Late this week, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the launch of the Bharat Interface for Money (BHIM) app – the next phase in the country’s forced demonetization effort. The app will enable consumers to use a smartphone for all their financial transactions, with security based on either a PIN code or biometric authentication. Modi unveiled the new app while on stage at the 6th Digi Dhan Mela in New Delhi on December 30, 2016, using a Google Pixel to demonstrate to the audience how quickly a simple transaction could be made.
The Prime Ministrer’s announcement came on the same day that Indian President Pranab Mukherjee signed onto a new ordinance that criminalizes possession of the country’s now-junked 500-rupee and 1000-rupee notes. According to the country’s Finance Ministry, it’s now illegal to hold, receive, or transfer those junked notes in amounts that exceed ten notes, though there will be a grace period during which any excess notes can be exchanged.
The BHIM payment system will use the Aadhaar platform – the biometric identity authentication system currently used by more than a billion Indian citizens - and is expected to be live within the first two weeks of January, 2017. Until then, the government will reportedly be finalizing BHIM security.
In his remarks, Modi declared that the demonetization campaign would benefit even the poorest in India, allowing even simple laborers to access digital payment systems and use digital records to secure loans from financial institutions. He also urged citizens to make a minimum of five BHIM transactions a day to ensure that India becomes a leader in the digital revolution.