BHIM app step in right direction, but digital inclusion still distant: study
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New Delhi: A research report on the usage pattern of Bharat Interface for Money (BHIM) said the app is a step in the right direction by the government to digitally empower rural India, but there is still a long way to go to ensure credible digital inclusion.
The study on BHIM app usage in rural India conducted by Brickworks Media, powered by Chrome Data Analytics & Media, found that awareness about the app, which has a user base of more than 10 million across the country, is 35.7% in rural areas.
Out of the 2,478 respondents who were a part of the pan-India survey, only 16.2% of the respondents have downloaded the app and only 9.2% have used the app for any purpose till date, claims the report.
“Our findings show that the app has reached a penetration of around 36% in rural areas, which is a sign that awareness of the app is increasing. However, a very small number of the respondents who have the app are aware of the usage process,” said Pankaj Krishna, chief executive officer and founder of Brickworks Media. “This may pose a bigger challenge in future as the success and sustenance of the initiative depends on the rural audience’s accessibility and understanding of the app.”
Among those who have downloaded the app and used it, around 14.8% have found it easy to use, claims the report.
The Android version of the app was launched on 30 December by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to promote digital transactions using the Unified Payments Interface (UPI), a bank-to-bank fund transfer system backed by internet and smartphones that uses phone numbers linked to banks.
Now, the BHIM app has been integrated with the USSD platform as well.
USSD is unstructured supplementary service data or *99# service. It gives one access to one’s bank account and helps perform some transactions by connecting to both telecom operators and bank servers.
In order to make UPI payments offline, one first needs to download the BHIM app on smartphone and complete the registration process. Once the SIM card and smartphone binding is done with the bank account, one can use the BHIM app to make UPI transactions, and when internet connectivity isn’t available, one can use USSD-based mobile banking.
According to the report, around 16.1% of the respondents are aware that BHIM app can be used without the internet using the USSD platform.
Out of around 417 million mobile phone users in rural India, 36.2% are smartphone users, 53.8% feature phones users and 10% are without phones. Earlier this month, the BHIM-Aadhaar platform—a merchant interface linking the unique identification number to the BHIM app—was launched.
According to Union minister for electronics and information technology Ravi Shankar Prasad, 20 million people have downloaded BHIM so far, and payments worth Rs823 crore have been made through it.
The launch of BHIM app was one of several measures aimed at promoting digital transactions that were taken after the 8 November demonetisation exercise, which triggered a nationwide cash crunch.