Digital Public Infrastructure (DPI)

Context:  Recently, India has mooted the concept of a partnership between like-minded countries to work together on digital public infrastructure (DPI) that can be used by everyone.
UPSC Probable Question What is Digital Public Infrastructure (DPI) and how does it facilitate the flow of people, money and information in India? Discuss the benefits and challenges of DPI for India’s economy and society.
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  • India has floated a concept of ‘One Future Alliance’, a voluntary initiative that aims to bring together all countries and stakeholders to synergise, shape, architect and design the future of DPIs that can be used by all.
  • Under the proposed alliance, India will work with other countries to create a global framework for cybersecurity principles and laws.
  • Efforts by India in Promoting DPI across the Globe are: 
  • India signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Armenia, Sierra Leone, Suriname, and Antigua and Barbuda on sharing its ‘India Stack’ with them.
    • India Stack broadly refers to digital solutions implemented at population scale to deliver social benefits.
  • India is in talks with a number of countries to extend its DPIs partnerships.
    • Countries accepting UPI payments: Singapore, Australia, Canada, Hong Kong, Oman, Qatar, US, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, and the United Kingdom.
    • Unified Payments Interface (UPI) is India’s mobile-based fast payment system, which facilitates customers to make round-the-clock payments instantly, using a Virtual Payment Address (VPA) created by the customer.
About digital public infrastructure (DPI)
  • DPI refers to the digital platforms and systems that enable the delivery of public services, such as identification, payments, health, education, and governance.
  • It can be understood as an intermediate layer in the digital ecosystem. 
    • It sits atop a physical layer (including connectivity, devices, servers, data centers, routers, etc.), and supports an apps layer (information solutions to different verticals, e-commerce, cash transfers, remote education, telehealth, etc.).
  • DPI can help solve global challenges such as poverty reduction, climate resilience, and digital transformation by improving the efficiency, transparency, inclusion, and innovation of public service delivery.
India and Digital Public Infrastructure (DPI)
  • India, through India Stack, became the first country to develop all three foundational DPIs through JAM Trinity Initiative (JAM stands for Jan Dhan Yojana, Aadhaar and Mobile number): 
    • Jan-Dhan Accounts ensure access to various financial services like availability of basic savings bank account, access to need based credit, remittances facility, insurance and pension to the excluded sections i.e. weaker sections & low income groups.
      • Real-time fast payment: India ranks 1 for Real-time payments globally, with 89.5 Bn payment transactions in 2022 (76.8% YoY growth (2021-2022)).
    • Digital identity (Aadhar): Till date, 1.3+ Bn Aadhaar cards have been issued and 15 Bn Aadhaar based E-KYC verification has been done.
    • A platform to safely share personal data without compromising privacy: BHIM-UPI has emerged as the preferred payment method among users.
      • UPI has set a new record of processing over 9 Bn transactions (worth $ 179 Bn) in May’23. 
      • UPI accounts for 75% of the total retail digital payments in India.
Significance of Digital Public Infrastructure (DPI)
  • Efficiency: DPI can improve the efficiency and transparency of public service delivery, such as health, education, social protection, and governance.
    • Aadhaar system provides a unique digital identity to over 1.4 billion Indians, enabling them to access various government schemes and subsidies.
  • Empowerment: DPI can enable digital inclusion and empowerment of citizens, especially the poor and marginalized, by providing them access to information, opportunities, and rights.
    • UPI allows instant and low-cost digital transactions for millions of users, facilitating financial inclusion and digital literacy.
  • Innovation: DPI can foster innovation and collaboration across sectors and countries, by creating a common platform for data exchange, interoperability, and reuse.
    • Account Aggregator framework enables consent-based data sharing among financial service providers, enhancing consumer choice and convenience.
  • SDGs: DPI can support the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals, by addressing urgent challenges such as poverty reduction, climate resilience, and digital transformation. 
    • National Digital Health Mission aims to create a digital health ecosystem that can improve access, affordability, and quality of health care for all Indians.
    • It will help in achieving the goals of SDG-03 i.e Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages.
Challenges faced in Development of Digital Public Infrastructure (DPI):
  • Cyber-Attack: DPI is vulnerable to cyber-attacks and data breaches that compromise sensitive data and transactions.
