A senior official of the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology has proposed that it should be made mandatory for merchants to have a QR code to more aggressively push digital payments nationwide.
“We need interoperable QRs in every place. I seriously feel that if you are big turnover person, you have to mandatorily provide a digital payment option. You can’t say I have nothing, I deal only with cash,” Joint Secretary Gopalakrishnan S said at the Data Security Council of India summit in Delhi
Gopalakrishnan oversees the data protection Bill drafting process, the ministry’s interactions with foreign companies, and digital payments.
There are 7 crore merchants and only 40 lakh POS (Point of sale machines that accept digital payments) machines in the country, he said. And that because the government will not be able to fund POS machines to every merchant, a mandatory QR code is the best next step after the spread of bank accounts through Jan Dhan Yojana.
A user can scan a merchant’s QR code and get automatically directed to pay the merchant on their phone through a payment app.
“Somewhere down the line, just like what we did with Jan Dhan, I’m all for a scheme that mandates — I mean we don’t know how to go about it — but compulsory to have a QR code. Until that acceptance is not pushed or mandated or built-in in some way, we will not reach the ultimate goal of digital payments.”
This week, PayTM announced its use of interoperable QR codes and plans to have 1.5 billion merchant payments with 14 million merchants.
Gopalakrishnan also promoted the idea to make anonymised UPI payment data available in the market giving the example that consumers could get better loan rates if start-ups had access to bank data.
“RBI says that the bank should not share this with the start-ups,” Gopalkrishna said on the sidelines of the summit to The Indian Express. “I feel if they share, I can get a better deal. Banning the sharing is a bad idea.”
The panel included Facebook India’s Public Policy director Shivnath Thukral, PayTM Payments Bank Deptuy General Manager Akshay Jain, and Head at Dvara Research Malavika Raghavan.
IT ministry officials have admitted that stagnant growth in digital payments has not met expectations.
An RBI report from June stated: “The cost of digital transactions is an inhibiting factor for the growth of digital transactions. Merchants have to cash out or transfer to their bank accounts at a cost and at times these costs are passed on to the consumer.”
Gopalakrishnan also stressed on the need to further encourage the use of UPI on feature phones. Raghavan emphasised the need to focus on grievance redressal for technological failures in rural areas, especially given a large trust deficit in digital payments.
At another panel at the event, IT ministry’s senior director Rakesh Maheshwari, who is closely overseeing the data protection bill, said there is not enough understanding of non-personal data in the draft. The ministry has made a committee on the subject and has met once. They plan to meet again in October.
The draft Bill, released for public consultation last year, has yet to be placed in Parliament.
Maheshwari also floated the idea of a cyber ambassador — someone who knows technology well and can be the public face of Government’s IT policy overseas and, not necessarily, from the External Affairs Ministry.