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Why State Bank of India is looking to team up with Microsoft?

  • Post the demonetisation announcement, digital banking has taken a centre-stage.
  • SBI is also looking to give a push to digital banking in the rural areas.
  • It is looking at Microsoft for technologies that could help provide Internet access in areas with limited telecom networks. 
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Companies like Microsoft, Google and others have been showing growing interest in Prime Minister Modi’s Digital India and Skilled India initiatives. Post the demonetisation announcement, a digital banking has become the hottest topic of discussion. While the urban cities would arguably soon become a stagnating market for these services, there are many untapped rural areas that struggle for basic telecom infrastructure. Now, Microsoft and State Bank of India (SBI) are planning to team up to enable digital banking in such areas.


SBI is in talks with Microsoft to put in place technology that will enable digital banking in rural areas, according to a Business Standard report. These are areas with sporadic telecom access. Microsoft’s Satya Nadella believes India could become its big market for ‘white space’ and ‘wide area Wi-Fi or Wide-Fi’ technologies. These fancy terms are much simpler than what they seem. It’s a concept that allows tapping unutilised spectrum of television stations and cable TV network to provide Internet access.


The technology utilises the unutilised free television airwaves to access Internet and communicate via Skype. Wide-Fi essentially uses the cable TV networks in the rural areas to offer Internet access. The Microsoft technology seems like a great idea for rural areas where setting up infrastructure is still challenging in many ways.


However, the security aspect is yet to be established, claims the report. Needless to say, with the rising number of cyber thefts, security becomes an important aspect here as it involves a person’s banking details. SBI is also reportedly looking at other technologies to give a push to its digital banking in rural areas, which would be beneficial to the people as well.


But, Microsoft isn't the only one. India is an important market for big tech companies as the rural areas offer a lot of untapped potential for their growth. In the past, we've seen Google talk about similar plans to bring Wi-Fi services to the rural areas and it has already started at railway stations, while Facebook's Express Wi-Fi program has completed a pilot rollout of 125 areas rural public Wi-Fi hotspots.  

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