In India over 68 per cent of total payments are made through Unified Payments Interface (UPI) with 8.7 billion UPI transactions being witnessed in March 2023 alone and overall growth of 82 percent in financial year 2022-23 over the previous year, Finance Minister Nirmala Sithraman said on Friday.
Sitharaman was delivering the keynote address during a seminar on 'India's Digital Public Infrastructure - Stacking Up the Benefits', organised by IMF in Washington DC.
Talking about the benefits of digital public infrastructure ( DPI), she said how the government has leveraged its benefits, especially during the pandemic. The Finance Minister mentioned how UPI has been a game changer when it comes to making digital payments in India.
DPI reached the last mile during the pandemic with about $4.5 billion transferred directly into the bank accounts of 160 million beneficiaries. India's pandemic recovery efforts were greatly supported by the development of the COWIN app which was scaled up to deliver over 2 billion doses of vaccines, she said.
“Potential of DPI to contribute to both public and private sector are enormous and can transform the development trajectory of countries even in difficult times. We are dealing with multiple challenges including macroeconomic and pandemic related ones. Foundational building blocks approach of India stack (digital identity, digital payments and consent based data sharing) has helped us in improved governance, bring ease of doing business and enable ease of living for our people,” Sitharaman said.
India has seen record opening of 462.5 million low-cost bank accounts with 56% account holders being women. This has enabled us to transform the government service delivery by building the world’s largest direct benefits transfer system. DPI based direct benefits transfer system has aided about 650 mn people who received $322 bn directly into their accounts, which have led to overall savings of more than $ 27 bn just across key central government schemes.
“Aadhaar through e-KYC has also brought down costs of verification, leading to savings in costs for customer acquisition from Rs 500–700 ($6-9) per person to Rs 3 (0.4 cent). Due to the consent based data exchange framework, the cost of loan processing is estimated to have declined by almost 75 per cent. Lowering of such transaction costs for the public and private sector ensures onboarding of more people into the formal financial system and thus more inclusion,” the finance minister stated.
In India, there are various other DPI initiatives across sectors, like DIKSHA, a DPI which serves close to 500 mn school children & ONDC (Open Network for Digital Commerce), an open network to democratize digital commerce for millions of MSMEs. DPI has some inherent features like interoperability, openness, low cost access and transparency which makes it inclusive by design and this is helping India in addressing the various digital divide challenges.
“The scalability feature of our DPI makes the investments economical and is therefore beneficial to the end user as the costs can be minimised, or the access can be made altogether free, too; this is pro-inclusion," she said.
Better targeting has been achieved through DPI including gender-sensitive focus and targeting vulnerable sections. By leveraging jan dhan accounts and Aadhaar, more than 90 mn cooking gas connections have been provided under Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana as on 30 Jan 2023.
“DPI has tremendous transformational potential by facilitating innovations continuously by involving private sector and the government effectively. Leveraging of DPI sets a virtuous cycle in motion which incessantly delivers huge benefits for countries to fast pace development processes. Examining how we can leverage DPI to further gains and stack up benefits will go a long way in strengthening our endeavour to achieve strong inclusive, resilient and sustainable economic growth,” she said.