India on Sunday launched 75 digital banking units in towns and small towns across the country in a move it says will help bring financial services and literacy to more citizens.
Founded in partnership with more than 20 public and private banks, the digital banking units are physical retail outlets equipped with tablets and internet services to help individuals and small businesses open their savings accounts, access government-identified schemes, verify conduct transactions, and use loans and insurance.
The physical outlets, spread across all Indian states and union territories, will provide services in two modes. “The self-service mode is available 24x7x365 days,” said Shaktikanta Das, governor of the Reserve Bank of India, during a virtual conference. “Banks are also free to engage digital business facilities and correspondence to expand DBU’s footprint,” he said.
Das said the units will also provide a digital assistance zone to answer questions from individuals and small businesses and hear their grievances.
The use of banking services has traditionally been a struggle for people living in villages and small towns, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said. Although there are more than a billion bank accounts in India, people living in remote areas typically had to take a day off from work to visit a nearby city for their banking-related work.
“We have given the highest priority to making sure banking services reach the last mile,” he said. “Not only have we removed the physical distance, but, more importantly, we have removed the psychological distance.”
The digital banking units are part of the Modi government’s long-standing efforts to serve people in the country’s remote areas. The government launched Jan Dhan Yojana, a scheme to give all citizens access to banking and financial services in 2014. More than 470 million bank accounts have been opened as part of the scheme,
“Today, the whole country is experiencing the power of Jan Dhan bank accounts,” Modi said. “This opened the way for unsecured loans for the poor and ensured direct transfer of benefits to the accounts of the intended beneficiaries. These bills were the main modality for providing housing, toilets, gas subsidies, and benefits of schemes for farmers could be guaranteed seamlessly. The IMF has praised India’s digital banking infrastructure. The credit for this goes to the poor, farmers and workers of India who have adopted new technologies and made it a part of their lives,” he said.