How India’s digital public infrastructure can push inclusive global growth

Over the past decade, India has embraced a digital-first approach, effectively integrating technology into the fabric of its society to ensure economic inclusion for all citizens. This has been embodied in the Citizen Stack framework, a robust digital infrastructure enabling presence-less identities, cash-less transactions, seamless service delivery, and scalable techno-legal regulations.This infrastructure is integral to India’s commitment to inclusive growth and mirrors the principle of ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam’ (the world is one family), emphasised at the G20.
India’s dedication to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is evident in its strategic use of digital tools to promote digital equity and progress towards SDGs focused on poverty, gender equality, economic growth, and reduced inequalities. The investment in Digital Public Infrastructure (DPI) has expanded access to essential services, particularly for underserved communities, enhancing livelihoods and aligning with global commitments.
DPI, a collaboration between private entities, technology innovators, and policymakers, includes initiatives like the Aadhaar system, which provides a unique digital identity to over 1.4 billion citizens. The JAM Trinity (Jan Dhan-Aadhaar-Mobile) strategy has significantly accelerated financial inclusion, with India emerging as a role model in digital finance. This strategy has enabled large volumes of digital payments, improved financial access through micro-lending and pensions, and reduced leakages in govt transfers, thus saving substantial amounts and increasing the Tax Revenue to GDP ratio from 8.2% to 17.1%.
The private sector’s role has been crucial, particularly in the fintech industry, which has contributed to India becoming the third-largest startup ecosystem globally with 113 unicorns. The digital economy, which grew from 8.5% of GVA in 2019 to 12.5% in 2023, is expected to contribute between 2.9% and 4.2% of the GDP by 2030. This growth has been supported by increased smartphone use, enhanced internet connectivity, and govt initiatives pushing for a digital economy.
In recent years, India has focused on expanding its data economy, ensuring secure data flows and robust digital infrastructure. Citizens now enjoy broader access to e-commerce, capital markets, and financial services, moving towards a ‘digital-first open network society.’ The DPI has also demonstrated its agility during the Covid-19 pandemic, with platforms like CoWIN facilitating rapid vaccination of 90% of India’s adult population by streamlining processes from scheduling to certificate issuance.
Looking forward, India aims to continue leveraging its DPI not only for current technological needs but also as a foundation for future innovations in areas like artificial intelligence (AI), data protection and decentralised infrastructures. The Data Empowerment and Protection Framework (DEPA) will guide the ethical use of AI and data, ensuring security and privacy, while fostering an inclusive digital ecosystem.
Against this backdrop, we have invited all member states to join us at Citizen Stack, the inaugural conference on Digital Public Infrastructures, at United Nations headquarters in New York on April 25-26. This will be an opportunity to share our experiences and insights on DPI implementation. Citizen Stack (inspired by India Stack) is designed to an ‘open-source playbook’ for all nations to hear about our journey, our wins, perhaps some misses, so that nations can write their own digital priorities more effectively.
As we share our journey and experiences with the global community, we recognise that there is no one-size-fits-all solution. Instead, we offer our learnings and models as dynamic resources that countries can build upon and adapt to innovate according to their own national priorities and contexts. The ultimate goal is the upliftment of people everywhere, ensuring that the SDGs are achieved through a spirit of cooperation and mutual respect.
(The writer is Ambassador of India to United Nations)

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