Technology titan and co-chair of Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Bill Gates sees India leapfrog into a digital payments economy, with almost half the population using such platforms to transact and transfer money in three years. "I am very pleased with what I see. The basic pieces are there to drive money transfers and eventually payments," said Gates.
He was speaking at Nasscom hosted panel discussion on `Transforming India through digital financial inclusion' in Delhi. Jayant Sinha, minister of state for finance, who was among the panelists with Gates said, "we are putting together a unique social security platform. We have solved the inclusion and access problem. Even 1,55,000 post office branches will be payment banks.
The killer app for this platform is direct benefits transfer." Sinha was referring Aadhaar cards for solving the access problem and financial inclusion via the August 2014 launched Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana that helped open more than 100 million new bank accounts.
Other panelists included SS Mundra deputy governor of the Reserve Bank of India, R S Sarma, chairman Telecom regulatory Authority of India and R Chandrashekhar, president Nasscom.
Commenting on the platform that the government is creating created to enable digital transactions, Gates said, "I think the pieces have fallen into place to get huge scale of digital transactions. We have to ensure that it is happening in rural areas and that agent networks are of very high quality and that there is cashin-cash-out availability. This will first drive money transfers and eventually payments. Young people will adopt faster than others."
Consultancy firm McKinsey estimates connecting every Indian household to a digital payment system and digitising government payments could save the government $22 billion per year.
To accelerate the process of digital transfers, Gates said the states will have to take a lead. "Few things need to be adjusted. We need to work with states so that they use the platform. They won't resist the idea but need support in terms of training network agents to use the platform for digital transactions," Gates added.
Sinha claims the money transfer platform that India has created is better than anywhere else in the world. "Kenya (where more than half of money transfers happen on digital platforms) has a closed architecture.
India has technology neutral, channel neutral architecture. But I quote Bill on what he says about technology, we overestimate what you can do in the short run and underestimate what you can achieve in the long run."
Earlier in the day, Gates met Prime Minister Narendra Modi and urban development minister M Venkaiah Naidu. According to agency reports, Gates Foundation signed a Memorandum of Cooperation with the urban development ministry to promote sanitation services from January.