An Insight into the India Stack
16 June 2023
"Data is the new Oil”
The profound statement given by our celebrated entrepreneur Mukesh Ambani drew...."
.....the attention of investors, bankers, governments and the average Bharati. In 2016, the average Bharati had no idea whatsoever that a revolution, a digital revolution was going to engulf their lives, for good. To our surprise, the Bharati government was way before in identifying the potential of a Digital Public Infrastructure and the changes it could bring to the lives of all Bharatiyas.
The India Stack
The Digital Public Infrastructure (DPI) being developed by the Bharatiya government is widely known as the India Stack. The website of India Stack, explains it,
“India Stack is the moniker for a set of open APIs and digital public goods that aim to unlock the economic primitives of identity, data, and payments at population scale.”
But what exactly is it and what does it do? Well, it is everything that you already do, just in digital form, like banking, payments, identity, loans, health records and much more. The India Stack aims to bring about a foundational change in the working of the Bharati economy.
Vision and the Visionary
Shri Nandan Nilekani. Most of us know him as the co-founder of the legendary IT company Infosys. But, he will go down in history as the founding father of Bharat’s digital economic revolution. Nandan Nilekani envisioned the delivery of public schemes through digital media. It was under his guidance and chairmanship that UIDAI was formed in 2009 and the AADHAR digital identity system was built.
The idea behind developing this digital identity of citizens was to eliminate corruption in the delivery of public schemes and it kept evolving to become the India Stack that would serve as the platform to create ease of life for citizens. There are several layers of The India Stack and here’s how it works.
How it works
There are 3 layers to the India Stack, 1. The Identity layer. 2. The Payments layer. 3. The Data layer
The Identity layer is to provide every Bharati with a unique ID. This centralised identity was named AADHAR, which most of us have. AADHAR can be used to authenticate any individual remotely, so no need to visit any government office to apply for that public scheme. Also, AADHAR is governed by a separate and independent government body with a mandate to manage identity as separate from the other interest of the Bharatiya state. This enables all the public and private institutions and companies to verify a new customer immediately just with the self-declaration, which is a unique feature of the identity system.
The Payments layer allows anyone to make payments to anyone. The United Payments Interface (UPI) is a set of open APIs facilitating this. Developed by NPCI, UPI has standardised the instruction for sending and receiving money. All participants in the system (banks, users and wallet companies like PhonePe, PayTM, Google Pay, etc.) accept the regulation of NPCI and allow each other access to their customer data. Due to this interoperability, it becomes possible for a user to instantaneously transfer funds across accounts in different providers.
The idea behind the data layer is the management of individual personal data through data trusts that act like intermediaries. It is governed by the DEPA framework, abr for Data Empowerment and Protection Architecture. It aims to unlock the power of the data walled behind banks, telecom operators, regulators and others. This notion drives inspiration from Digital Governance Act in the EU and Open Banking in the UK. These data trusts will be known as Account Aggregators that would allow users to provide their consent to authorise the sharing of their private data, like their financial information from say a bank to an NBFC for the approval of a business loan.
The India Stack also includes various open networks that are built for the ease of business and for the financial inclusion of the average Bharati in the Bharati economy. The now popularised Open Network for Digital Commerce (ONDC) has been developed with the aim to bring an average Bharati Dukandar to a level playing field in digital commerce. The lesser known yet revolutionary, Open Credit Enablement Network (OCEN), is being developed and tested to provide easy access to credit for small business owners or traders at reasonable credit rates and credit security.
All these layers together form the India Stack. Each layer becomes the support base for the layer on top of it to form the Digital Public Infrastructure that our nation needs to get ahead in these digital times.
Most of us already use the services provided by the India Stack without realising the combined potential of all the services not just in terms of delivery of public schemes and goods but also to the private industry. The open networks under development can bring about fundamental change in the functioning of e-commerce, and credit availability to the average Bharati.
Isn’t it fascinating, the vision behind India Stack? Hence, we have decided to bring you deep dives into each technology from the perspective of an average Bharati. The vision behind each technology, how it works and how can you use it to your advantage. All these questions will be answered in our upcoming series on The India Stack. Stay tuned!