    • Between June, 2018 and March, 2022, India’s banks recorded 248 successful data breaches by hackers and criminals”, out of which 41 cases from public sector banks, 205 were from private sector banks, and two from overseas banks.
  • Regulatory Void: DPI requires a robust legal and regulatory framework that can balance the interests of various stakeholders, protect the privacy and security of data, and ensure accountability and compliance.
    • Personal Data Protection Bill is still pending in the Parliament, creating uncertainty and ambiguity for data users and providers.
  • Governance: DPI requires a strong institutional capacity and governance structure that can manage the complexity and scale of the digital infrastructure, coordinate among different actors and agencies, and resolve disputes and grievances effectively.
    • National Health Authority is responsible for implementing and regulating the National Digital Health Mission, but it faces challenges such as lack of resources, expertise, and coordination.
  • Funding: DPI requires continuous investment and innovation that can keep pace with the changing needs and expectations of the users, address the gaps and challenges in the existing infrastructure, and leverage the emerging technologies and opportunities.
    • BharatNet project aims to provide broadband connectivity to all rural areas in India, but it has faced delays, cost overruns, and quality issues.
  • Digital Inequality: India has a digital divide where many lack access to digital infrastructure such as smartphones and internet connectivity, particularly in rural areas.
  • Infrastructure: One of the biggest challenges is the lack of proper infrastructure, including internet connectivity, electricity, and hardware.
Steps to make DPI more robust and efficient are:
  • Strengthening cybersecurity framework to protect digital assets and prevent cyber-attacks on important information like Aadhaar and banking data.
    • Cyber threats require a comprehensive security policy to protect critical infrastructure, industry, and security.
  • Invest in the right technologies that can meet the needs and expectations of the users, ensure interoperability and scalability of the systems, and leverage the emerging opportunities and innovations.
  • Demonstrate business agility that can adapt to the changing contexts and demands of the users, respond to the feedback and challenges in the systems, and foster a culture of learning and experimentation.
  • Achieve operational excellence that can optimize the performance and quality of the systems, ensure the reliability and security of the data and services, and manage the risks and costs effectively.
  • Enable innovation that can create new solutions and products that add value to the users, collaborate with different actors and sectors in the ecosystem, and reuse the existing infrastructure and data.
  • Establish a robust legal and regulatory framework that can balance the interests of various stakeholders, protect the privacy and security of data, ensure accountability and compliance, and resolve disputes and grievances.
  • Create a strong institutional capacity and governance structure that can manage the complexity and scale of the digital infrastructure, coordinate among different actors and agencies, and engage with the users and communities.
  • Secure continuous investment and innovation that can keep pace with the changing needs and expectations of the users, address the gaps and challenges in the existing infrastructure, and leverage the emerging technologies and opportunities.
  • Improve digital literacy in India to enable citizens to fully utilize digital services and platforms, as many are unaware of their benefits or lack the necessary skills to access and use them.
  • Nearly 20 million women have been certified to be digitally literate in India under the PMGDISHA programme dedicated to digital literacy.
Additional Information Digital India Mission
  • It is a flagship program of the Government of India that aims to transform the country into a digitally empowered society and knowledge economy.
  • The mission focuses on three key areas – digital infrastructure as a utility to every citizen, governance and services on demand, and digital empowerment of citizens.
  • Pradhan Mantri Gramin Digital Saksharta Abhiyan (PMGDISHA) aims to empower the people in rural areas by training them to operate computer or digital access devices.
  • National Health Stack: It is a digital infrastructure for healthcare in India that aims to provide a unified system for the collection, storage, and exchange of health data. It includes various components such as the Health ID, DigiDoctor, Health Facility Registry, and more.
    • Goal: To improve the efficiency and accessibility of healthcare services across the country.
  • DigiLocker: It is a digital locker service provided by the Government of India that enables citizens to store and access their important documents such as Aadhaar card, PAN card, driving license, educational certificates, and more in a digital format.
    • It eliminates the need for physical documents and provides a secure and convenient way to access them anytime, anywhere.
 News Source: Financial Express
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