Not too long ago a mere attempt of making payments using any mobile wallet application used to be looked upon as a luxury of the “lazy generation”. We came a long way since then.
Things have changed. In fact, the corona virus disease turned a large part of the population become the so-called ‘lazy generation’ for better or worse.If we look back a little, Bangladesh saw significant rise in key human development indices in recent years. Along came rapid technological advancement, thanks to an impressive Internet penetration rate of 60.7 percent.
This favored a lot of opportunities for businesses and services to thrive. The payment sector went through a paradigm shift too. However, at the peak of financial inclusion, things almost came to a halt when the pandemic crippled the global trade and business. Our local economy felt the heat too.
The unprecedented, unexpected, and unthinkable invaded our personal, social, and not to mention financial affairs. Despite all those, however dire the situation was, digital financial services remarkably made way through all the peril.
The initial days of the pandemic were full of fear and unknown risks. Many even refrained themselves from visiting the ATM. Cash usage drastically declined due to the risk of contamination. These all contributed to a slow yet inevitable transition toward cashless, contactless payment environment.
The mobile financial services, digital financial services, online payments—different forms of the contactless payment gained huge traction. This necessitated the seamless interconnectivity between these services and the financial institutions; however, the infrastructure was not fully ready to serve that yet. So, in the end, it fell a little short.
In general, the corona pandemic forced us to step out of our comfort zone and change our payment habit. Though a segment of the population still preferred cash over the digital payment to buy perishables and medical supplies, the fundamental of our money management and payment behaviour just took a giant leap for financial inclusion.Over the time, against all odds and through relentless battles, corona pandemic has driven many of us to a ‘new normal’ situation. It has made profound impact on our way of living and how we cope with it. We have seen significant drive for innovations in the payment sector.
There are different initiatives have been taken. However, there are still areas that need our focus and attention to reach our desired level of financial inclusion of all segments of the population.
Some of those are but may not be limited to increasing digital payment literacy, building true interoperability among the payment applications and service providers, introducing more tokenized payments, enabling new FinTech services inclusive of various segments of users, and above all, enhancing the security aspects of the digital payment services.
It goes without saying that one of the most prominent uprising trends in Bangladesh now is the digital payments. With this on the go as the backdrop, recent activities have spurred a digital ecosystem. This subsequently has contributed significant value to the overall economy of the country, defying the dark challenges being created amid pandemic.
Keeping that momentum up, along with the right policies in place and timely action taken, Bangladesh will most definitely accelerate its recovery from the pandemic and continue to stride.
Hasan Muhammed Zahidul Amin is Head of Payment Lab, Kona Software Lab Limited