The Covid-19 pandemic created a crisis but also brought opportunities for e-commerce entrepreneurs, leading to a massive spike in demand for contactless payments in the country, said Zunaid Ahmed Palak, state minister for ICT division, yesterday.
There is no doubt that people in the past four months have increased the amount of virtual services they usually avail and have now become habituated with virtual payment services, he said.
"I will request Bangladesh Bank to think about virtual payment systems and time has come to think about cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and other virtual ones," said Palak.
The state minister was launching contactless payment-on-delivery solution "Cashless Pay" for e-commerce, brought about by Paperfly, one of the country's leading home delivery networks, in collaboration with Mastercard and Eastern Bank.
It aims to bring the convenience of cashless payments to consumers' doorsteps, replacing cash on delivery payments.
As the regulator of the banking sector, Bangladesh Bank has its causes for not allowing trade of global cryptocurrencies, Palak said.
"But I think the time has come to think about it. If needed we will have to move on to launch our own virtual currency which is now the demand of time."
Bangladesh Bank definitely will have to look at the security aspects but virtual services need to be launched in the financial sector as well, Palak added.
"Policymaking meetings on the issue are needed. Otherwise we will fall behind."
The government is working to launch an interoperable digital payment platform allowing funds to flow among all mobile and digital financial services and operators while ensuring transparency, he said.
"It is very much likely to increase revenue generation for the government while maintaining transparency and convenience by ensuring inter-transaction facilities."
Currently around Tk 10,000 crore is spent annually for shopping online and Palak expects the Tk 20,000 crore mark to be crossed by 2025.
The event organisers said adoption of digital transactions has increased by at least 10 to 15 per cent in the past four months, especially for Covid-19.
Paperfly launched the digital payment-on-delivery solution in tune with the rising trend of online purchases and consumer preference for online transactions.
The service is available across Bangladesh to all consumers who want to experience the convenience and safety of cashless payments while receiving products ordered online at their doorsteps, replacing the existing cash on delivery (COD) payments, they said.
Currently around 95 per cent of payments for online purchases in Bangladesh are made via cash-on-delivery, when the buyer receives the goods, they said.
However, Covid-19 has led to a marked shift from cash to digital payments as consumers are adopting cashless and contactless modes of payment to avoid hygiene risks centring handling banknotes.
"Cashless Pay" does not require a point of sale (POS)machine to complete the cashless transaction and allows consumers to make payments seamlessly, simply using their smartphones.
Rahath Ahmed, chief marketing officer of Paperfly, described the new initiative while Syed Mohammad Kamal, country manager of Mastercard, also spoke.
Humayun Kabir, executive director of Bangladesh Bank; Syed Almas Kabir, president of the Bangladesh Association of Software and Information Services; and Shomi Kaiser, president of the e-Commerce Association of Bangladesh, were present.