Significant gaps exist in global development financing, as most developing countries face immense challenges to implement development goals and struggle to obtain funds to enable those investments to proceed. For instance, investments required to attain the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) exceed government budgets, tax revenues, and the provided development-related aid. Hence, there is a need for financing to move from project funding to financing. In the SDG context, for instance, domestically and internationally mobilized private capital will need to be added to efficiently allocate public finance, along with a steady pipeline of projects.
Therefore, the Access to Information (a2i) Programme is working towards a financial inclusion intervention strategy, specifically in the agriculture and Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprise (MSME) sectors, which have been identified as important areas in which financial inclusion can be leveraged. Their project aims to identify the existing status of Digital Financial Services (DFS) and its possible future along with the scope of intervention.
As part of an effort to improve the social and economic welfare of the citizens of Bangladesh, Access to Information (a2i), ICT Division of Government of Bangladesh (GoB), and UNDP undertook the project titled, “Digital Financial Services in Agriculture and Micro, Small and Medium Enterprise (MSME) Sectors”. The project gauged the state, adoption, and potential of DFS deployment for those engaged in the agriculture and MSME sectors. Furthermore, it aimed to provide information and services to improve governance and transparency while reducing time, difficulty, and costs of availing government services, especially targeting the under-served communities of Bangladesh.
To generate insights on mainstreaming Digital Financial Services (DFS), LightCastle Partners conducted a qualitative study to identify the current gaps and understand the scope of intervention in the agriculture and MSME sectors.
The main data collection instrument used in this project was Key Informant Interviews (KIIs). A total of 15 KIIs were conducted with experts such as policymakers, regulators and key public sector stakeholders which included the Ministry of Agriculture and Industries and DFS linked stakeholders in the DFS, microfinance, agriculture, agritech, agri-insurance, and e-commerce sectors.
The KIIs allowed the team to not only gain key insights, but also gauge interest and discover policy and regulatory limitations along with exploring product design requirements. Moreover, having included policymakers, DFS regulators, providers, and industries that can leverage DFS (insurance, banking) among others, in the KIIs, nudged all these stakeholders towards collaboration with one another. Furthermore, secondary literature review was also carried out to recognize chief limitations in introducing DFS in agriculture and MSME sectors, and to understand global use cases and best practices.
The team culminated the findings of this project into a final report which also incorporated an analytical review and feasibility of DFS, together with suggested recommendations. The recommendations were developed along with designing specific interventions for the DFS which would make the existing measures more potent as well as pave the path towards a more inclusive environment for DFS in terms of usage, within the sectors of agriculture and MSME.
The recommendations derived from this project aims to increase the adoption of DFS in the agriculture and MSME sectors, which will in turn improve people’s access to finance. Furthermore, this study can better formalize the agriculture and MSME sector value chain, and create a guideline for future uses of digital services in Bangladesh.