Technology Set to make Direct Benefits Transfers from Government to People more Efficient and Transparent
New Delhi - “A combination of political will and technical expertise has led to a paradigm shift in our approach to delivery of entitlements,” said Jairam Ramesh, Minister of Rural Development. “We are moving from banks to an inter-operable banking correspondent framework, door-step delivery of entitlements and use of technology. We are embarking on a major experiment in India,” he added.
The Minister was addressing a day-long international workshop organized by the Ministry of Rural Development (MoRD) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to identify recommendations to enhance efficiency in government to people payments through direct benefits transfers, particularly wages under Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Programme (MGNREGP) and other social assistance programmes.
Speaking at the opening session, Nandan Nilekani, Chairman, Unique Identification Authority of India, Government of India said, “We are on the verge of creating a technology revolution. Enabling conditions to facilitate a rapid roll-out of the direct benefits transfers announced recently by the government, require an open architecture of business correspondents combined with an authenticable ID, widespread connectivity and regulation.”
A persistent challenge in the implementation of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) has been the delays in disbursement of wages to workers employed under the Scheme. The MoRD and UNDP meeting brought together practitioners, policy advisors, academics, activists and members of the media to present innovations in government-to-people payments, discuss lessons from Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) initiatives across various programmes, and identify technology challenges and policy constraints which need to be addressed. UNDP facilitated sharing of international experiences from Kenya, South Africa, Brazil, Mexico, Colombia, Bangladesh and Fiji.
Congratulating the Government of India for efforts to deliver entitlements to people, Lise Grande, UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative, India referred to the Better than Cash Alliance, a network of UNDP, USAID, Visa, Citibank, UNCDF, Omidyar Network, Ford Foundation and Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, set up to provide expertise and resources to make the transition from cash to digital payments.
Developing efficient and pro-poor technology based methods will require a shift by governments in favour of electronic systems for government to people payments; adaptation of electronic payments to suit local contexts; and stepping up efforts at financial and technology literacy of users.
Sumeeta Banerji; Assistant Country Director & Head (Democratic Governance): Sumeeta.email@example.com ; +91-11-46532292