Today IGP is releasing an important new paper analyzing “India Stack” in depth. With roots going back two decades, including Aadhaar, India’s biometric digital identity scheme, the Modi administration is now attempting to create a national digital public infrastructure under the India Stack umbrella. The analysis is of interest in a world where the global digital economy is becoming increasingly fragmented into neo-mercantilist techno-nationalist initiatives. Our study asks:

  • When and why did the Indian government shift to pursuing a sovereignty based approach for the governance of technologies?
  • How is India defining its sovereignty based approach to data governance?
  • How does India Stack operationalize and take forward India’s strategy for data governance?
  • What policy problems are being created by a sovereignty based approach to data governance?

IGP researcher Jyoti Panday shows that the emergence of India Stack is result of three important shifts in the relationship between the state and the digital economy:

  1. Data sovereignty. State support of India Stack stems not from addressing market failures but as part of its efforts to extend sovereignty over data. India Stack recalibrates the state’s approach to governance of data, extending control sometimes by enabling accumulation and sometimes by restricting access to data, but in both cases attempting to enact a nationalistic notion of data sovereignty.
  2. State-market collaboration. India Stack was kickstarted through the National Information Utility (NIU) framework. This model was operationalised initially by outsourcing the digitisation of existing government services and the development of new mechanisms for the delivery of public services through software developers.
  3. Scale. State capacity is being leveraged by private business to achieve high scale. The framing of “built at scale” allows India Stack to claim labels like digital public infrastructure and digital public goods.

The full paper can be downloaded here.

On September 20, IGP will sponsor a Webinar on the paper. Details will be forthcoming.