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India’s digital ID experience could boost Africa’s development drive: report

India’s digital ID experience could boost Africa’s development drive: report

India’s digital transformation which has proven largely successful thanks to its robust Aadhaar digital ID system can be an inspiration for many African countries also pursuing digital transformation plans, so argues an article by development policy publication ORF.

According to the writer Abhishek Mishra, a researcher on India and China’s engagements with Africa, the many digital initiatives launched by India over the years including Aadhaar are enough for sub-Saharan African countries to tap from within the framework of South-South Cooperation.

The Aadhaar is the digital ID system on which many government and social services in India are anchored. The country has other digital public infrastructure enabling service delivery in domains such as digital banking, which has gone a long way in driving financial inclusion.

India and Africa have faced similar digital transformation challenges which include issues such as slow and limited internet access and a large digital divide, the author says, but he adds that the rapid manner in which India has dealt with some of these challenges, such as expanding internet penetration, holds a valuable lesson.

India has also been cited in different reports and by different institutions as a trail blazing example of digital transformation powered by digital public infrastructure.

“India’s own experience with digital transformation serves as a more relatable model to understand the challenges faced by African countries than other Asian or Western counterparts. As the world is poised to embrace more digital innovations, India has a golden opportunity to showcase its willingness and capacity to contribute towards Africa’s digital revolution,” writes Mishra.

He also cites a number of existing partnership initiatives which also provide a stronger platform for tech innovation collaboration between India and Africa including in the domains of MedTech and education.

However, while looking to India’s experience as an inspiration, the author suggests that “while African governments need to place emphasis and prioritize designing policies that increase internet connectivity, there should also be an equal emphasis on affordability, equitable access, and cyber security.”

A notable organization bringing experience from India’s digital identity development to Africa is MOSIP, which is not explicitly mentioned by Mishra.

Meanwhile, in another OCF publication, the author Apoorva Lalwani writes that in its time as President of the G20, India must push to ensure that the needs and concerns of developing countries are given proper attention when issues of cross border data flow and privacy are discussed.

Within the G20 and even around the world, there have been discussions on issues related to the free flow of data as a way of enhancing sustainable digital economy growth, as well as the benefits for international trade and politics and the challenges that come with it.

“India must ensure that the needs of the developing countries are considered when discussing cross border flow of data. It is imperative to understand that in this era of geopolitical uncertainty where advanced and emerging economies alike are vulnerable to cyber attacks and other digital security threats due to an overdependence on the digital space, it is crucial to assist the poorer countries to equip themselves with a strong cyber defence system,” Lalwani posits.

She adds that India should emulate the example of its predecessor (Indonesia) which acknowledged the work done by previous presidencies in enabling the free flow of data and in a manner that guarantees trust and privacy.

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