Demonetisation: The role technology could play in building a corruption-free India

The current government fully understands the potential of technology and has been constantly encouraging greater adoption and execution of reforms that are more tech-driven and less people-dependent. With a series of strategically planned schemes, it is progressing towards the vision of financial inclusion that will be fuelled by information technology.

By Ravi B Goyal

India has been fighting the menace of corruption for far too long. Over the last few years and particularly the recent past, the government has been earnest and steadfast in taking corrective measures to cleanse off one of the country’s most stigmatic image. The recent demonetisation of high value currency is one such measure. The cash management companies in India, were working round the clock to ensure there was no lag in software recalibration or currency replacement.

India is one of the most cash intensive countries in the world with a cash-to-GDP ratio of 12 percent, and value of transactions through ATMs have only been rising over the years. A high cash-based system only widens the door for corruption within a nation. Unfortunately, today the machinery of corruption is ubiquitous, which is why we need the help of technology to rescue us from this colossal institution.

The current government fully understands the potential of technology and has been constantly encouraging greater adoption and execution of reforms that are more tech-driven and less people-dependent. With a series of strategically planned schemes, it is progressing towards the vision of financial inclusion that will be fuelled by information technology.

The Jan Dhan Yojana introduced 26 cr citizens to the banking system and the JAM Trinity (the consolidation of Jan Dhan Yojana, Aadhar and Mobile) is another initiative to boost transparency and facilitate the access to credit. This, followed by the Income Disclosure Scheme witnessed an inflow of over Rs 67,000 cr in cash and assets, while Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) scheme put subsidies and welfare funds worth Rs 48,215 cr into the hands of the rightful owners. In all of these success stories, technology has played the central character.

Banks have been the earliest in India to adopt technology by automating systems and streamlining their processes. A strong parallel economy choked with counterfeit notes had been eroding the country and destabilising the economy. Introduction of tech advancements have enabled banks to keep a high level of security, check fraud, abuse or pilferage, and to minimise the risk and cost of handling cash. Introduction of non-cash payment modules like RTGS, NEFT, NECS, UPI and digital wallets also play an instrumental role in bringing greater transparency and managing audit trails.

Every industry has the potential to grow when it turns to technology and I particularly endorse the theory. For most industries, automation and obtaining real time data can have a ripple effect through the entire value chain that it operates in. Security is another concern for various industries, and technology once again can be the answer here..

Other industries can also benefit by using tech based ‘deterrents’ like RFID in logistics, Digitisation of Data in taxation sector or GPRS in travel etc. By adopting these smart solutions, not only do we close loopholes, but reduce human involvement and thereby, the potential for intentional and unintentional errors.

Going ahead, we can tap into the vast potential of technology and channelise all large value transactions on a traceable system, which cash does not permit currently. From ATM to netbanking and POS transacting, we are more dependent on technology than we realise. Even the ongoing currency overhaul wouldn’t have been possible for the government to fathom or conduct in the absence of technology.

Innovation in the electronic payment space, especially in the micro payment sector will boost the digital transacting ecosystem and monitor and control the exchange of money. Creating a healthy and transparent system is in the interest of macro-economic concerns and a means to check inflation, attract foreign investment and bring overall stability to the economy.

Notably, technology will be the driving force that will boost the economy and help minimise corruption, but as I have always said that in a country like ours, Cash and Alternate mode of payments will continue to co-exist.

The author is the chairman and managing director, AGS Transact Technologies Ltd

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