The world is entering a transformative era with mobile internet users expected to reach 5 billion by 2030, signalling a significant digital accessibility. Echoing this surge, Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the conclusion of India’s G20 Presidency announced a $25-million investment to develop digital public infrastructure (DPI).

This initiative mirrors India’s existing digital strides, where 40 per cent of payments are now digital, and over 1.38 billion digital identities have been registered.

The Jan Dhan programme has benefited over 508 million people and mobilised over $2 billion since 2014.

The G20 recognises Digital Public Infrastructure (DPI) as encompassing interoperable, open, and inclusive systems, underpinned by technology to deliver public and private services crucial for society.

Achim Steiner, UN Development Programme Administrator, and Amitabh Kant, India G20 Sherpa, highlight DPI’s role in including digital public goods like open data and open-source software, crucial in addressing the 17 Sustainable Development Goals.

Examples include India’s Aadhaar, the Philippines’ PhilSys, and Brazil’s Cadastro de Pessoas for digital identity verification, and platforms like India’s UPI and Brazil’s PIX for financial transactions.

Its impact is substantial, with verified credentials and fast digital payments aiding MSME growth. In fiscal 2023, a remarkable $750 million was disbursed, with about half benefiting the MSME sector.

The growth is significant, with 9.43 million accounts linked by June 2023, demonstrating DPI’s extensive influence beyond mere numbers.

The G20 GPFI Policy Recommendations underscore DPI’s role in accelerating financial inclusion, with India’s progress in six years versus the traditional five-decade timeline. By August 2023, India’s UPI hit 10 billion transactions, signifying a digital transformation.

Globally, DPI’s effectiveness is shown by Ghana’s 60 per cent mobile money usage and robust systems like Rwanda’s Digital Payments and Brazil’s PIX, surpassing $300 billion .

Way forward

DPI’s transformative impact on productivity, growth, and governance lies in its ability to reduce costs and increase efficiency. The fusion of verifiable credentials, efficient digital payment systems, consent-based data sharing, and integration of digital credit history and account aggregation promises a significant leap forward in this field.

The DPI ecosystem transcends technology, serving as a crisis-resilient, solution-oriented framework. When integrated into digital finance, DPIs create wide-ranging positive impacts, enhancing resilience, inclusivity, and growth. Cross-border DPI linkages aim to lower payment costs like remittances, and leveraging DPIs for paperless credit boosts the MSME sector, invigorating emerging economies, particularly in AU regions.

With only seven years remaining to meet the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), bridging the progress gap by aligning policies with financial inclusion and SDGs is crucial. DPI-led innovations promise to enhance resilience, innovation, and inclusive growth. The Global South, particularly the African Union, is pivotal in digital financial inclusion, with initiatives like African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) and the Pan-African Payment and Settlement System (PAPSS) showcasing commitment. The African Union joining the G20 is a significant step in tackling global challenges.

This collaboration strengthens the G20’s ability to leverage DPI for sustainable development.

Sarkar is Economic Advisor, Department of Economic Affairs, Ministry of Finance; Saxena, Head of Asia Pacific, UN-based Better Than Cash Alliance