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Remarks by High Commissioner of India at Digital Public Infrastructure Conference on 26.03.2024 at Hotel Taj Samudra, Colombo

Welcome Remarks by High Commissioner of India to Sri Lanka H.E Santosh Jha at Digital Public Infrastructure Conference on March 26, 2024 at Hotel Taj Samudra, Colombo.

Your Excellency, Mr. Ranil Wickremesinghe, President of Sri Lanka

Hon’ble Ministers and Members of Parliament,

Distinguished panelists from India and Sri Lanka,

Members of business, academia and media,

Ladies and Gentlemen

Namaskar, Ayubowan, Vanakkam

I am delighted to welcome you all to this conference on Digital Public Infrastructure with the theme of Enable, Empower and Enrich. At the outset, let me thank H.E. the President Mr. Ranil Wickremesinghe for joining us today. I would also like to thank Hon. State Minister of Technology Mr. Kanaka Herath and his team for partnering with us and making this event happen.

The conference sessions will explore the transformative potential of DPI for enabling service delivery, empowering communities by fostering inclusivity and enriching the economy by driving innovation.

India’s own journey stands as testimony to the power of DPI. The digital transformation in India over the last decade or so has been driven by these interoperable and open protocols of DPI. India’s DPI journey started with the basic need to provide direct access to public services and Government benefits to our citizens. This is what gave birth to India’s Digital Identity Number AADHAAR- and the Unique Identification Authority of India in 2016. This became the foundational building block of DPI … and the magic began.

At the heart of this magic is what we call India Stack: government-backed APIs, or Application Programming Interfaces, upon which third parties can build software with access to government IDs, payment networks and data. This digital infrastructure is interoperable and “stacked” together - meaning that private companies can build apps integrated with state services to provide consumers with seamless access to everything from welfare payments to loan applications and making investments.

Probably even the architects of AADHAAR didn’t envisage that India was on path to finding a world-beating solution for building out and regulating the online commons that is more equitable than the laissez-faire approach, more transparent and more innovative than some of the regulation-heavy models.

Today Aadhaar, covers more than 1.3 billion of our people. We have used the power of the JAM trinity- Jan Dhan bank accounts, Aadhaar, and Mobile- to revolutionize financial inclusion in India. The scale, speed and scope of this transformation is beyond imagination. First, it has enabled social welfare systems at a scale that is unprecedented. It has allowed the government to make 450 million direct cash transfers or transfer food rations to 850 million to the poor and underprivileged, directly in full transparency. Direct Benefits Transfer of government support is also plugging leakages, and has saved over 33 billion US dollars.
Second, Aadhar and the associated DPI has also improved ease of living for the citizens by making it easy to avail of government services, whose delivery has improved remarkably and again fostered transparency and removed possibilities of corrupt practices. For example, fully digitized taxation systems are promoting transparency and e-governance. In other words, by leveraging technology, we have been able to transform Governance, and made it more efficient, inclusive, faster and transparent.

Another dimension of the DPI and my third point is about how it has transformed innovation and enterprise in India. Every month, nearly 10 billion transactions take place on UPI, our instant payment system. More than 45% of the global real time payments happen in India. The CoWIN portal supported India's Covid vaccination drive. It helped in the delivery of over 2 billion vaccine doses along with digitally verifiable certificates. There are currently 122,000 startups in India, with 113 unicorns- increasing number of jobs from approx. 40,000 in the sector in 2014 to 1.3 million jobs in 2024. The Open Network for Digital Commerce is also democratizing e-Commerce.

At the recently concluded G20 Presidency of India, emerged the first-ever global definition of DPI in the G20 New Delhi Leaders’ Declaration. It is “a set of shared digital systems that are secure and interoperable, built on open technologies, to deliver equitable access to public and/or private services at a societal scale”. The Indian G20 Presidency brought about a mind-shift in a way, and outlined the holistic development that can potentially be brought about by a good DPI. The Indian presidency also proposed the creation of the One Future Alliance (OFA)—“a voluntary initiative that aims to bring together governments, the private sector, academic and research institutions, donor agencies, civil society organisations and other relevant stakeholders and existing mechanisms to synergize global efforts in the DPI ecosystem.”

We also see DPI now in our bilateral joint statements-as also in the India-Sri Lanka Vision Document adopted by our leaders during the visit of His Excellency President Ranil Wickremesinghe to India, in July 2023, where both our leaders agreed to leverage India’s DPI in accordance with Sri Lanka’s requirements and priorities towards effective and efficient delivery of citizen-centric services to the people of Sri Lanka. We are already working with the Government of Sri Lanka to roll out the Unique Digital Identity Project based on MOSIP architecture. And we strongly believe that as in case of India- this UDI is not an end- rather the beginning of the digital magic for Sri Lanka.

The value proposition of DPI is the combination of three components—technology, governance and markets - to achieve sustainable and robust digital transformation. It is not about one-off technology solutions but about incorporating a wider theory of change that brings about digitisation across domains. This is the very premise of the Conference. In the two panels today, the first one on Accelerating Digital Sri Lanka will focus on governance and service delivery, while the second panel on Unlocking the Digital Stack will take the conversation beyond foundational DPI to discuss the benefits of DPI in the entrepreneurial space and economy.

I extend my heartiest welcome and gratitude to all the experts from India who have travelled for the conference today. We have several senior representatives from all relevant agencies in India, including the co-chair of Centre for Digital Public Infrastructure and ex-Chief Architect, UIDAI Dr. Pramod Varma, Joint Secretary looking at Startup India Mr Sanjiv and his StartUp India team , Director Mr. Rajesh Kumar from our Ministry of Electronics & Information Technology, CEO of IIT Madras Incubator Pravartak Technologies Foundation Dr. Raman, the MOSIP Country Implementations Team Head Mr. Krishnan Rajagopalan, as well as representing the IT industry in India, we have Chairperson NASSCOM Mr. Nambiar. The fact that you are all present here in person demonstrates the belief in the potential of DPI to bring developmental dividends to Sri Lanka.

Let me also welcome our speakers from Sri Lanka, especially Hon. State Minister Kanaka Herath and Hon. MP Harsha De Silva who will open the two panels and set the stage for the conversation. Secretary, Ministry of Technology Dr. Dharmasri Kumaratunge, Dr. Hans Wijayasuriya who is joining us virtually and Mr. Fadhil Bakeer Markar of UNDP, PickME CEO Mr. Jiffry Zulfer, Mr. Ruwindhu Peiris, MD Stax Colombo, who is also representing SLASSCOM and Mr Sujeewa Mudalige, I welcome you all to the conference.

I hope the sessions today will ignite ideas, propelling Sri Lanka to embrace DPI as a catalyst for growth, inclusivity, and citizens’ welfare.