Digital public infrastructure can help in climate adaptation, says Nandan Nilekani at B20 summit


The approach of Digital Public Infrastructure, which has gained global prominence, can also help in the area of climate adaptation and mitigation going forward, Chairman and Co-Founder of Infosys and the founding Chairman of UIDAI, Nandan Nilekani said on Sunday.

Nilekani, speaking at the B20 Summit India organised by CII, further said India has found a “balance” between responsible regulation and innovation due to its participatory model.(Reuters File Photo)

Nilekani, speaking at the B20 Summit India organised by CII, further said India has found a “balance” between responsible regulation and innovation due to its participatory model, as he showcased the country’s success story on digital public infrastructure (DPI), which has accelerated inclusion in the country.

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India’s DPI is gaining global recognition, Nilekani said, noting there is a major move afoot to take this model to 50 countries in five years.

Many multilateral agencies and global groups are coming forward and showing interest, and the next few years will see proliferation and prevalence of digital infrastructure at population-scale around the world.

Going forward, the approach of digital public infrastructure can also help in climate adaptation and mitigation, Nilekani said.

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“For example, one of the things which will happen in climate adaptation is you want to give anticipatory financing for building more resilient homes, in anticipation of higher sea levels etc. And you can do that using DPI or using ONDC (Open Network for Digital Commerce), another great innovation to create an open network for commerce, we can create a circular economy where things get recycled,” he said.

Hence, not only has DPI has helped so far, it will also be useful in the future.

The digital public infrastructure issues a challenge for societies, he said, adding that other countries today are fighting the question of how to balance regulation and innovation, something that India has successfully manoeuvred.

While the US, a hotbed for innovation, is now looking at approaching regulation, Europe has plenty of regulations, but not enough innovators.

“In India, we have found the balance between regulation and innovation because of the participatory model of coordinated governance from the central government, from the regulators like the Reserve Bank, technology companies and the private sector, everybody has come together to create an architecture which finds the balance between innovation and regulation,” he said.

Such a model ensures that there is innovation but within the framework and guardrails of responsible regulation.

India has transformed in many ways, and this digital transformation is at the heart of economic growth.

“India is going from an offline, informal, low productivity, multiple set of micro economies to a single online, formal, high productivity mega-economy. And this is the trend of the next 20 years and you get to see all this happening every year, year by year,” he said.

The transformation, he observed, has been enabled by a new approach to solving society’s issues through the digital public infrastructure.

Digital public infrastructure has extended the ability of the country to use digital technology at population scale to transform society, and involves a number of building blocks.

“Each block does one thing well, but all the blocks talk to each other, they interoperate. And when these blocks come together, they create all kinds of solutions at population scale,” he said and went on to cite India’s success with Aadhaar, UPI, and use of Aadhaar KYC for banking and mobile inclusion.

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India has achieved in nine years what would otherwise have taken 47 years by traditional means, he said pointing to the financial inclusion acceleration that has been triggered by the rapid digitisation.

UPI has scaled up from 100,000 transactions a month in October 2016, to become the world’s largest payment system with 9.66 billion transactions per month, 350 million users, and 50 million merchant acceptance.

India’s data empowerment architecture allows every individual and business to use digital footprint, giving rise to a whole new idea of “digital capital”.

According to Nilekani, the powerful mix of digital capital and DPI is paving the way for a “new grand bargain” that fosters an inclusive society.


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