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2nd G20 Sherpa Meeting Side Event on Digital Public Infrastruture in Kumarakom, Kerala

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The first day of the 2nd G20 Sherpa Meeting began with an all-day focus on the critical role of Digital Public Infrastructure (DPI) in improving development outcomes and India’s vast experience in implementing DPI at scale in the past decade. The Side Event was organized by the G20 Secretariat in partnership with NASSCOM, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) and Digital Impact Alliance (DIAL).

India’s G20 Sherpa Amitabh Kant along with NASSCOM President Debjani Ghosh inaugurated the DPI Experience Zone in the presence of Sherpas and delegates from G20 members, invited countries and international organisations. Demonstrating India’s DPI success story, the immersive Digital India Experience zone highlighted key DPIs developed by India for addressing crucial issues such as digital identity, financial inclusion, and equitable access to education and health. Various population-scale DPIs of India Stack such as Aadhar, Co-Win, UPI, DigiLocker, BHASHINI and others were showcased in the experience zone. The experience zone also saw the presence of private sector enterprises such as Google, Microsoft, PayTM, Fractaboo, AWS and TCS, which showcased the innovation potential of DPI.

The Side Event commenced with an inaugural address by India’s G20 Sherpa Amitabh Kant who noted the crucial role of DPI in providing inclusive access to public services effectively and efficiently. He emphasized the achievements and huge strides India has made in past few years in the Digital domain and highlighted the potential benefit of adoption of DPIs globally, especially in developing countries and the Least Developed Countries. Sherpa Kant underlined the open standards, open API, and interoperability as the hallmarks of India’s DPI.

The event started with a special session on the importance and need of DPIs titled ‘Why DPI?’ and was followed by three sessions on (1) ‘How DPI Delivers for People, Planet and Prosperity’, (2) ‘DPI in the Global Context – How different countries are approaching DPIs and key learnings’, and (3) ‘Scaling DPI: Challenges & Opportunities’.

Two Spotlight Sessions were also held to showcase (a) ‘Presentation on DPI Financing Gap’; and (b) discuss ‘How DPI is fueling the start-up ecosystem – Investor + Founder’.

The special session “Why DPI?” started with virtual messages from eminent global leaders Nandan Nilekani, Co-founder & Chairman of Board, Infosys and Thierry Bretton, Commissioner for Internal Market of the European Union who addressed the participants on the utility of DPIs and India’s ambitious DPI agenda during its G20 Presidency. The special address included a joint presentation by Ms. Priya Vohra, Managing Director, Digital Impact Alliance, Washington DC, USA, and Mr. Pramod Varma, Ex-Chief Architect Aadhaar and India Stack, CTO EkStep Foundation who explained to the audience the transformational role of DPIs in diverse sectors and its architectural and economic aspects.

Thereafter, the thematic session on “DPIs: Delivering For People, Plant and Prosperity” was chaired by Siddharth Tiwari, Fellow, Chatham House, London with the participation of panelists: Anant Maheshwari, President Microsoft India; Jean-Philbert Nsengimana, DIAL & Africa CDC; Konstantin Peric, Deputy Director, Financial Services for the Poor, BMGF; Padmaja Ruparel, Founding Partner, IAN Fund and Peter Rabley, PLACE Fund. The panelists discussed the role of DPIs in driving competition, markets, innovation and inclusion while impacting health, education, food security and climate adaptation.

The second session titled “DPI in the Global Context – How different countries are approaching DPIs and key learnings” was moderated by Pramod Varma, Ex-Chief Architect Aadhaar and India Stack, CTO EkStep Foundation. The panelists in this session included Dilip Asbe, CEO NPCI, India; Jonathan Marskell, Digital Identity, World Bank; Diana Sang, Associate Director, Strategic Engagements & Partnerships, Digital Impact Alliance at the UN Foundation; Keyzom, Chief Digital Officer, UNDP and Björn Richter, Head of Digital Programming, Digital Transformation, GIZ. They shared key global examples of DPI application and experiences from developing countries that are of relevance to both developed and developing countries. Importance of DPIs in ensuring resilience in crisis situations, massive innovation potential and transformative social and economic impact by using Open Technology Standards and DPI based on interoperable technology layers was discussed in detail during this session.

The third session focussed on the issue of scaling up DPIs efficiently for large-scale developmental gains. The session included Rodger Voorhies, Global President, Global Growth & Opportunities, BMGF as the Chair and Saurabh Garg, CEO UIDAI; Abhishek Singh, CEO, Digital India Corporation, NeGD& MyGov; Teki Akuetteh, Founder & Executive Director at the Africa Digital Rights’ Hub; Kay McGowan, Senior Director for Policy & Advocacy, Digital Impact Alliance; and Ambarish Kenghe, Vice President, GooglePay as Panellists. They discussed how scaling up DPIs needs a public-private collaboration approach based on principles such as trust, accessibility, affordability and user consent.

The side event included two Spotlight Sessions. The first Spotlight Session was led by Chrissy Martin Meier, Director, Charter for DPGs, DIAL who made a presentation on financing safe, inclusive and trusted public infrastructure and the costs associated with developing foundational DPI that works for a competitive market, innovation and inclusion. The second Spotlight Session focussed on the role of DPI in fueling the start-up ecosystem. The session was chaired by Debjani Ghosh, President- NASSCOM. The panelists comprised Melissa Frakman, Investor, Emphasis Ventures; Sucharita Mukherjee, Kaleidofin, CEO & Co-Founder; and Jatin Singh, Founder, Gram Cover. The panel called for increasing private investments in foundational DPIs and stressed the need for continued financing beyond the initial investments for long-term revenue generation.

The day-long session ended with a closing by Joint Secretary G20 Nagaraj Naidu who highlighted the tremendous promise that DPI holds in accelerating the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals: from cash transfers and food distribution to e-commerce and innovative models of education and healthcare delivery.

With India emerging as a global digital center, its leadership in building inclusive public technologies has not only empowered the nation but also opened a plethora of related businesses and opportunities. DPI systems have become critical foundation to enabling meaningful delivery of public and private services and underpinning the achievement of a range of SDGs, including poverty reduction, financial inclusion, women’s economic empowerment, and climate resilience.

Digital Public Infrastructure is one of the key priorities during India’s G20 Presidency. It is a cross-cutting theme across various Working Groups including Digital Economy, Health, Education and Global Partnership for Financial inclusion.

The Plenary sessions of G20 Sherpa meeting will commence tomorrow. Shri V Muraleedharan, Hon’ble MoS for External Affairs and Parliamentary Affairs will deliver special remarks at its opening session.