reports indicate.
The project, Digital Financial Services Lab+, is in early-stage planning as a joint initiative between the Bangladesh Bank and the country’s public-sector innovation agency, Access to Information (a2i).
About a third of the computer centers will be operate in partnership with private companies operating existing mobile financial services, including bKash and Dutch-Bangla’s Bank Mobile Banking, reports suggest.
“Banking services [in Bangladesh] need to be overhauled and transformed from a bottom-up approach that appreciates the perception of the poor and their needs for financial services,” said Amir Chowdhury, who heads a2i, in a recent World Bank blog post.
Consumers who currently rely entirely on cash would benefit from mobile payments enabling them to securely send and receive payments, and store and save funds, which may help to stabilize households and expand access to the broader economy, according to Chowdhury.