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Interview of Secretary IT, reviewing legal framework for securing digital payments (Relevant for GS Prelims and Mains Paper II, Topic: Digitalization of economy)

What are the areas you have identified as crucial to push the transition towards more digital payments?
The focus is on four things. First is to review the legal framework for digital payments and cybersecurity, and see whether there is anything that we need to do. There are some areas where we need to work, so we are comprehensively reviewing that.

The second area is new technologies that are coming up. We need to encourage these because unless technology is very easy to use and very convenient, it is difficult for people to go cashless. We are looking at near field communications (NFC), embedded iris- and biometrics-enabled smartphones, USSD-enabled mobile banking. A lot of start-ups are also coming up with applications using these technologies. We are trying to see which of those can be suitable.

The third area is using our own CSC (common service centre) network for getting one crore citizens enrolled into digital payments. And the last is to create awareness — through the TV channel that we have launched (DigiShala) and a knowledge repository website, where all information on digital payments can be found.

While there’s been a surge in use of e-wallets, a lot of security concerns have been raised too. Till your review of the legal framework is complete, is there any interim measure planned for enhancing security of such instruments?
The legal framework we will do immediately…I can’t give a date, but we will do it very quickly as it is very important.

Can we expect any steps to address customer complaints for digital payments? For example, a lot of time payments don’t go through or a customer is charged twice…
Customer complaint redressal will fall within the domain of service providers, but if there are issues relating to the technology, there has to be accountability and liability of the platform providers. We will build that into the legal provisions.

Is there any proposal to allow interoperability of mobile wallets?
The committee of Chief Ministers, chaired by Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu, has discussed this with the Reserve Bank of India and the decision was that, for the time being, we will allow interoperability of bank-backed mobile wallets. Currently, there are three types of mobile wallets — given by banks, given by telecom players such as Airtel Money and Jio Money, and players like Paytm. In the first stage, it has been decided to make the banks’ wallets interoperable.

Concerns have also been raised over infrastructure capacity to carry digital payments. Recently, there were reports of transaction failures due to network failure.
Failures can happen at three to four levels. One is the basic underlying network i.e. the telecom network itself. On telecom networks, I think while we do have call drops, we don’t have system-wide failure.

Second, it can be at the switch level (Visa or MasterCard switch). Recently, I think what happened was that one of the switches went off. That is something that they have to fix. The third is at the bank. The bank’s back-end servers may have been down etc. Usually, all service providers take urgent actions in such cases, we don’t even have to tell them because they lose revenue if the system is down.

But have you spoken to telcos and the banks on the issue?
Yes. There have been several rounds of meetings with the telcos to ensure that network is strengthened.
With banks also we have continuous meetings. Last week, the IT Minister (Ravi Shankar Prasad) took a meeting with bank officials. He is meeting them again on Monday, along with the Finance Minister (Arun Jaitley).
 

 



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