One of the biggest challenges to financial inclusion in Nepal, like in many least developed countries, is the lack of physical infrastructure linking low-income people in rural areas to digital platforms. Developing agent networks and other cash-in/cash-out points is one of the critical steps in bridging this access gap. Without access to digital service points, farmers, merchants, teachers, pensioners, etc., who are living in remote areas cannot possibly adopt financial services that would impact their businesses and lives.
Over the years, Nepal has made significant improvements in terms of alternative delivery channels of formal and informal financial services. Nepal Rastra Bank (NRB), the nation’s central bank, has implemented various policies to ensure that financial services make inroads to remote rural areas. Still, financial services are concentrated in urban and semi-urban areas, with the Kathmandu Valley region having the highest concentration. Mapping all financial service points and the areas with the greatest access gaps has become critical to NRB in order to support its interventions to improve financial inclusion across the country.
As a result, NRB—via its Banks & Financial Institutions Regulation Department—decided to upgrade its current reporting system with support from the United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF). To do so, UNCDF digital finance technical experts hired an app developer to support the design and development of an app called ‘NRB Data Collect.’ The app allows financial institutions to regularly upload their statutory and compliance data together with geo-spatial information of each service point. By automating the data-collection process via the app, the new reporting system will make checking compliance, analysing data and formulating policy more efficient. The pictorial view of financial service points across the country will also allow the Department to prioritize approvals of new bank branches or channel points. Furthermore, the realistic picture of access to and usage of financial services will enable NRB to better track progress in financial inclusion and to make evidence-based decisions that will further stimulate such progress.
The first phase of this initiative involves the development of a dynamic electronic map with geo-tagging of financial transaction points across Nepal. To build this initial map, NRB needs all financial institutions to collect the geo-spatial locations of all branches, ATMs, cash-in/cash-out points, money exchanges, bill payment merchant networks, and remittance agent points (non-financial points), via the newly developed mobile app.
For that purpose, NRB in association with UNCDF organized a soft launch of the app on 21 October 2016 with a small sample of 11 banks and financial institutions of Kathmandu. Following an opening speech by NRB Assistant Deputy Director Tek Nath Pokhrel, the developer—Rooster Logic—introduced the app. Then, through a mock account, all participants had the opportunity to use the app first-hand and get acquainted with geo-tagging. The interactive session helped uncover a number of issues that need to be solved prior to the official launch of the app, which will take place on 12 December 2016. Participants also received the NRB Data Collect App Manual along with the Process Flowchart, and they were asked to share the data-collection process (via the app) with their teams at their respective organizations following the session in order to ensure collection of a first batch of data.
In his closing remarks, Mr. Pokhrel stated, “This is a new chapter in the digital financial service platform of Nepal. With the cooperation of all the participating banking and financial institutions (BFIs), we can make this system a one-of-a-kind arrangement, which will simplify the timely information around data reported by BFIs.”
Stay tuned to learn more about this mapping project and how it influences providers and policymakers in Nepal.
UNNATI–Access to Finance (A2F) is to support financial service providers (banks and other financial institutions) to more effectively serve the agricultural value chain actors with appropriate financial products. The project is expected to result in creating an inclusive financial system that will support private sector driven, pro – poor growth. The project is funded by the Danish Government under UNNATI Inclusive Growth programme.
Making Access Possible (MAP) is a diagnostic and programmatic framework to support expanding access to financial services for individuals and micro and small businesses. The MAP framework creates the space to convene a wide range of stakeholders around evidence-based country diagnostic and dialogue and leads to the development of national financial inclusion roadmaps. MAP can be a powerful catalyst for donor harmonization and coordination in supporting financial inclusion at the country level, consistent with the Paris Declaration, and for building on the lessons and recommendations from CGAP’s CLEAR exercises. For more information,
Mobile Money for the Poor (MM4P) is a programme launched by UNCDF in partnership with the Swedish International Development Agency (Sida), the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and The MasterCard Foundation. MM4P provides support to digital financial services (DFS) in a selected group of least developed countries (LDCs) to demonstrate how the correct mix of financial, technical and policy support can build a robust DFS ecosystem that reaches low-income people in LDCs. For more information, visit https://mm4p.uncdf.org, follow @UNCDFMM4P and check out Mobile Money for The Poor.