Digital Public Infrastructure in India (DPI)
GS 3 Indian Economy & Related Issues Infrastructure
- India’s digital public infrastructure (DPI), also known as the India Stack, is the product of a unique collaboration between governments (Union and State), regulators, the private sector, selfless volunteers, startups, and academia/think tanks.
- Through India Stack, India became the first nation to develop all three foundational DPIs: digital identity (Aadhar), real-time fast payment (UPI), and a platform for sharing personal data securely without compromising privacy.
What is Digital Public Infrastructure (DPI)?
- Digital public infrastructure (DPI) refers to blocks or platforms such as digital identification, payment infrastructure, and data exchange solutions that assist countries in delivering essential services to their citizens, empowering them and enhancing their lives by enabling digital inclusion.
What DPI Does?
- Foundational DPIs facilitate the movement of people, money, and information.
- Initially, the movement of individuals through a digital ID System.
- Second, the movement of funds via a real-time, rapid payment system.
- Thirdly, the flow of personal information through a consent-based data-sharing system to actualize the benefits of DPIs and to give citizens real control over their data.
Major Challenges with DPI
- There is a concerning trend of the weaponization of data and technology, or Digital Colonisation (Hicks, 2019), which leads to a loss of autonomy, sovereignty, and privacy.
- To avoid these challenges, it is essential to deliberate proactively on how to develop good DPI.
Need of DPI
- Public infrastructure has been a pillar of human advancement. From the transcontinental railroads of the nineteenth century to telecommunications in the twentieth, infrastructure has been essential for facilitating the movement of people, money, and information. Built upon a foundation of public infrastructure, democratic nations with largely unrestricted markets have fostered public and private innovation and, as a result, generated substantial social value.
- Due to its low cost, interoperability, and scalable design, as well as its safeguards against monopolies and digital colonisation, DPI has emerged as the most feasible model.
- The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the use of these systems as people were forced to rely on digital alternatives due to isolation.
India’s digital public infrastructure (DPI)
- In recent years, DPI has been a major government priority in India, with numerous initiatives aimed at establishing a robust DPI ecosystem.
- India has 850 million internet users, compared to 5.5 million users in 2000. India, according to the central government, is the largest “digitally connected democracy” in the world.
Key Components of DPI in India
- Digital Identity: The Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) has created Aadhaar, a biometric-based identification system that assigns each Indian citizen a unique identification number. Aadhaar is used for multiple purposes, including as a digital proof of identity to access government services.
- Unified Payment Interface: UPI enables anyone with a bank account to use a mobile device to make real-time digital payments. UPI is a payment system that is managed by the National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI), a non-profit organisation that operates a central server.
- DigiYatra and DigiLocker: DigiYatra is a Biometric Enabled Seamless Travel (BEST) experience based on a facial recognition system (FRS) that ensures seamless identification of passengers at key checkpoints such as airport entry, security check, and boarding gate clearance.
- • The United States CLEAR programme (an expedited airport security/airport identity verification process) is now operational at 51 airports with approximately 15 million members at an annual cost of $369 per family of four.
- Cybersecurity: The government has established the Indian Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-In), which is responsible for responding to cybersecurity incidents and safeguarding India’s digital infrastructure.
- In general, the growth and development of India’s DPI ecosystem over the past decade have been impressive, and there are ample opportunities for additional growth and development in the coming years. As India continues on its path towards digital transformation, the creation of a robust DPI ecosystem will be essential for enabling inclusive and sustainable growth.
- To make India’s DPI success a global revolution, three types of institutions must be established.
- We require independent DPI steward institutions first. It is essential to have an agile and responsive governance structure. A multiparty governance process facilitated by independent DPI institutions will be answerable to a wide range of stakeholders as opposed to a single entity or group. This can increase confidence and trust in DPI.
- Secondly, we must establish global standards via a multilateral dialogue led by India. If standards originating from developed nations were to be transplanted into the context of emerging economies without consideration for their developmental concerns, smaller countries would be dominated by dominant technology players.
- Finally, we must develop sustainable financing models for the global development of DPI. Such models, which are currently supported by philanthropic funding, risk becoming instruments of philanthropic competition and positioning.
- India’s DPI signifies our second war for independence — economic freedom from the tedium of daily life and transactions, which has made it our new business backbone and is propelling India towards a $25 trillion economy by the centennial of our political independence. Imagine the Cambrian explosion that will occur when ChatGPT and India Stack collide.
- A new playbook is required for digital infrastructure that mediates the flow of people, money, and information. This will aid nations seeking to empower their citizens digitally. Then, they can rapidly develop platforms that address the unique needs of individuals, while ensuring that those individuals can trust and utilise the platform without fear of exclusion or exploitation.
Daily Mains Question
[Q] What is Public Digital Infrastructure (DPI)? Analyze the key opportunities and areas of Digital Public Infrastructure (DPI) in India.