Tech pioneer Bill Gates praised India’s policies for financial innovation and inclusion, saying his philanthropic foundation is working with other countries to roll out open-source technologies modelled on India’s effective implementation.
The country has built ambitious platforms for money transfers and reliable identification, including the world’s largest biometric database and a system for sending rupees between any bank or smartphone app. Gates said those policies have drastically reduced the cost and friction of money distribution to the poor in the country, especially during the pandemic.
“If people are going to study one country right now, other than China, I’d say they should look at India,” Gates said at the Singapore Fintech Festival on Tuesday. “Things are really exploding there and innovation around that system is phenomenal.”
Indian digital payments took off after the government pushed demonetization in 2016, invalidating most of the country’s high-value bank notes in a move to curb corruption and push Indians away from cash. The Unified Payments Interface, or UPI, has taken off thanks to booming smartphone use and wireless data rates among the lowest in the world.
India also mandates that companies use its UPI platform so payments can be sent among all services, including those from Facebook Inc, Amazon.com Inc, Walmart Inc., Paytm and any new upstart. Zero user fees are also required.
“India is a great example,” the co-chairman of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation said during the virtual conference. His organization is now helping some countries that don’t have established standards to roll out similar systems based on open-source technologies, he added.
Addressing the battle against the Covid-19 pandemic, Gates said he expects vaccines to put an end to it in 2022, though he warned against complacency.
“We can’t forget that another pandemic will come, so we need to invest and be ready,” he said. “Digital things overall — remote learning, telemedicine, digital finance — were greatly advanced. So even though the pandemic has been terrible, it has pushed some of these innovations including how quickly we make vaccines.”