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‘India to create $500 billion in new economic value by 2030 via open digital ecosystems’: Roopa Kudva

Roopa Kudva, MD of investment firm Omidyar Network India, told The Sunday Express that 10 such national ODEs in various sectors can collectively create new economic value of $500 billion by 2030.

Roopa Kudva

On the lines of Aadhaar and the Unified Payments Interface (UPI), which envisaged building open digital ecosystems (ODE) of public and private entities, a section of the industry has pegged approaching various sectors such as healthcare, education, agriculture, law and justice through such networks involving digital infrastructure builders, governments and community. In an interview, Roopa Kudva, MD of investment firm Omidyar Network India, told The Sunday Express that 10 such national ODEs in various sectors can collectively create new economic value of $500 billion by 2030. Edited excerpts:

You mentioned governance being a key layer of the proposed ODEs, but what exactly is expected from the government to make this a reality?

There are three things. It’s a combination of regulation, institutions and practices. As far as regulations, etc, are concerned, I think it is about starting with the more basic things like privacy regulations, data protection — which anyway, the data protection bill is under discussion — and we have that journey to be fully accomplished. But it is also about things like setting standards just like you have the Bureau of Industrial Standards, there needs to be some kind of setting of standards on basic things, right from construct, to issues like privacy, security, things like anonymisation of data, if my data is there in the database and is being made a part of an open data set, which you may need to do for research purposes.

The second part is participatory governance or consultations. That is why in the data protection bill, one of the points or suggestions that we have made is that how the Data Protection Authority gets set up is very important.

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Then you have the third part, which is the practices. It’s very important to have something like a national council for governance, which will basically try and encourage people or new entrepreneurs to come and actually use the platform and build solutions.

Does the lack of a data protection law in the country throw in some kind of uncertainty when we talk about a project of this scale?

I think we all agree that passing the data protection law is going to be an important milestone in the evolution of Digital India. That is something we hope happens quickly and happens in a robust manner. However, I think it’s very important to point out which way the winds are blowing. Even without the data protection bill, if you look at the debate discussion today and even the recent National Digital Health Mission, I think they are all referring right upfront to privacy by design. Even if you look at the way existing architecture has been built — take two very important examples, one is the DigiLocker and the other is the account aggregators — in both these important pieces of infrastructure, you need the consent of the owner of the data before data is shared.

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I think the formal passage of laws is very important but even without that, today people are recognising that if you want to build something which people will use, right and which will work, you cannot do it without having these core principles and these basic approaches enshrined.

What are the other sectors where you see the next UPI coming up? We’re already seeing it in health…

Health is something that has been announced. We already know India Stack. The other one is something called DIKSHA in the education sector, and it’s essentially an open digital public infrastructure, which has all kinds of educational content on it. It has your textbooks, your curriculum, it has tests, teacher training, audios. It has been rolled out in all the states, a couple of states have adopted it more extensively — Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra, for example, have made more progress in utilising DIKSHA more effectively. On the student side, not everyone has smartphones and that is coming in the way of full utilisation by the student community. But that is a good example of a platform that has been built and I think that will progress over time.

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The other open digital ecosystem platform that’s been built using those principles is something called the National Urban Innovation Stack. That has three layers, first layer is something called digit, which is actually a platform that operates in municipalities. It has already been adopted by hundreds of municipalities. Now the National Institute of Urban Affairs has taken it over, and is trying to make that a standardised approach for use by all municipalities all over India.

The other interesting one which is under construction under this National Urban Innovation Stack is something called the India Urban Data Exchange. It’s being piloted by Pune, as well as the National Open Learning Platform, and that is basically get a lot of urban data in one place different kinds of open data and make it open for innovators to come in to use that data to find solution. So that is under construction as well. Others under construction at this point is something called the agri-stack. Right now there is a committee that’s been formed to look into it, how to set it up. So these are the other areas where, where ODEs are being built. But we really think that this principle of tech layer plus governance plus community engagement is something which has very wide application. That is why we’ve identified those 10 areas like talent, MSMEs, law and justice, land records.

First published on: 30-08-2020 at 12:58:02 am
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