Digital transformation gains momentum in Fiji

November 27, 2017

FIJI’S transformation to digital payments is gaining momentum with 70 per cent of the Fijian Government payments being channelled electronically.

This was revealed by Fiji’s Head of treasury Pankaj Singh at a workshop held recently on digital payments initiated by the UNDP/UNCDF managed Pacific Financial Inclusion Programme (PFIP).

A statement from PFIP said the UN based Better than Cash Alliance (BTCA) were in the Pacific last week to advocate government ministries in Fiji and the Solomon Islands to transition from cash to digital payments to advance financial inclusion and promote responsible digital finance.

As part of the program both governments are signatories to the alliance and have committed to elevate digital transactions in Fiji, to 85 per cent by 2020 and in the Solomon Islands to 80 per cent by 2020.

According to the statement Fiji’s Ministry of Social Welfare also made a presentation on how it collaborated with PFIP in 2011 to introduce a ground-breaking platform for social welfare payments, marking a shift from voucher-based payments to electronic transfer to a bank account, benefiting about 23,000 recipients.

It said the transition to digital transfers ensured that funds reached recipients in a more timely and cost-effective manner and provided recipients with a secure place to save and the initiative was the first Government-to-Person (G2P) electronic payment initiative in the Pacific.

Mr Singh said various government initiatives such as social welfare payments, introduction of e-card for ‘Help for Homes’ (purchase of hardware to rebuild homes after cyclone Winston), refund of taxes of the Fiji Revenue & Customs Services and payment of lease money from i-Taukei Trust Board directly into bank accounts were all done using digital payment systems.

“The Ministry of Economy is taking the lead role in terms of ensuring Fiji’s BTCA targets are achieved within the set timeframe. All government ministries/departments, statutory bodies and state-owned entities have a pivotal role in this journey. This will not only enhance the service delivery and inclusivity but would prove to be more cost effective and enhance the transparency,” he said.

Mr Singh also called on the ministries present to accelerate their efforts to ensure that targets are met.

Meanwhile Solomon Islands project leader at the Inland Revenue Department, Anna O’Keefe said the IRD was on a journey to modernise its internal systems to make it easier for taxpayers including individuals, small and medium businesses to make payments digitally, the project being grant funded by PFIP.

“As long as customers have an internet connection, they can submit their tax returns from anywhere in the country, at any time of the day,” she said.

Ms O’Keefe said the modernised system means increased security and ease of payments.

She highlighted that some of the key challenges faced on the modernisation journey was the additional support costs incurred, for instance upgrades the IRD website. She also said that changing the mind-set of customers was also a hurdle to overcome.

PFIP Government-to-Persons Specialist Abigail Chang said the feedback and participation of both Government’s ministries has been very encouraging and shows their commitment to achieve targets by 2020.

“We are encouraged that through the interactive workshop and from the discussions this week that government ministries and statutory organisations have identified a number of possible projects. We are also proud to announce our partnerships with IRD will go live on 1st December 2017, enabling the private sector (as the first group to be onboarded) to submit tax returns and payments using electronic channels,” she said.

Participants at the workshops were introduced to the steps taken by countries around the world that have made the shift to digital payments and how to overcome some of the initial challenges that may be faced in the transition period.

SOURCE: Fiji Times