Distributing Relief in a Pandemic: Lessons Learned about Digital Cash Transfers During COVID-19 — The Good Feed

By Rozina Haque, Tahjib Shamsuddin, and Sarah-Jane Saltmarsh

BRAC is targeting households living in extreme poverty as a key group of recipients for emergency cash support. So far, the majority of cash transfers have been through door-to-door visits, but this is becoming increasingly challenging amidst lockdowns, and movement during COVID-19 presents a risk to staff and participants.

To overcome these challenges, BRAC has been piloting and scaling up the viability of digital cash transfers using bKash, BRAC Bank’s mobile money platform. bKash is the world’s largest provider of mobile financial services.

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Here are eight key lessons from the pilot and scale-up phase, which was conducted with households selected through BRAC’s Ultra-Poor Graduation Programme.

  • The majority of people living in ultra-poverty owned a mobile phone, but most were not registered with bKash: An initial rapid assessment conducted with 242 programme participants across four districts showed that 84% owned a mobile phone but only approximately 37% had a registered bKash account number. BRAC assisted 115 people to open a bKash account. 38 people were partnered with a trusted friend or family member who could receive the money through their account and give it to the person.

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  • The majority of people were positive about digital transfers: Over 90% participants responded positively about cash transfer through mobile money. Only 7% thought that direct cash transfers were better, as they did not require mobile wallets or cash out fees.

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A total of 51,642 participants, including those in the pilot phase, have received the cash stipend of BDT 1,500 via bKash until 7 May 2020. BRAC is increasingly looking into opportunities to digitise services, particularly during COVID-19, to provide fast and effective support to people in the most need.

Rozina Haque is the programme head of BRAC’s ultra-poor graduation programme. Tahjib Shamsuddin is communications specialist of BRAC’s microfinance and ultra-poor graduation programme, and Sarah-Jane Saltmarsh is the head of programme and enterprise communications at BRAC.

Originally published at http://blog.brac.net on May 14, 2020.

Breaking the cycle of extreme poverty by providing a pathway out of persistent uncertainty and destitution through our Graduation programs.

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