Instant online fund transfers amongst domestic banks through mobile, Internet and ATMS (automatic teller machines) is now possible with the launch of the BIPS (Bhutan Immediate Payment Service) system yesterday in Thimphu.
Seen as an important step towards promoting the use of digital payments within the country, BIPS offers interbank fund transfer service through multiple channels instantly and 24 hours a day.
An e-payment gateway has also been incorporated in the BIPS service. Direct payment for some of the Thimphu Thromde services were also launched yesterday as part of the G2C services. E-payment for other municipal services will be added in time.
The government of India funded the BIPS project spearheaded by the Royal Monetary Authority (RMA), the country’s central bank, in collaboration with the Department of Information Technology and Telecom (DITT), communications ministry, the financial institutions and the G2C Office.
“Improving public service delivery has been a top priority of the government and it will continue with the same spirit in the 12th five year plan as well,” said the communication minister, D N Dhungyel, during the launch.
As of December 2016 there were approximately 685,747 mobile subscribers of which 485,656 had subscribed to leased line, fixed broadband GPRS/EDGE or mobile broadband internet services. Approximately 461,434 people had subscribed to 3G internet and 3,573 had subscribed to 4G internet.
Currently, the service is provided by BOBL, BNBL and Druk PNBL. The remaining banks will soon provide the facility and the maximum transfer limit set by the participating banks is Nu 100,000 a day. The charges for using the BIPs service are set by individual member banks. Transactions initiated over government web portals are exempt of service charges.
The main objective of the project is to set up a national level infrastructure to enable inter-bank interoperability facilitating online payments among citizens, government agencies, and business and to build the fundamental infrastructure necessary for e-Commerce.
MoIC secretary Dasho Karma Wangchuk Penjor said that G2C’s online services requiring payment component could not be delivered end-to-end through online means in the absence of a national interbank immediate fund transfer infrastructure.
As the majority of Bhutanese are farmers and do not have easy access to banking services but have mobile phones the communications minister had requested the central bank, Telecom companies and financial institutions to work together to explore money payments using their mobile phones without requiring to maintain bank accounts.
The main benefits of BIPS are reduction in transaction overheads and eliminating the physical exchanges of cash between sender and beneficiary.BIPS also paves the way for e-commerce business startups, reduces cash handling and mismanagement and ensures proper tax base information and recording.