ISSN: 1391 - 0531
Sunday March 9, 2008
Vol. 42 - No 41
Financial Times  

Half of Sri Lanka's population soon to have mobile phones

The banking sector still has a long way to go towards inclusion. Director and Chief Executive of Dialog Telekom, Dr. Hans Wijayasuriya stressed the importance of inclusiveness of investments, strategies, ideas and vision in making banking and semi banking products and services available and accessible to as many people as possible.

Delivering the memorial oration on levering the mobile revolution to drive banking inclusion at the 5th Annual Awards ceremony of The K. Sivagananathan Memorial Trust this week, Wijayasuriya said there is 40 percent per capita penetration in the mobile phone sector and within the next two years, he expects half of all Sri Lankans to use mobile phones. In line with the same thinking, banks should also assess if the per capita usage of their products is at an acceptable level.

Wijayasuriya said the 'bottom of the pyramid' is also the 'wealth of the economy' with a huge amount of wealth and purchasing power. Mobile phones which were exclusive devices 12 years ago were made inclusive by challenging paradigms. He said exclusivity must be removed sector by sector in all industries.

The banking sector has room to improve on inclusion. The infrastructure and payments are expensive, there are no ATM's in rural areas and no bank branches in remote areas. Wijayasuriya said that in the ecosystem of semi urban and rural areas, people don't use banks. There is no use for bank money and no cashless payments so it is up to the banks to create more significant and meaningful ways for bank money to be used.

Dialog launched its EZ Pay payment system which enables NDB customers to pay for goods and services from selected or authorized vendors using their mobile phone which is linked to their NDB money accounted. Wijayasuriya commended the Central Bank on its innovativeness in permitting micro banking and micro payment technology in Sri Lanka where even small shops can becomes a multi bank branch.

Even in the developing work, he said people are digitally empowered. Mobile phones can substitute the ATM's, bank branches and cost machines. Dialog's reload ez-load function is widely used in small transactions indicating that people are learning to trust the system.

The awards ceremony of the K. Sivagananathan Memorial included a tribute to the late Senior Deputy General Manager of the Bank of Ceylon (BOC) where he served for 42 years. The Trust, a non-profit organization is dedicated to providing assistance to financially disadvantaged students pursuing higher studies in the field of banking and finance, encouraging the education and development of the students to pursue careers in this field.

Chief Guest and Chairperson of LOLC Group, Rohini Nanayakkara said Sivagananathan, whom she worked with at the BOC and who joined the Bank at the age of 18, served with ability and great distinction.

He moved up the ladder fast and made education and the continuous process of learning his top priorities. The Trust recognized students who have excelled in the Certificate of Banking & Finance, Advanced Certificate in Banking & Finance and the Diploma in Banking & Finance Examinations conducted by the Institute of Bankers. Cash awards and certificates are awarded to the candidates who receive the highest marks for each subject in all three languages.

The examinations conducted by the Institute of Bankers are also open to the public and tremendous enthusiasm has been shown by candidates from all parts of the country including Uva, Southern, Central, Northern and Eastern areas. Awardees comprise from all commercial banks including development banks like Sanasa and Sabaragamuwa.

In 2007, there were 54 successful candidates who have now received awards in ACBF and DBF examinations whose highest marks are within the grades of A and B, a 100 percent improvement in the standard of banking education in Sri Lanka and an encouraging improvement.


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