National Public Digital Platforms fuelling the nation’s digital growth: MeitY Secretary AP Sawhney

AP Sawhney also said the government is planning to create a National Public Digital Platform for the healthcare domain as well and a blueprint is in advance stage. It would also be created for the education and the agriculture sectors. Excerpts:

Ajay Prakash Sawhney, Secretary, Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY), Government of India has said that the ministry has been working tirelessly with concerned stakeholders to further strengthen National Public Digital Platforms (NPDPs) to accelerate the growth of the country.

While asserting that the NPDPs have a major role in boosting the financial services and coordination among different stakeholders, Sawhney spoke about Aadhaar, Unified Payments Interface (UPI), GSTN and Government e-marketplace (GeM) at virtual Digital Technology Sabha 2021.

The secretary, who was participating in a fireside chat with an industry veteran at the virtually held e-governance conference on February 23, 2021, said that in India the effort at e-governance has had led to creation of individual projects followed by serious efforts to create national mission mode projects. “Building the core e-governance infrastructure a few years ago we started moving to NPDP which represents a situation where it is not just the government which renders services to the citizens at one platform but also other stakeholders come onto the same platform to create value added services,” Sawhney added.

He mentioned that the first few nationwide NPDPs like Aadhaar is not just a service provider which caters to the needs of the people, rather it enables different stakeholders or private players to leverage the platform.

He further said that it is not just a simple service being provided by the Unique Identification Authority (UIDAI) rather it is an enabler of new kinds of services and simplification of the entire ecosystem. The second significant project that had happened in the recent history was Unified Payments Interface (UPI) which triggered ease in digital payments. UPI took core banking as it spread across the large well established and regulated Indian system and created APIs from core banking into a lightweight umbrella called UPI. It led to opportunities for payment service providers to create new services and grow on top of the consolidated Indian financial system, he said. He stated that by having UPI as a national public digital platform, we saw the growth of huge entities using UPI to grow their services.

Sawhney also spoke at length about goods and services tax network (GSTN). He said GSTN has created opportunities for huge economic activity to happen. For instance, lenders could potentially use that data with pinpoint accuracy and confidence when they want to lend to genuine merchants, he added. 

Healthcare, education and agri sectors to get NPDPs:

He stated that the Government e-Marketplace (GeM) has created one unified platform for procurement by government departments of the Centre, states and the PSUs. It has created new avenues for lakhs of suppliers of goods and services to sell to buyers on one platform, he said. Sawhney pointed out that the government is making efforts to create a NPDP in the healthcare domain as well and a blueprint is being made and it is in advance stage. The NPDP would also be created for the education and the agriculture sectors, he said. 

The secretary said that after taking shape; these platforms bring together a large number of existing projects. It would help farmers to inquire about land records, information about what sort of crops they could sow, seeds, irrigation, weather and climate info, crop insurance among others through various stakeholders including local governments in many cases. He said such platforms would enable farmers to contact different stakeholders under one umbrella. 

Leveraging data and preventing data silos: 
Sawhney said that the data sets that the government is having are very significant and any successful project generates a humongous data. “It is important to have a mechanism even while ensuring data privacy principles are observed to the fullest; yet as a nation we have the opportunity to create new algorithms, inference of analytics, create new projects and target those who actually require our services. To be able to do all this, the use of India Enterprise Architecture, open APIs and bringing our existing projects under the framework of NPDP is a vital step. This can’t be done by diktat; this has to be done by looking at concerns of each of the stakeholders who will come onto such a platform,” Sawhney stated.

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