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India opens up payments and digital ID ‘global repository’

India's digital payments progress: the country's PM says Indiastack.global intends to "be of immense help to other countries” | Credit: Shameer Pk; Pixabay

India’s government has made its payments and digital ID technology available to all countries worldwide via open application programming interfaces (APIs) under the country’s ‘India Stack’ initiative.

Indiastack.global – described as a ‘global repository of key projects’ – includes the country’s well-established real-time mobile payments system Unified Payments Interface (UPI) and digital ID system Aadhaar, as well as Aadhaar-linked verification service Digilocker, Government e-Marketplace (GeM) and education platform DIKSHA (Digital Infrastructure for Knowledge Sharing).

Prime minister Narendra Modi, speaking during ‘Digital India Week 2022’, described the move as an “offering to the global public digital goods repository” that would “help position India as the leader in building digital transformation projects at a population scale and prove to be of immense help to other countries which are looking for such technology solutions.”

During his speech, delivered in Gujarat state capital Gandhinagar, the PM also highlighted progress made by flagship government programme Digital India – of which Indiastack.global is part – in helping citizens in areas such as e-commerce, as well as tackling corruption. “I am glad that this campaign, which started eight years ago, has been expanding itself with the changing times”, he said.

Modi also used the opportunity to launch further digital initiatives including a national single sign-on service (NSSO) called ‘Meri Pehchaan’ and ‘Digital India GENESIS’ (GEn-NExt Support for Innovative Startups), an initiative to help companies located in smaller cities.

How the repository stacks up

India Stack’s contents are owned and maintained by different agencies. For example, UPI is owned by the National Payments Corporation of India; Aadhaar products such as e-KYC (know-your-customer) are owned by the Unique ID Authority of India; eSign is a technology specification maintained by the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology; and Digilocker is owned by the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (IT).

The Indiastack.global website itself is run out of the Ministry of Electronics and IT’s National e-Governance Division (NeGD) in New Delhi. ‘The lessons from India Stack are there for the world to adopt,’ the website states, showcasing the leadership team as top figures – typically chief executives or director-generals – from the agencies within the stack umbrella.

The initiative aims to house and develop ‘open APIs and digital public goods that aim to unlock the economic primitives of identity, data and payments at population scale’, according to a different website, IndiaStack.org, which is run by iSPIRT, a Bangalore-based non-profit think-tank that champions digital public goods.

The principles, technologies and functionality housed within India Stack can be applied in any country, the IndiaStack.org site explains, adding that none of the systems require any proprietary technology or intellectual property that preclude their implementation elsewhere.

The relevant government agency or institution will be able to provide access to APIs, sandboxes and ‘other pieces needed to start building’, IndiaStack.org’s website notes, adding that ‘interested parties may elect to use the APIs offered by intermediaries’. Those offering APIs and sandboxes on top of India Stack products include Digio, Karza, Signzy ‘and many others’, the site adds.

RBI’s e-payments push

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) last month published its ‘Payments Vision 2025’.

The central bank’s 30-page document carries the theme ‘E-Payments for Everyone, Everywhere, Everytime’ and contains goals including enabling a ‘more than three-fold’ increase in number of digital payment transactions as well as ‘examining the desirability and feasibility of geo-tagging of payment transactions keeping in view customer privacy concerns’.

In terms of government payments, the document also states that ‘to migrate all the government receipts and payments to digital mode, [the RBI] shall coordinate with the central and state governments to integrate their payment platforms with the Reserve Bank’s eKuber’ – eKuber is RBI’s core banking solution.

The document – which seeks to build on a 17-page ‘Vision 2019-2021’ document published three years ago – also references ‘HARBINGER 2021’, an RBI-organised hackathon that attracted 363 proposals, saying that ‘efforts shall be continued towards organising national / international payment hackathons, competitions and conferences to foster innovation and exchange of ideas.’

India’s finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman presented a timeline for the launch of a central bank digital currency (CBDC) by the RBI earlier this year, stating that a digital rupee would be issued during the fiscal year 2022-2023. The RBI’s payments strategy merely states that the central bank ‘is working towards introduction of CBDC’, and that ‘various use cases shall be studied and explored to bring in further efficiencies in domestic and cross-border payment processing and settlement using CBDCs’.

WATCH NOW

‘Indiastack.global – a global repository of India’s digital initiatives’ (1min37sec) 

Source: PM Narendra Modi’s YouTube channel

FURTHER READING

‘Governments and digital ID: from helping India through Covid to integrating services across Europe’ – our report (25 May 2022) on a webinar, Digital ID from a standing start, organised by our sister title Global Government Forum that included the chief executive of India’s Unique Identification Authority, Dr Saurabh Garg, among the panellists

‘Nepal adopts India’s UPI payments platform’ – our news story (16 March 2022) on the international arm of the National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI) partnering two companies to roll out India’s UPI in Nepal

‘India to launch digital rupee by early 2023’ – our news story (8 February 2022) on finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman announcing plans for the issuance of a ‘digital rupee’ by the RBI

‘India launches e-Rupi for “leak-proof” digital welfare payments’ – our news story (2 August 2021) on India launching a cashless and contactless instrument for government welfare payments

‘State payments via QR code take step forward in rural India’ – our news story (28 August 2020) on a regional government (Andhra Pradesh) launching an initiative to promote digital payments and drive financial inclusion