Banking: Many wait in long queues at the banks or other offices to make payments today.

However, with the launching of the Payment Gateway Project, an initiative of the information and communications ministry, to be implemented by the Royal Monetary Authority, making payments should become easier.

The project will be launched on February 27 as a part of the government’s e-governance initiative. The payment gateway will enable interbank online transactions including online payments to public services.

Customers of Bank of Bhutan (BoB), Bhutan National Bank (BNB) and Druk Punjab National Bank (PNB) will now be able to make online fund transfers among themselves with the system in place.

The country today provides several online services under the G2C (government to citizen), G2G (government to government) and B2B (business to business) services however, the system lacks the final payment part.

Meaning, in most cases, the payments for the online services are made manually. There are currently 46 G2C services that require payment. Some of these services include issuance of passport, citizenship identity card, issuance and renewal of business licenses, company registration, clerical re-check of examination papers, vacant tanker services, among others.

Information and communications ministry secretary, Dasho Karma Wangchuk Penjor, said that with the payment gateway system in place, payments can also be made online for all the online services. This, he said will contribute to better and faster service delivery especially in the banks. “There is accountability because everything is documented and it will improve the efficiency because less cash is involved.”

He said that with young entrepreneurs coming up with several public service mobile applications, the payment gateway should benefit domestic e-commerce significantly. “The project will benefit not only the G2C and B2B services but also foster private businesses involved in domestic mobile apps and websites.”

However, with the current IT capacity of the country, establishing such a project has its challenges. Dasho Karma Wangchuk Penjor said that there are technical challenges depending on the reliability of Internet connectivity.

“Internet reliability is still a challenge but with the huge investment made by the government in the IT sector, we believe our infrastructure has the capacity to handle such initiatives,” said Dasho Karma Wangchuk Penjor, adding that since the IT sector across the globe is rapidly changing, in terms of updating the infrastructure and software, it poses a challenge.

He said that the system has been tested and is secure. “We have all the safety features put in place. There is always risk and challenge to any new ideas but because of the risks are we not going to do it?” he said.  “We have to manage these risks. The banks also need to pay a lot of attention when it comes to cyber security.”

With the introduction of the interbank payment gateway, Dasho Karma Wangchuk Penjor said that it will also allow new opportunities to entrepreneurs to develop a full-fledged online services.

“Although the use of online services are now increasing, the popularity is not picking up at the pace it should,” he said. “With all the benefits that online services provides, people should be encouraged to use it more.”

Dasho Karma Wangchuk Penjor added that with the huge investment the government put into the facility, the public must make the optimum use of the facility.

The payment gateway project is established at the cost of Nu 15.63 million, funded by the Government of India.

Younten Tshedup