India’s experience with digital technology and its scalability has been exceptional. The Indian IT industry has played a vital role in the creation of the same.
On 1 December 2022, India assumed the presidency of the G20 (Group of Twenty) for the first time ever. Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressed hope in the scalability of technology as a means to address problems on a humanity-wide scale. He also mentioned how the creation of digital public goods that are open, inclusive and interoperable, have delivered revolutionary progress in fields as varied as social protection, financial inclusion, and electronic payments.
India’s experience with digital technology and its scalability has been exceptional. The Indian IT industry has played a vital role in the creation of the same. Be it the creation of the Aadhaar database or the creation of the national health stack, the IT industry has augmented the government’s plans. The success of the government in opening bank accounts and using digital technologies for direct benefit transfer to bank accounts of beneficiaries has also been commendable.
Consider the statistics. Till date, 47.7 crore bank accounts have been opened under Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana. In FY 2022-23, the total direct benefit transfer has been to the tune of Rs 3.39 lakh crore, with 355 crore transactions. These are staggering figures. These could only be possible with political will, administrative acumen and support from the industry and people for realising this achievement.
Another example is the Digital Payments ecosystem; this too has grown by leaps and bounds in India. The home-grown unified payment interface (UPI) of the National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI) has seen rapid proliferation. From 21 banks being live on the platform in April 2016 to 376 banks with a total of 731 crore transactions in November 2022 with a total value of 11.9 lakh crore. A little over 3/4 of these transactions by value in November 2022 were peer-to-peer, which make these processes even more dramatic yet democratic.
There are five key areas where India is expected to see New Delhi playing a leading role in the digital economy at the G20. These include:
1. DIGITAL INCLUSION AND ACCESSIBILITY:
India has a large and diverse population, and ensuring digital inclusion for all its citizens is a key priority for the government. India has made significant progress in this area, with initiatives such as the Digital India program aimed at increasing access to digital technologies and services for all citizens. India is expected to push this further during its presidency of the G20, especially with the uptake of 5G and other leading technologies.
2. E-COMMERCE AND DIGITAL TRADE: India is a major player in the global e-commerce market and has a rapidly growing domestic e-commerce sector. The Indian government has taken steps to improve the enabling environment for e-commerce and digital trade, including through the implementation of the e-commerce policy and the rollout of the National Logistics Policy. The G20 will further have deliberations on cross-border flow of information and data to enable digital trade.
3. DATA PROTECTION AND PRIVACY: As digital technologies become more prevalent, issues around data protection and privacy have become increasingly important. India has taken steps to address these issues, including through the recently drafted Digital Personal Data Protection Bill 2022, which was put out for consultation recently. Debates around what constitutes personal data and to what extent it should be shared between companies and governments will be crucial for policymakers from the G20 economies.
4. DIGITAL SKILLS AND CAPACITY BUILDING: Developing digital skills and capacity is crucial for the success of the digital economy. India has made efforts to improve digital literacy and skills development, including through initiatives such as the National Digital Literacy Mission. Additionally, its large IT workforce will act as a force multiplier for economies around the globe. Debates will focus on leveraging skills to onboard people on the digital bandwagon.
5. CYBERSECURITY: With the increasing reliance on digital technologies, cybersecurity is a key concern for governments around the world. India has taken steps to improve its cybersecurity posture, including through the establishment of the Indian Cyber Crime Coordination Centre and the rollout of the National Cyber Security Policy. Discussions around improvements in cybersecurity frameworks between countries and sharing of information for better enforcement will go a long way in making the G20 economies more secure.
As part of its presidency, it is important to find common ground with countries to address issues pertaining to data privacy and data sovereignty in order to protect the rights of individuals and to ensure that data is used in a responsible and ethical manner. By prioritising these issues during its presidency at the G20, India may help drive global efforts to address these important issues.
Khushbu Jain is a practising advocate in the Supreme Court and founding partner of the law firm, Ark Legal.