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EDITORIAL ANALYSIS : India’s DPIs, catching the next wave

 

Source: The Hindu

  • Prelims: Governance(DPI, Adhar, UIDAI, KYC, article 21)
  • Mains GS Paper II: Important aspects of governance(e governance, accountability), right to privacy etc.

ARTICLE HIGHLIGHTS

  • India’s digital public infrastructure (DPI) is shaped in a unique partnership between governments (Union and States), regulators, the private sector, selfless volunteers, startups, and academia/think tanks.

 

INSIGHTS ON THE ISSUE

Context

Digital public infrastructure(DPI):

  • It refers to an open-source identity platform that can be used to access a wide variety of government and private services by building applications and products.
  • It includes:
    • digital forms of ID and verification
    • civil registration
    • payment (digital transactions and money transfers)
    • data exchange
    • information systems.
  • These public digital platforms are customisable, localizable, interoperable and leverage public data for open innovation models.
    • For example, Unified Payment Interface (UPI) architecture’s interoperability is resonated in banks offering linkages to bank accounts through UPI which is accessed by consumers via 50-plus third-party apps.

Principle:

  • The platforms in DPI are based on core principles of consent-based data sharing protocols, openness, equity, inclusivity, fairness, transparency and trust hence reducing the digital divide.

 

Aadhar:

  • It is a 12-digit random number issued by the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) to the residents of India after satisfying the verification process laid down by the Authority.
  • Any individual, irrespective of age and gender, who is a resident of India, may voluntarily enroll to obtain an Aadhaar number.
  • The person willing to enroll has to provide minimal demographic and biometric information during the enrolment process which is totally free of cost.
  • An individual needs to form Aadhaar only once and after deduplication only one Aadhaar shall be generated, as the uniqueness is achieved through the process of demographic and biometric de-duplication.
  • Legal Framework: The Parliament has passed the Aadhaar and Other Laws (Amendment) Act, 2019 which allows voluntary use of Aadhaar as proof of identity.

 

Benefits of Aadhar:

  • It promotes transparency and Good Governance:
  1. Aadhaar number is verifiable in an online, cost-effective way.
  2. It is unique and robust enough to eliminate duplicates and fake identities and thus used as a basis/primary identifier to roll out several Government welfare schemes thereby promoting transparency and good governance.
  • Tool of identity:
  1. Aadhaar has given identity to a large number of people who did not have any identity earlier.
  2. It has been used in a range of services and has helped in bringing financial inclusion, broadband and telecom services, direct benefit transfers to the bank account of citizens in a transparent manner.
  • Neutrality of Aadhaar:
  1. It is devoid of any intelligence and does not profile people based on caste, religion, income, health and geography.
  2. The Aadhaar number is a proof of identity, however, it does not confer any right of citizenship or domicile in respect of an Aadhaar number holder.
  • People-Centric Governance: Aadhaar is a strategic policy tool for:
    • social and financial inclusion
    • public sector delivery reforms
    • managing fiscal budgets
    • increasing convenience
    • promoting hassle-free people-centric governance.
  • Permanent Financial Address: It can be used as a permanent Financial Address
    • It facilitates financial inclusion of the underprivileged and weaker sections of the society and is a tool for distributive justice and equality.

Significance of Aadhaar:

  • It created a superstructure which delivers consistent, affordable, and across-the-board value to citizens, government and the corporate sector — wherever it gets used imaginatively.

 

Aadhaar and the private sector:

  • Aadhaar holders can voluntarily use their Aadhaar for private sector purposes
  • Private sector entities need not seek special permission for such usage.
  • Between government departments (intra- and inter-State) Aadhaar data can be shared, but with the prior informed consent of the citizen.
  • Banks and other regulated entities can store Aadhaar numbers as long as they protect it using vault and other similar means, as in Unique Identification Authority of India security regulations.
  • Aadhaar authentications have shot up to 2 billion per month, and the cumulative number over the past 12 years has crossed 100 billion.

 

Global practice:

  • The United States CLEAR programme: An expedited airport security/airport identity verification process) active at 51 airports with about 15 million members at a cost of $369 per annum for a family of four.

 

India’s DigiYatra and DigiLocker:

  • DigiYatra: It is totally free of cost for the Indian traveler.
  • DigiYatra is a Biometric Enabled Seamless Travel (BEST) experience based on a facial recognition system (FRS), through a partnership between industry and government
  • It ensures seamless identification of passengers at key checkpoints such as airport entry, security check and boarding gate clearance.
  • Air passenger traffic in India was estimated to be over 188 million in airports across India in the financial year 2022, out of whom over 22 million were international passengers.

DigiLocker:

  • It has 150 million users, six billion stored documents, and done with a tiny budget of ₹50 crore over seven years.
  • When one applies for a passport now, one need not even upload any portable document format (PDF) any more or submit some notarised papers.
  • A simple consent on the passport application form allowing it to fetch the relevant data from DigiLocker
  • Zerodha, Upstox, RazorPay, Equal and many other insurance and fintechs
    • Their Know Your Customer/Client happens through the DigiLocker APIs
  • Example: DigiLocker was used in a Karnataka Police recruitment drive to verify the academic credentials of candidates.
    • It led to the process being cut down by about six months
  • UPI: It has crossed eight billion transactions per month and transacts a value of $180 billion a month, or about a staggering 65% of India’s GDP per annum

 

Way Forward

  • The Goods and Service Tax Network (GSTN) and then account aggregator could not have happened without an Aadhaar number and Permanent Account Number (PAN) database existing.
  • If an Enterprise DigiLocker can be created: It can lead to as many downloads of PAN, GSTN and the other documents as needed by multiple departments across many States, saving huge costs and headaches for businesses.
  • India’s DPI marks our second war for independence — economic freedom from the day-to-day drudgery of life and transactions
    • It has become a new business backbone that is powering India towards a $25 trillion economy by the 100th year of our political independence.
    • A new Cambrian explosion will happen when ChatGPT meets India Stack!

 

QUESTION FOR PRACTICE

The Gati-Shakti Yojana needs meticulous coordination between the government and the private sector to achieve the goal of connectivity. Discuss.(UPSC 2022) (200 WORDS, 10 MARKS)