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DPI gets cloud service launch, UN working groups and a definition of ‘public’

CDPI launches DaaS
DPI gets cloud service launch, UN working groups and a definition of ‘public’

Cloud-based on-demand technology provided as a service could address a series of challenges associated with rolling out digital public infrastructure, particularly in countries with developing economies.

DPI-as-a-Packaged Solution (DaaS) has been unveiled by the Centre for Digital Public Infrastructure (CDPI), an international trade and development organization related to open-source payments project G2P Connect. A launch of DaaS is planned for this summer in collaboration with EkStep Foundation, GovInsider reports.

CDPI argues that there is an inherent tension between the demand for fast action on public service and benefits delivery and the challenges of implementing DPI. Local capacity is often low or uneven across different government organizations, a situation that can be exacerbated by funding gaps for hardware, software and project execution. Finally, procurement cycles are often long, further delaying the introduction of desperately-needed DPI.

CDPI is based at IIIT-Bangalore, which is also where MOSIP was established.

This is hardly surprising, as India’s work on DPI is helping to improve productivity, reduce costs and make the economy more inclusive, UN General Assembly President Dennis Francis said in an interview with PTI.

A white paper by India Stack Chief Architect Pramod Varma, along with Rahul Matthan, Rudra Chaudhuri and C. V. Madhukar for Carnegie India argues in favor of a cloud-delivered, “plug-and-play” approach to DPI adoption.

The DaaS offering brings together open-source technologies available through the Digital Public Goods Registry, with the aim of enabling DPI deployment within three to six months, instead of the years the process can otherwise take.

The white paper describes DaaS as potentially consisting of software and documentation, including licenses and commercial models, implementation details and governance packages with regulatory recommendations. Implementation details could include a step-by-step description of the process, and guidance on training and certification.

CDPI Chief Strategy Officer Kamya Chandra tells GovInsider that DPI is better thought of as “an approach to solving socioeconomic problems at scale, a lens through which you view the world and create solutions,” rather than a particular set of technologies for digital ID and other components.

UN, academia building up resources

Six working groups have been formed by the UN to establish a framework of safeguards for DPI, the UNDP has announced.

The six groups are made up of 43 members from various backgrounds.

The UN is also standing up a DPI Safeguards Resource Hub to accompany the framework.

“I am confident the efforts of this group will help countries to develop guardrails for digital infrastructure, so that it can work for the public good,” says UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.

But what is the public good?

As the build-out of DPI resources ramps up, the University College London (UCL) Institute for Innovation and Public Purpose has also published a working paper titled “Digital public infrastructure and public value: What is ‘public’ about DPI?”

The paper notes that “DPI is still emerging in the scholarship domain,” and that “The definition of ‘public’ in DPI cannot be assumed to be neutral.”

The existing literature largely presents DPI in terms of public value creation, according to the paper. A focus instead on “common good,” including making public values explicit, can lead to “public value maximization” which better reflects what is good for society. This is contrasted with “a directionality through values generated by attributes or led by functions” under the guise of public interest.

The paper concludes that: “if we want the ‘P’ to be public value maximisation, there is no DPI without explicit public values, governance that follows the five pillars of the common good and a prominent role for the state. We leave a call for researchers in the public administration and digital government field to consider more robust investigations on the specific policy tools and management mechanisms required to apply a common good governance framework to DPI for creating even more public value.”

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