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Bank & Finance - August 22, 2021

Agent banking makes rural economy vibrant

Staff Correspondent:Md. Shahnawaz, who lives in remote village Motiganj under the Sonagazi Upazila of Feni district, fell into difficulties when his Oman expatriate friend asked him to send Tk 1,15,000 at the earliest.
He, however, could send the money within a short time and at a low cost thanks to the Union Digital Centre (UDC) that provides the agent banking service in the remote localities of the country.
“Covid-19 pandemic made it very risky and troublesome for me to go to the district town, about 20km away from my village, to send the money through Bank Asia. I was able to send the money with the help of Motiganj Union Digital Centre that provides agent banking services of Bank Asia,” said Shahnawaz.
Md Saleh Uddin Faisal, the entrepreneur of the center, did the job of sending money easily within a short time through the center’s agent banking system.
Shahnawaz could not even thought that he would be able to send the money so easily. Like him, many people of the union are now availing of the agent banking services through Union Digital Centres of the government.
“Agent banking is gradually gaining popularity among the villagers of remote unions as they are receiving all sorts of banking services easily,” said Motiganj Union Digital Centre entrepreneur Md Saleh Uddin Faisal.
Faisal said he is providing all banking services to the villagers and now around two to three lakh Tk is transacted daily through his centre.
National Consultant for the Digital Access & Financial Services of a2i Iqbal Hossain Sohel said agent banking under digital center network is increasingly becoming the key point for rural economy as the marginal people are getting involved in the mainstream of banking activities. He said deposit mobilization
has received a momentum and the remitters are now also opting for the platform largely as the beneficiaries can withdraw funds without visiting any bank branch.
As of July, 2021, he said, marginalized people are getting used to take banking services from a total of 4,470 digital centers across the country.
Till July 2021, he said, the total amount of deposit collection stood at Taka 13.7 billion while agent outlets disbursed Taka 19.6 billion in remittance.
Around 3 million marginalized people are taking banking services from the agent outlets, he added.
Iqbal Hossain Sohel said rural and underserved communities face significant challenges in accessing financial services and they still need to travel significant distance, spend considerable amounts of money and time to receive financial services as their nearest bank branch is often too far away.
To overcome this situation, he said, a2i has intervened with digital center based agent banking model where existing entrepreneurs of digital centers become a bank agent to offer financial services to hard-to-reach customers.
With the combination of technology and agent network, digital center entrepreneurs are now capable of providing banking services in rural areas to the marginalized and deprived community, he added.
Iqbal Hossain Sohel said the objectives of the agent banking are to include unbanked rural population in the formal banking system and provide access to various financial services through the digital center.
A2i has introduced the service to save time and money of citizens by offering financial services from the nearest agent points, he added.
The UDCs are providing digital services through 12 commercial banks. The banks are Mutual Trust Bank, AB Bank, Bank Asia, NRBC Bank, Modhumoti Bank, NRB Bank, City Bank, BRAC Bank, UCB, Premier Bank, Trust Bank and Eastern Bank.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina from her office and former New Zealand Prime Minister and Global Administrator of UNDP Helen Clark from Char Kukri Mukri jointly inaugurated the Union Information and Service Centre (Digital Centre) across the country through a video conference on 11 November 2010.
In the continuation of the success of Union Digital Centre in 2013, digital centers were established in all wards of municipalities and city corporations.
About 294 digital services are currently being delivered to the rural people by the union digital centers, said Iqbal Hossain Sohel.
The services include digital center payment, online banking, overseas job application, vaccine registration, interview card download and print, public exam results, university admission, passport application, visa verification and tracking, online driving license application, birth registration, health information, agricultural information, market information, information about law enforcing agencies, information about admission test in all levels (school, university etc), information related to public examinations, weather forecasting /natural disaster information, social safety network-VGD, VGF, Kabikha, Kabita – information, land related information- registration, mutation, record, survey, family planning information, Mobile Banking service, employment & job information, voter ID card & election-related various information, information related to all sorts of development activities taken at local & central levels.
Besides, people now can avail services like computer compose, printing, scanning and laminating, photographic service, photocopier service, internet browsing and e-mail service – connectivity with information super highway -, video conferencing, mobile telephone service, tax-related information, income tax, VAT, excise duty, business and recreation information, various types of government forms download and all other information related to government services from the centers.

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