Nearly two-thirds of beneficiaries do not own a mobile phone. This is the main obstacle to sending the monetary aid of social safety net programmes, with a Government to Person (G2P) payment system using mobile financial services (MFS).
According to a study by Innovation Policy Action (IPA), only 36% of beneficiaries have their own mobile phone sets.
The rest of the beneficiaries have to depend on others to get their aid, said IPA Associate Director, Kathryn Glynn-Broderick, in disclosing the findings of the study at the webinar, "G2P Payment Digitization: Key Takeaways and Understanding Beneficiaries' Experience".
The webinar organised by Aspire to Innovate (a2i) on 28 July, in association with IPA Bangladesh and The Business Standard, was part of the webinar series, "Bangladesh Financial Inclusion Forum 1.0".
"Among low phone users, women are lower in number. Only 31% of women beneficiaries have a mobile phone to get aid directly," said Kathryn Glynn-Broderick.
"The women are also more likely to send others to collect their benefits rather than collecting it themselves. The number for women is around 55%, while only 37% of males send others to collect aid from agent banking points."
IPA has also found other challenges like people having to pay more fees for withdrawing the money on MFS as opposed to agent banking. However, it is true that people have to stand in long lines to collect their money benefits from agent banks.
According to the study, women have less access and direct control of transferring funds as they are less likely to own a phone for receiving payments in the first place. Also, current communication channels and messaging has resulted in low levels of products awareness.
As such, IPA called for monitoring and improving the service as well as increasing customer awareness about payment dates and the withdrawal process. It recommended arranging training and providing incentives for agents to avoid overcharging fees and also reduce wait-time.
It recommended raising awareness using posters and videos to highlight key features for illiterate populations, and launching videos on consumer protection issues.
In the webinar programme, Additional Secretary of the Ministry of Social Welfare, Mohammad Ismail, also acknowledged the low numbers of mobile phone users is a major obstacle to properly implementing G2P at the field level.
If all the beneficiaries have a mobile phone, 80% of the problems will be solved, he added.
"The rest of the problems will be solved if MFSs follow the Guidelines on Know Your Customer (KYC). We have asked them to follow the guidelines but they are still not listening to us," said Mohammad Ismail.
"We are working on addressing the waste of time in long lines and notifying people about their aid. Our upcoming agreements will incorporate penalties and punishments if MFS providers fail to provide the money to people within the scheduled time."
M Rashed Al Hasan, senior project officer of Asian Development Bank (ADB), said, "We are working on making grassroots people aware of the social safety net."
He urged stakeholders to work on motivating the poor to save by providing them with a good interest rate. Hasan of ADB suggested introducing multiple uses of mobile wallets to motivate the poor to save.
Emphasising more awareness, bKash Chief Commercial Officer Ali Ahmmed, said, "We are working closely with the Department of Social Welfare (DSW) and MFS. We see people have phones but everyone does not have the proper knowledge and understanding of it."
Putting emphasis on improving the payment ecosystem, Ashiq Aziz, senior social protection specialist of World Bank, said a complaint management system has to be introduced so that beneficiaries can get access to help when they face any problems.
Md Zakir Hossain Bhuiyain, head of FIFL of Bank Asia, said, "When we started providing the service in 2016, we ended up facing several problems. However, the establishment of our Touch-point has made it smoother. Now, a large number of beneficiaries are availing our service to access and get the government aid."
Md Tohurul Hasan, programme manager of the a2i Programme, moderated the webinar.