Credits Mrs. Man receives confirmation message and further instruction from Viettel Pay on her mobile phone on how to withdraw her cash transfer for COVID-19 social protection package |Photo: UNDP Viet Nam
Published on July 2, 2020

Electronic payment - Life-changing Technology for Social Protection in Times of COVID-19

In a poor house in Nam Dinh province, rays of sunlight pierced through the old roof tile holes that is sagged and languid. This is the house of Mrs. Vu Thi Man with her husband and two daughters. Mrs. Man, 56 years old, is the breadwinner in her family. No one else in her family can make money, even by growing vegetables or raising chickens at home. Her husband, Mr. Du, 60 years old, has been paralyzed for nearly 20 years due to an accident falling from a scaffolding while bricklaying. Her two children were born well and beautiful, but when they reached 3 years old, they had a cerebral palsy fever. The youngest daughter is 21 years old with 18 years of cerebral palsy movement.

Mrs. Man must manage family’s life by herself, with 2 hectares of paddy fields and monthly disability living allowance of VND 1,830,000 (or US$78) from the Government for her husband and two children. She occasionally works as tenant for others, but it is becoming more and more difficult for her to find job as they are being replaced by machines. Many people in her village left for big cities to make more income to support their family, but Mrs. Man cannot work far away from her three loved ones who need her care.

For Mrs. Man, the day she receives monthly cash transfer is the happiest day. On the 9th of every month, she rides her bicycle to the commune center (around 4 km away from home) as early as 6am to queue up and wait to receive the cash transfer. Rarely did she arrive home before 10am due to the big crowd at center coming early for the cash transfer just like her.

Mrs. Man (right) learns from Viettel Pay staff how to use e-payment technology on her phone to receive Government’s Social Assistance package for COVID-19 | Photo: UNDP Viet Nam

COVID-19 made Mrs. Man’s situation even worse. Her family fell into exhaustion because there were no jobs during strict social-distancing, and she could not earn any money. When she heard about the Government’s COVID-19 social protection package, she was very happy. One day, a commune official came to check her ID card and filled out some papers. She was told that she could receive the cash from any e-pay device, instead of having to travel to the commune center. A week later, the commune official returned with two people from Viettel Pay and UNDP, who showed her how to download an e-payment application to her phone. After some installation steps and texting on her old phone, she received a confirmation message and VND4,500,000 (or US$193), the exact amount her family is entitled as COVID-19 social protection package from the Government for three months - April, May and June.

Checking e-payment application on smartphone to receive Government’s assistance subsidy | Photo: UNDP Viet Nam

She was also provided with a card that has number to withdraw money at any cash withdrawal points nearby. Another joy was that she is entitled for a discount promotion on phone calls from her mobile service provider. She has received the total cash safe and quick, without any extra cost. Now, she does not have to make long ride and queue at the commune center. She has more time to take care of her family. Moreover, with e-payment method, she can avoid the risks of disease spread. Mrs. Man feels much happier and safer now.

Mrs. Man, her husband and children are among the 20 million people who are eligible to benefit from the Government’s social protection support to people affected by COVID-19 pandemic. As many localities have been facing various difficulties in the managing and delivering social protection services, especially during the social distancing period, UNDP Viet Nam has timely supported the Ministry of Labor - Invalids and Social Affairs (MOLISA) and localities to accelerate the e-payment and e-reporting of the Government’s social protection support  in the short term, and lay out the foundation for digitalizing the regular social assistance services and building an integrated social protection database in longer term. This is part of a Joint SDG Fund’s initiative by UNDP, ILO, UNFPA and UNICEF in Viet Nam, that aims at accelerating Viet Nam’s transition toward inclusive and integrated social protection.

Knowing that this method was just introduced and still at the pilot stage, Mrs. Man is hoping this program will be expanded so many other people like her can benefit and build back better after the pandemic.