India’s progress on Digital Public Infrastructure lauded at UN

From left, speakers Achim Steiner, Amitabh Kant, Dennis Francis, Ruchira Kamboj, and Sharad Sharma at the “Citizen Stack: Digital Public Infrastructure, Transformative Technology for Citizens” conference on April 25, 2024, at the United Nations Headquarters in New York. PHOTO: T. Vishnudatta Jayaraman, News India Times

United Nations: In the aftermath of COVID-19, the world continues to grapple with numerous challenges, notably the surge in people slipping below the poverty threshold. However, amidst these challenges, there emerges a silver lining – the undeniable potential of Digital Public Infrastructure (DPI) to foster global growth, progress, and equity, stated India’s G20 Sherpa, Amitabh Kant, at the United Nations Headquarters on April 25, 2024.

Kant delivered the keynote address at the first conference on the “Citizen Stack: Digital Public Infrastructure, Transformative Technology for Citizens” organized by the Permanent Mission of India to the United Nations in collaboration with the India’s Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology.

In his address on “Advancing Digital Frontier using Citizen Stack” Kant noted, “The world is facing several challenges in the post COVID era. We have seen a huge number of people going below the poverty line. We have seen people lose their jobs. We see over 90 countries facing debt crisis. We’re seeing the challenge of climate action and climate finance. We have seen the challenge of food, fuel, and fertilizer. We are seeing conflict in Europe as well as in the Middle East.”

However, the silver lining in all this is the power of digital technology, Kant said, highlighting how DPI experienced rapid growth during the pandemic and would influence growth in the future.

India’s Minister for Railways, Communications and Electronics, and Information Technology, Ashwini Vaishnaw, in his video message, shared India’s experience in utilizing DPI to promote comprehensive growth and prosperity accessible to everyone.

“Our Prime Minister Narendra Modi is a strong advocate for making technology accessible to all. He believes that everyone, regardless of background or location, deserves to reap the benefits of technology. India has made it a policy objective to ensure that the benefits of digital revolution reach every corner of our diverse society. The vision has led to the development of India stack, a bouquet of the digital tools accessible to everyone,” Vaishnaw noted.

“The India stack is like a set of building blocks” he added noting digital identity, digital signature, and digital Locker – each serving a distinct purpose. When combined, these tools enable solutions to intricate issues that impact millions of individuals.

President of the United Nations General Assembly, Dennis Francis noted India’s leaps in DPI. “In just seven years, India’s digital public infrastructure model has achieved over 80 percent financial inclusion for its citizens, and now accounts for more than 60 percent of all digital transactions worldwide. This model has effectively dismantled numerous barriers – enhancing accessibility and affordability in the financial sector,” Francis said, also emphasizing that the model could be replicated across the Global South.

Permanent Representative of India to the United Nations, Ruchira Kamboj gave a grassroots example of Gita, a woman from India who used DPI to become a successful businesswoman. “It [DPI] opened up a world where she [Gita] could connect with customers not just in her locality but across the country. Today, Gita doesn’t make those trips to the bank anymore. Instead, she spends that time at a children’s school, watching them learn and grow… Payments for her Tailored clothes now come instantly on her phone from all over India.” She can set aside money, pay the tuition for her children on the phone, and be a successful entrepreneur.

“Now this transformation was made possible by the India stack, a pioneering force in building digital public infrastructure turning a billion dreams like Gita’s into reality” Kamboj said.

Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Achim Steiner described India as a “global leader” in harnessing technology said UNDP’s efforts to gain insights from around the world strongly coincide with “embracing this concept” of DPI.

“I think your choice of citizen stack also signals something else. For quite a while in the digital universe, the frontier of many of the services, we were called users. But in today’s world, we realize that digital is transforming every aspect of our lives. Therefore, we are not just users. We are digital citizens,” he added.

In his video message, UN Secretary-General’s Envoy on Technology, Amandeep Gill thanked India for bringing the world to a new consensus on DPIs through the adoption of the G20 DPI framework.

“We have now an opportunity at the Summit of the future through the Global Digital Compact to take that consensus to the next level. In the zero draft of the Global Digital Compact the co-facilitators, Sweden, and Zambia, have underlined the important role that DPIs can play in accelerating inclusive digital transformation.”

Other speakers included Co-Founder, iSPIRT, Sharad Sharma on “Citizen Stack = Digital Public Infrastructure,” and Srivatsa Krishna from the Indian Administrative Service on “The Future and Prescience of India’s DPIs.”



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