The success of the G-20 summit is reflected in the accolades showered on the government and the Prime Minister Narendra Modi, not just for the warm reception and the hospitability but also for ‘first of its kind’ initiatives that are committed to non-discriminatory, inclusive well-being and an equal opportunity for all countries to participate in them. The New Delhi Leaders Declaration welcomed the host nation’s plan to build and maintain a Global Digital Public Infrastructure Repository (GDPIR), a virtual repository of Digital Public Infrastructure (DPI), voluntarily shared and contributed by G-20 members, beyond which it is aimed to build capacity and provide technical assistance and adequate funding support for implementing DPI in lower and medium income countries. In the recently held Virtual G20 Leaders Summit, Prime Minister informed that 50 DPIs from 16 countries have been incorporated in this repository. Bharat has incorporated 12 out of the 50 DPIs and committed 25 million US dollars of initial seed money to this initiative.
Digital transformations have brought a sea change in public and private sector service delivery that has brought ease in life and has changed the way the society interacts and transacts. Bharat has taken a lead in financial and social inclusion, specially for the people from the marginalised section by taking a leap in creating a digital superstructure that is facilitating the digital public facilities for all citizens alike. The DPI is a set or technology of digital platforms which has been weaved with sustained contributions, collectively made by a unique combination of partnership between the government, volunteers, start-ups, financial regulators and thinktanks. A large number of countries have developed their own DPI. Our DPI platform is known as India Stack which is a conglomeration of various digital platforms including 12 which have been shared under DPI with other countries – Aadhar, Digital Locker, Unified Payments Interface (UPI), CoWin, Umang, eSanjeevani, API Setu, GeM, Diksha, Ayushman Bharat, E Hospital and Poshan Tracker.
The Journey of Digital Transformation
This digital transformation which was initiated in 2009 with Aadhar, gained tremendous momentum after Narendra Modi took charge as the Prime Minister in 2014. The Digital India Project was launched in 2015 to facilitate core government utilities to the citizens through DPI, governance, availability of related services on demand and digital empowerment so that of the citizens are equipped to avail the facilities given on the digital platform. Among many initiatives, the Centralised Public Grievance Redressal and Monitoring System (CPGRAMS) gave a bottom-up approach for addressing the grievances of the common man. Through automated routing, direct redressal by the concerned authority was undertaken and the common man could track the submission, assessment and redressal of the complaint.
The Aadhar project which means ‘foundation’ has become a case study in the top business schools across the globe. An initiative which had started as a biometric identity system and was implemented to verify the identity of the citizens, later on became the foundation of multiple digital initiatives. The JAM (Jandhan, Aadhar, Mobile) trinity envisaged in the 2014-15 economic survey, targeted linking Jandhan accounts, Aadhar card identification and Mobile number to seal leakages in subsidies given by the government and ensuring direct deliverance to the beneficiaries. By adopting Aadhar verification, largest jump took place in the financial accounts in the country when compared with 140 countries between 2011 and 2017. This not only exponentially increased the financial inclusion but also helped in closing the gaps in gender, employment, education and income. A report by the World Bank says that the bank account ownership among adults had increased from 35.23 per cent in 2011 to 77.53 per cent in 2021. Other countries are also using DPI for ushering in digitally powered facilities for their citizens but it is the scale and volume of data that can be accessed through the digital architecture developed in our country while taking care of data safety that sets Bharat apart from others.
Globally, an estimated population of 85 crore people do not have official identification, primarily in lower-income countries and among marginalized and vulnerable groups. Almost half of those without identification are children with unregistered births. The shared repository of DPI among the G-20 countries can help achieve tasks for the greater good of the society on a global level. The World Bank data book on financial inclusion states that Bharat has been able to implement a successful model for universal identity where adequate attention has been given to safety and privacy. India Stack, the home-grown DPI which gives identification, access to the financial system and empowers data sharing without compromising on privacy, is all set to go global after the G-20 declaration has collectively adopted an open DPI.
The Aadhar-enabled e-Know Your Customer (e-KYC) platform used by banks and financial services for authentication is estimated to have reduced the cost of the KYC process from Rs 40 per customer to Rs 5. Unified Payment Interface (UPI), a digital interface that allows people to transfer money digitally not only among financial institutions but also from person to person and person to merchant, has emerged as one of the biggest fintech successes globally which has overtaken debit and credit card payment in the country with nearly 10 billion transactions in the month of August 2023. The Reserve Bank of India has recently introduced enabled card-less cash withdrawals at ATMs through the UPI app. The possibilities seem limitless with an open DPI that can be used by countries to achieve social and financial inclusion.
The future of the DPI journey will be determined by addressing data empowerment, overcoming privacy challenges and going sector specific like account aggregators, Agristack to assist the needs of farmers, creating a platform like Ayushman Bharat Mission for assistance in health services, open network for digital commerce and many more. For an individual, an account aggregator is a data access fiduciary (can be considered a legally vetted mediator) who passes the consumer data without accessing it or selling it, to the relevant financial institutions for home loan, mutual investment etc. For example, when a medium and small-scale enterprise wishes to apply for a loan, then their credentials can be easily verified. Therefore, the aggregator acts as a switch to connect the consumer for the purpose of financial transactions. The homegrown digital architecture is designed keeping the consumer as the focal point. The layered digital platforms under India Stacks, built in the last decade is the backbone of the Digital Public Interface system that is inclusive, non-discriminatory and it promotes secure digital economy. This model can be implemented for health, education and other sectors in the future. AI assisted and voice command enabled financial transactions have been launched by National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI) so that people can transfer money in their respective native languages and the elderly do not feel handicapped due to limited digital proficiency.
The invention of the steam engine in the 18th century on one hand was a turning point in the history of development, it impacted the socio-political world order and cascaded the imperialistic ambitions of the West on the other. The quest for raw material and man power led to exploitation of resources and colonisation. In the 21st century, technology is the new corner stone in the development of mankind. Bharat takes the lead in facilitating tech-based platforms in underdeveloped, developing and developed nations with a non-partisan prescriptive that is reflected in the G20 motto, Vasudhaiv Kutumbakam; this world is a family. The call for Sabka Saath, Sabka Vishwas, Sabka Vikas aur Sabka Prayas by the Prime minister Modi at G-20 has touched a chord with all the world leaders reverberating the true cultural spirit of this nation as expressed in Bhagavad-Gita (6.32) that “yogis are those who see the essential equality of all living beings in their happiness and distress”. The spirit of innovation and an unparallel digital public infrastructure will catapult us in leading towards weaving a shared future with universal connectivity.