Stakeholders Examine Benefits of Digital Public Infrastructure at IMF Meeting

By Ayang Macdonald

Speakers at a seminar during the recent spring meetings of the Bretton Woods institutions (IMF and World Bank) shared thoughts on how nations can advance their economic and digital transformation ambitions by building inclusive digital public infrastructure (DPI).

The forum, which took place on 14 April, was dubbed ‘Digital Public Infrastructure: Stacking up the benefits,’ and moderated by CNN Business Anchor Julia Chatterley.

It had contributions from IMF Director General Kristalina Georgieva, India’s Minister of Finance and Cooperate Affairs Nirmala Sitharaman, Co-chair of the Gates Foundation Melinda Gates, Co-founder of Infosys Nandan Nilekani, President and CEO of PayPal Dan Schulman, the UN Secretary General’s special advocate for inclusive finance Queen Maxima of the Netherlands.

The panelists discussed the various factors favorable for building DPIs, and also stressed the need for what the IMF boss called “unwavering political commitment” which can “open up tremendous opportunities.”

They stressed the importance of digital ID systems as well as other factors such as internet which can enhance digital connectivity.

“I think of a world in which the power of connectivity is accessible to everyone because when you have this power, then you influence future political decisions. So, you are actually democratizing society by giving people the avenue to the high corridors of power which didn’t exist,” says Georgieva.

In all of these, trust, the panelists agreed, is something which those building DPI must keep in mind and which must not be compromised in anyway whatsoever.

“I think as we digitize more and more, our data and our information are out in the world. There is no question about that. We need to put in place a set of rules and regulations and responsible innovations that protect the privacy of either customers or citizens, and that it is used in ways that are beneficial as possible to our political systems,” says Schulman.

Melinda Gates talked about how these systems can be financed.

India finance minister explains country’s DPI strides

India’s Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, who made a presentation as a guest speaker, emphasized that DPI with inclusion in focus can accelerate economic transformation.

Using her country’s example, Sitharaman said DPI can contribute to social and economic growth in different ways, mentioning how the country’s DPI foundational blocks such as its Aadhaar digital ID and the digital payments system (UPI) have streamlined the delivery of government services, improved the business climate, and facilitated the living conditions of citizens.

The Minister said in maximizing the potential of its digital ID and digital payment platforms, India has been able to ramp up its financial inclusion push by building the world’s largest direct benefit transfer system with $322 billion transferred to the direct accounts of around 615 million people.

She also mentioned interoperability, openness, low-cost and transparency as some of the features of India’s inclusive DPI system which has helped them respond to different problems.

India, current chair of the G20, has made the DPI discourse one of its priorities and is pushing for global action for especially developing nations to build such systems which facilitate socio-economic development.

Philippines seek DPI partnership with US, India

In the meantime, the speaker of the Philippines parliament Ferdinand Martin G. Romualdez, who attended the meeting, suggested that a partnership with the United States and India would help his country set up its digital public infrastructure.

Romualdez said building DPI is part of the country’s digital transformation drive which, among other objectives, seeks to replace the bureaucracy in government with a digital machinery that will ensure a seamless delivery of services.

As quoted by The Economic Times of India, Romualdez, who also had a chat with Nandan Nilekani on the sidelines of the meeting, said building DPI for the Philippines aligns with the President’s digital transformation vision and will help the country deal with some of the scares left on the economy by the coronavirus pandemic.

Source: Biometric Update

Ayang Macdonald is a freelance journalist based in Yaounde, Cameroon. He boasts 10 years of professional experience in journalism in which he has a Bachelor of Science Degree from the University of Buea in South western Cameroon. He is a versatile reporter with interest in ICTs, innovation, digital entrepreneurship, defense and military, politics, economy, health and environment, humanitarian issues and sports.

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