Clockwise: Ahsan H Mansur, Deb Dulal Roy, Tohurul Hasan, Tania Haque
Clockwise: Ahsan H Mansur, Deb Dulal Roy, Tohurul Hasan, Tania Haque

Transactions will increase significantly with the introduction of interoperability in Mobile Financial Services (MFS). This will have a positive impact on the economy. But everyone's interests must be equally ensured before this service starts up. And it would not be fair to impose any fresh charges on the clients. The interests and financial security of the clients must be given priority.

These observations were made at a virtual roundtable organised by Prothom Alo and Policy Research Institute (PRI). The discussion on 'The Opportunity and Future of Interoperability in Digital and Mobile Banking' took place in Sunday.


Addressing the discussion, PRI executive director Ahsan H Mansur said, airplanes from various countries land at Dubai airport and from there go off to various other destinations. Dubai airport provides interoperability facilities. In the same manner, there is talk about interoperability services in MFS. This calls for application of the law, technical consolidation and financial inclusion. The business model for this service must also be determined or else it will not be possible to run the service. Everyone's interest must be equally ensured.

Ahsan H Mansur went on to say that the economy will benefit if interoperability in introduced in MFS. The question is, how will it function? How will the transactions be coordinated? Bangladesh Bank will have to take initiative. It must be ensured that all banks and MFS are covered by this service. Innovation must be allowed in business, it cannot be specified as to which company will give which service. It will also be wrong to fix the charge. The clients must have the chance to choose. He said that this service had already developed significantly without any sort of government initiative.

Executive director of Bangladesh Bank (programming), Deb Dulal Roy, said in the interoperability system, both sides must come forward. There has to be technological development otherwise the service cannot be used properly. The more this service expands, the more transaction there will be. This benefits the economy. The charge for this service can be determined through discussions among all concerned. It must be ensured that the companies can survive and that pressure is not placed on the clients. We are striving for that. Until the security of the clients can be ensured, the service will not be started.

Programme manager of the government's a2i digital financial services, Tohurul Hasan, said over the past 10 years the digital financial market came to where it stands today. It must been why, due to interoperability, the MFS will leave their own platforms to go to NPSB. Most importantly, the costs involved must be determined as well as who will bear these costs.

We are ready for interoperability services. Coordination is very important. It is a matter of relief that these transactions will be done through the central bank. But it must be ensured that money is not siphoned off through this service.
Kamal Quadir, Chief executive of bKash

Professor of women and gender studies at Dhaka University, Tania Haque, said that women's participation in the financial sector is very vulnerable. MFS is a huge opportunity in this regard. Women must be given financial and technological training in this regard.

Managing director of the digital ticket and ride sharing service Shohoz, Maliha Quadir, said if interoperability is introduced in financial services, digital transactions will increase. Competition will increase among the service providers and the quality of service will improve too. But the service charge should not be a burden on anyone.

MFS company Nagad's managing director Tanveer Ahmed said the introduction of interoperability in mobile financial transactions will bring about economic independence. When interoperability is introduced, this service will increase. The problem is 60 different banks are using 60 different technologies. And the various MFS have different technologies too, and so coordination is important. After all, the clients' interests come first.

He went on to say that initially the market could be caught by offering this service without any charges. Imposing charges from the outset has weakened the service. We can open up the KYC (know your customer) information we have on our clients for everyone.

Deputy managing director of Rocket service provider Dutch-Bangla Bank, Abedur Rahman Sikder, said certain factors must be taken into consideration before starting up interoperability services. It is important to decide upon how much will be charged or this service.

He said mobile banking services had been started up for marginalised people, but the charges to withdraw cash were too high. It was too much for these marginalised people to pay Tk 18.50 per every Tk 1000 that they withdrew. It is important for all MFS to decrease this together.

Chief executive of bKash, Kamal Quadir, said, "We are ready for interoperability services. Coordination is very important. It is a matter of relief that these transactions will be done through the central bank. But it must be ensured that money is not siphoned off through this service."

He said 71 per cent of the transactions are not being done digitally. There are no charges for this. The more that digital transactions increase, the matter of cost will become more negligible.

Emeritus fellow of Unnayan Shamannay, Khandkar Sakhawat Ali, said that no private sector company should be able to run this service from within the central bank. And it should be seen how the client will be protected if the service is provided through a third party.

The opening address at the roundtable was presented by Prothom Alo associate editor Abdul Quayum. The discussion was moderated by Prothom Alo assistant editor Firoz Choudhury.