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Nandan Nilekani’s EkStep propagates People + advantage – Initiative to Build for Billions Using DPIs

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EkStep convened the country’s most significant confluence to facilitate discussions on the possibilities of People + advantage for billions in New Delhi. The gathering was attended by prominent leaders, technocrats, and bureaucrats such as Adil Zainulbhai, Thampy Koshi, Ashish Dhawan, Debjani Ghosh, and Anjali Bansal, among others. The best minds across policy, bureaucracy, philanthropists, and business leaders discussed the possibilities of transforming India by ushering in a DPI Revolution across the three pillars of the economy – Samaaj (civil society), Sarkar (government), and Bazaar (business).

The event had three tracks – PeoplePlus Lifelong Learning, PeoplePlus AI for Societal Change, and PeoplePlus Open Networks. The Lifelong Learning focused on harnessing the power of Digital Public Infrastructure (DPIs) to enrich the learning experiences in FLN, vocational, and skilling sectors. The PeoplePlus AI for Societal Change deliberated on how AI can bring about societal changes by providing language as a bridge, turbocharging human capability, amplifying visibility and decision-making, and creating new possibilities and professions. The PeoplePlus Networks highlighted the importance of open networks for open opportunities in education & skilling to enable discoverability, accessibility, and inclusivity.

As per a recent IMF paper, between 2013 and March 2021, the Indian government saved up to 1.1 percent of GDP expenditure thanks to the advanced DPI. The Indian ecosystem has also witnessed a tremendous increase in the use of Digital Infrastructure, with a 200% increase in rural internet subscriptions against 158% in urban India between 2015 and 2021, as per the data put out by the Press Information Bureau (PIB).

EkStep Foundation was started by Nandan, Rohini Nilekani and Shankar Maruwada in 2015. Its founders and leaders have been pivotal in building game-changing digital frameworks such as identity verification, benefit transfers, financial inclusion, and human capability enhancement. The discussions focused on leveraging Digital Public Infrastructure (DPIs) for lifelong learning, societal change through AI, and network expansion. The tracks focused on personas of students, teachers, parents, officials, farmers, healthcare & blue-collar workers and showcased experiences & examples of how people-centric transformation can help India gain the People + advantage by leveraging DPIs.

Nandan Nilekani, Co-founder and Chairperson, EkStep Foundation, said, “Digital Public Infrastructure is a significant step forward for Bharat’s commitment to self-sustainability and technology leadership. We have adopted Technology at a pace faster than any other global economy. With DPI, we are now edging closer to being the center of innovation and excellence globally.”

He stressed the need for harnessing human capital along with digital capital. “We need to combine the power of digital capital with human capital to create the people + advantage. Harnessing talent and getting people ready is a challenge we must focus on,” he added.

Rohini Nilekani, Co-founder and Director, EkStep Foundation, added, “There are endless possibilities with Digital Public Infrastructure, and things are coming together to make India prosperous. While Technology is at the center of DPI, we need human resources to harness it to solve people’s problems. We need to build unified systems and not uniform systems. Sarkaar has the mandate to grow the economy, Bazaar has the resources to grow, and Samaaj has the empathy. When we all come together, it will bring about the true change in India.”

Shankar Maruwada, Co-founder and CEO, EkStep Foundation, highlighted the journey of EkStep and how it has been pivotal in laying the foundation for India’s Digital Public Infrastructure journey. He said, “EkStep Foundation is eight years old with 14 years of history, with the founders being the genesis of the Aadhaar revolution in the country. EkStep desires to be a seed that grows diverse, a large and inclusive forest of ecosystem.”

For nation-building, we need to leverage every productive part of our society. This event is a stepping stone towards EkStep’s goal of enabling thousands of organizations to channel their talent and resources to develop solutions to problems. In the next leg of its journey, EkStep intends to engage with such organizations in specific problem areas and directions.

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