Digital India Initiatives

India’s Digital Public Infrastructure (DPI)


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Digital public goods

Mains level: DPI ecosystem in India



  • Public infrastructure has been a cornerstone of human progress. The monopolisation of public infrastructure, which plagued previous generations, has manifested itself in the centralised nature of today’s digital infrastructure. Digital Public Infrastructure (DPI) can fulfil this need, though it faces several challenges.

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What is the issue?

  • There is a disturbing trend of the weaponization of data and technology or Digital Colonisation (Hicks, 2019) resulting in a loss of agency, sovereignty and privacy.
  • Therefore, proactively deliberating on how to build good DPI is key to avoiding such challenges.

What Digital Public Infrastructure (DPI) is and what it does?

  • Three foundational sets DPIs mediate the flow of people, money and information.
  • First, the flow of people through a digital ID System.
  • Second, the flow of money through a real-time fast payment system.
  • Third, the flow of personal information through a consent-based data sharing system to actualise the benefits of DPIs and to empower the citizen with a real ability to control data.
  • These three sets become the foundation for developing an effective DPI ecosystem.

DPI in India

  • India, first country to develop all three foundational DPIs: India through India Stack became the first country to develop all three foundational DPIs digital identity (Aadhar), real-time fast payment (UPI) and a platform to safely share personal data without compromising privacy (Account Aggregator built on the Data Empowerment Protection Architecture or DEPA)
  • Techno-legal regulatory frameworks in India: Techno-legal regulatory frameworks are used to achieve policy objectives through public-technology design.
  • For example: India’s DEPA offers technological tools for people to invoke the rights made available to them under applicable privacy laws. Framed differently, this techno-legal governance regime embeds data protection principles into a public-technology stack.
  • DPI most feasible model: DPI has emerged as the most feasible model due to its low cost, interoperability and scalable design, and because of its safeguards against monopolies and digital colonisation.


Do you know “India Stack”?

  • India Stack is a set of (application programming interface) APIs that allows governments, businesses, startups and developers to utilize a unique digital Infrastructure to solve India’s hard problems towards presence-less, paperless, and cashless service delivery.
  • The Open API team at iSPIRT has been a pro-bono partner in the development, evolution, and evangelization of these APIs and systems.

How DPIs constitute the backbone of a country’s digital infrastructure?

  • Facilitate seamless public service delivery: These layers interface with each other to create an ecosystem that facilitates seamless public service delivery and allows businesses to design novel solutions on top of the DPI layers.
  • Enables the creation of Open Networks as not seen before: India is now developing such open networks for credit (Open Credit Enablement Network), commerce (Open Network for Digital Commerce), Open Health Services Network (UHI) and many more.
  • Generate network effects: When DPIs are integrated, they can generate network effects to create these open networks for various sectors.


For India’s DPI success to become a worldwide revolution, three types of institutions must be built

  • An independent DPI steward institution: It is important to have a governance structure that is agile and responsive. A multiparty governance process through independent DPI institutions will be accountable to a broad range of stakeholders rather than be controlled by a single entity or group. This can build trust and confidence in DPI. India has created the Modular Open-Source Identity Platform (MOSIP), adopted by nine nations and with already more than 76 million active users.
  • Need to develop global standards through a multilateral dialogue led by India: If standards originating from developed nations were transplanted to an emerging economies’ context without deferring to their developmental concerns, smaller countries would simply be captive to dominant technology players. Additionally, without these standards, Big Tech would likely engage in regulatory arbitrage to concentrate power.
  • Sustainable financing models: Finally, we need to develop sustainable financing models for developing DPI for the world. Currently backed by philanthropic funding, such models are at risk of becoming a tool of philanthropic competition and positioning.

Notes for answer writing

  • In the twenty-first-century, technological innovation has created a tempest of ideological, geographical and economic implications that pose new challenges.
  • The monopolisation of public infrastructure, which plagued previous generations, has manifested itself in the centralised nature of today’s digital infrastructure.
  • It is increasingly evident that the world needs a third type of public infrastructure, following modes of transport such as ports and roads, and lines of communication such as telegraph or telecom but with open, democratic principles built in.
  • Built on top of public infrastructure, democratic countries with largely free markets have fostered public and private innovation and, therefore, generated considerable value creation in societies.
  • However, like in the case of physical infrastructure, it is important that DPIs not succumb to monopolisation, authoritarianism and digital colonisation.



  • The world needs a new playbook for digital infrastructure that mediates the flow of people, money and information. This will facilitate countries looking to digitally empower their citizens. They can then rapidly build platforms that address the specific needs of people, while ensuring people are able to trust and use the platform – without fear of exclusion or exploitation.

Mains question

Q. What Digital Public Infrastructure (DPI) is and what it does? What can be done for India’s DPI success to become a worldwide revolution?

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