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India under PM Modi achieved in 9 years what would have taken 47 years by conventional means- Nandan Nilekani

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Nandan Nilekani, the Co-founder and Chairman of Infosys, recently shared his valuable observations about the way India has progressed in the recent decade. He also attributed a significant portion of this growth to the improvement of country’s digital infrastructure. He emphasized that India’s leaps in the past nine years, largely due to its digital growth, equated to a staggering 47 years of development.

India’s digital transformation over the last several years has made a huge difference and created a whole new model of economic growth. The intervention of technology has created digital public infrastructure for delivery of important services to Indian citizens, from identity to financial inclusion, targeted benefits to the most vulnerable to digital education and healthcare, government services and more.

Nandan Nilekani, Chairman and Co-Founder, Infosys and Founding Chairman, UIDAI (Aadhaar), says this has helped India achieve in 9 years what would have taken 47 years by traditional means. “Over the last several years, India has transformed in many ways and this digital transformation is at the heart of economic growth.”

Nilekani spoke about India’s digital journey stating, “It began with the ID system called Aadhaar. The idea was to give a digital ID to every Indian. And today 1.3 billion Indians have this digital ID. It provides for online authentication of identities using your fingerprint, Iris, OTP (one time password), and face. And that system does 80 million transactions a day, which means 80 million times some Indian is using his Aadhaar to do an online verification.”

This online verification, which was also called as Know Your Customer (KYC) was later made a requirement to open a bank account or to get a mobile connection. On these building blocks, more services were offered such as digi locker, digital signature, Unified Payment Interface (for instant payments from mobile).

All this, which came together between 2014 to 2016 proved to be building blocks for India to steer through the COVID-19 pandemic, be it transfer $4.5 billion into the bank accounts of 160 million beneficiaries or facilitate distribution of 2.5 million vaccinations in two years and help Indians obtain vaccine certificates on their mobiles in real time. 

Given the good this India platform or Indian Stack can offer to the world, Nandan Nilekani added, “We think this model is unique, it’s collaborative, it’s equitable, and it’s based on the principle that opportunity must be made available to everyone in the country, irrespective of where they are. This is something which is now gaining global recognition, and now whether it’s Bill Gates or whether it’s the IMF, they’re all recognizing India’s unique contribution to digital public infrastructure. And therefore there is now a major move afoot to take this model to 50 countries in five years.”

India’s Digital Stack and its growth model has been inclusive as it has been designed to get people to be on boarded into society, get a bank account, get a mobile connection, get access to jobs, use their data and so on, which the world has acknowledged and is adopting. 

According to Nilekani the year 2016 was a seminal year when India reached the 1-billion mark in Aadhaar cards.

He also talks about the UPI platform transforming the digital payment system in India. “In April 2016, the new payment system UPI was launched. In 2016, JIO was launched, and in the same year, the RBI took a decision to launch an account aggregator system,” says Nilekani.

Nilekani says the UPI platform presently stands as the world’s largest payment platform, facilitating a staggering 9.96 billion transactions each month. Notably, with a user base of 350 million, the UPI system allows for digital payments through QR codes at approximately 50 million merchants nationwide.

“We believe this DPI approach will help in climate adaptation and mitigation. From individual cash transfers to those affected by climate change to managing the electric vehicle charging station grid, DPI is an approach that has many uses for the challenges we face,” says Nilekani.

He highlights the development of the DPI ecosystem in India was enabled by the IT intellectual capital and start-up ecosystem. “This combination of talent density, start-up density and the IT sector have come together to make DPI a success,” he says.

On receiving global recognition, Nilekani says the increasing popularity of DPIs is seeing momentum to carry them to 50 countries in the next five years.

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