India shares its e-government tools with all as India Stack

Identity, payments, data management – the lot – as digital public goods

The Indian government has decided to share with the world the many e-governance tools it has created to run the country, under the name Indiastack.global.

Prime minister Narendra Modi announced the stack yesterday, declaring "This offering of India to the Global Public Digital Goods repository will help position India as the leader in building Digital Transformation projects at a population scale and prove to be of immense help to other countries which are looking for such technology solutions."

Such nations can now get their hands on India's identity service Aadhaar, the DigiLocker cloud storage locker, the CoWin Vaccination Platform, the Government e-Marketplace, and the Ayushman Bharat Digital Health Mission.

The project's digital home, indiastack.org, describes the project as "a set of open APIs and digital public goods that aim to unlock the economic primitives of identity, data, and payments at population scale."

Details on licenses are scanty – but an FAQ states "None of the systems which comprise India Stack require any proprietary technology or intellectual property which would preclude their implementation in any other country."

Another question – How do you start building on India Stack? – offers the advice that each piece of India Stack is administered by a different government agency, each of which "will be able to provide access to APIs, sandboxes, and other pieces needed to start building."

"Alternatively, interested parties may elect to use the APIs offered by intermediaries. Popular intermediaries offering APIs and sandboxes on top of India Stack products include Digio, Karza, Signzy, and many others."

The effort's statistics page explains one of its main selling points: proven operations at scale. The payment platform offered under India Stack has handled 99 billion transactions, Aadhaar has handled 74 billion authentications, while DigiLocker has over 100 million users and has held over five billion documents.

India Stack was announced as just one of several initiatives PM Modi championed while inaugurating India's "Digital Week 2022".

Digital India GENESIS will fund development of tech startups in smaller cities, while Digital India Bhashini aims to create crowdsourced datasets of India's many languages to ease content creation.

Modi unfurled a new catchphrase to describe India's attempts to grow a semiconductor manufacturing industry: "India wants to become a chip maker from a chip taker". But he could only announce the ambitions of the existing Chips to Startup scheme that aims to educate semiconductor designers to "act as a catalyst for growth of startups involved in fabless design." No new manufacturing efforts were announced.

Also announced was MyScheme – a service discovery platform facilitating access to government schemes – along with a National Single Sign-On scheme to allow access to multiple online applications or services.

Modi has previously declared India is in a "Techade" – a ten-year span in which information technology will accelerate the nation's economy and improve life for all.

The reality of those efforts has not always been success. The Aadhaar digital ID system has proven leaky, the CoWin API to arrange COVID-19 vaccinations created perverse outcomes, and a flagship tax portal designed to increase the nation's tax base and cut through India's infamously thick red tape has had long-term problems.

Nations considering India Stack therefore have some war stories to consider, as well as India's code and APIs. ®

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