India has built a world-class digital public infrastructure which is transforming lives and economy and can be a lesson for many countries to follow, an IMF Working Paper said.
India Stack is the collective name of a set of commonly used digital public infrastructure (DPIs) in India.
It consists of three different layers — unique identity (Aadhaar), complimentary payments systems (Unified Payments Interface, Aadhaar Payments Bridge, Aadhaar Enabled Payment Service), and data exchange (DigiLocker and Account Aggregator).
Together they enable online, paperless, cashless, and privacy-respecting digital access to a variety of public and private services, a working paper titled ‘Stacking up the Benefits: Lessons from India’s Digital Journey’ said.
The benefit of this investment is felt across the country and served India well during the pandemic, it said, adding, Aadhaar, helped facilitate the transfer of social safety net payments directly from the government treasury’s accounts to beneficiaries’ bank accounts, helping to reduce leakages, curb corruption and providing a tool to effectively reach households to increase coverage.
The government of India estimates that, up to March 2021, about 1.1 per cent of GDP in expenditure was saved due to the digital infrastructure and other governance reforms.
“Using this digital infrastructure India was able to quickly provide support to an impressive share of poor households during the pandemic. In the first months of the pandemic about 87 per cent of poor households received at least one benefit,” it said.
India Stack has been used as a platform to foster innovation and competition; expand markets; close gaps in financial inclusion; boost government revenue collection; and improve public expenditure efficiency.
Digital payments are now ubiquitous, UPI accounts for 68 per cent of all payment transactions by volume.
The use of digital payments has expanded the customer base of smaller merchants, documenting their cash flow and improving access to finance.
Roughly 4.5 million individuals and companies have benefited from easier access to financial services through the Account Aggregator, since it was first launched in August 2021, and adoption is increasing rapidly, it said.
Digitalization has also supported formalization of the economy, as around 8.8 million new taxpayers registered for the GST between July 2017 and March 2022, contributing to buoyant government revenues in recent years.
The government service provision is streamlined; for example, citizens can access documents issued by state and central government through one platform.
Similarly, the India Stack has digitized and simplified Know Your Customer procedures, lowering costs; banks that use e-KYC lowered their cost of compliance from $12 to 6 cents, it said.
The decrease in costs made lower income clients more attractive to service and generated profits to develop new products, it said.
Citing an example of financial inclusion, the paper said, there was a push by the government in 2014 to provide access to a no-frills, low-cost bank account, that doubled the coverage of individuals with bank accounts.
The Jan dhan scheme targeted the financially underserved, especially rural women. Under this initiative 462.5 million bank accounts were opened in both urban and rural areas as of August 2022.
Using a digital backbone allowed India to scale its vaccine delivery quickly and overcome challenges such as large-scale internal migration, it said, adding, the technology underlying CoWIN has been deployed in Indonesia, Philippines, Sri Lanka and Jamaica to help facilitate their vaccination programs.
On the challenges, the paper said comprehensive data protection legislation is still missing in India and a robust data protection framework is essential to protect citizens’ privacy, prevent companies and governments from indiscriminately collecting data, and holding companies and governments accountable for data breaches to incentivize appropriate data handling and adequate investments in cybersecurity.
The digital public infrastructure (DPI) can also help support efforts to make social assistance more resilient and adaptable.
For example, it said, Aadhaar can be used to exchange data between various schemes across states.
Finally, it said, leveraging the DPI, India could significantly improve the timelines, quality, and coverage of the general government fiscal reports.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)