India a leader in taking tech to the people: Ashwini Vaishnaw at HTLS
India's work in digital infrastructure has attracted interest from other countries, according to Minister of Electronics and IT Ashwini Vaishnaw.
India’s work in digital infrastructure has shown the world a way to bring technology to the people, minister of electronics and information technology Ashwini Vaishnaw said, adding that several countries are now interested in replicating them.
In a conversation with HT’s editor-in-chief R Sukumar during the virtual session that kick-started the 21st edition of the Hindustan Times Leadership Summit, Vaishnaw said the India stack — a collection of government and government-linked services and products — has transformed millions of lives and is a demonstration of solutions that can work at scale.
“The thought process was to create an ecosystem where the public and private sectors can collaborate in a way that opens up digital technologies to a large number of people, in a way that opens up creative energies of the people — the whole focus was on making sure technology is democratised, that it reaches the last village in the country and every section of society,” said the minister.
India’s approach, he added, was inverse that of developed countries, where technologies trickle down from the rich who adopt it before the poor do.
To illustrate his point, he detailed the payments stack, the Unified Payments Interface (UPI).
“The platform is developed by common funds using a public company called the NPCA (National Payments Corporation of India). Banks, insurance companies, small and medium traders — they all join in as stakeholders. Anybody can start a payment solution,” he said.
The result, he added, is that the transaction cost “that used to be about $8 for a typical financial transaction — like, let’s say, acquiring a customer for insurance — has come down to few cents. That’s a huge gain.”
Such collaborations are now taking place in other sectors, the minister said. “Today our stack, which is Aadhaar, Digilocker, the payments stack — combined these three can create any kind of solution. We have got very good traction for the e-commerce platform ONDC (Open Network for Digital Commerce) and the logistics platform. We are able to replicate this sector after sector and the world is taking notice,” he said, adding that Japan and France were among countries that expressed interest in some of these approaches.
Many of these were discussed during the G20 meetings when India held the bloc’s presidency over the last year. Such measures were part of India’s push for global adoption as officials pitched these as DPI, or digital public infrastructure (DPI) solutions.
“DPI has been accepted by the world as the way forward for rolling out digital solutions for these societies,” Vaishnaw said.
He said that by using a home-grown payment system, the Aadhaar authentication service and the Jan Dhan accounts, the government had saved ₹2.7 lakh crore that would otherwise have been wasted while distributing citizen benefits.
The minister also spoke about India’s technology industry, which he said was poised for phenomenal growth given the country’s strong talent base and the administration’s predictable policymaking.
“Our country has so many good engineers, we are so good at design. We are designing for the world, practically every large company in the world as a tech centre in India. And that phenomenon, if we can translate into manufacturing in India, then. it can be a phenomenal growth story,” Vaishnaw said in the session that was broadcast on Tuesday.