India, Sri Lanka going ahead with Modi-Ranil ‘vision document’



Indian HC Santosh Jha and President Wickremesinghe at the inauguration of the India-sponsored Digital Conference at the Taj (pic courtesy Indian HC)

Santosh Jha stresses importance of Unique Digital Identity project



Indian High Commissioner Santosh Jha has said that India is working with Sri Lanka to roll out the Unique Digital Identity (UDI) Project based on modular micro service based architecture aka MOSIP architecture. He has said they strongly believe that as in the case of India this UDI will be the beginning of digital magic for Sri Lanka.

Jha made the announcement at the inauguration of a conference at the Taj where experts explored the immense potential for Digital Public Infrastructure (DPI) for Sri Lanka. Among the invitees were President Ranil Wickremesinghe and senior government officials.

Jha said that the high profile project was in line with the India-Sri Lanka Vision Document, adopted by Indian Premier Narendra Modi and President Ranil Wickremesinghe, in New Delhi, in July 2023, where they agreed to leverage India’s DPI in accordance with Sri Lanka’s requirements and priorities towards effective and efficient delivery of citizen-centric services to the people of Sri Lanka.

The Indian High Commission quoted Jha as having told the conference that the value proposition of DPI is the combination of three components—technology, governance and markets—to achieve sustainable and robust digital transformation. “It is not about one-off technology solutions but about incorporating a wider theory of change that brings about digitisation across domains.

This is the very premise of the Conference.”

The conference consisted of three sessions and what the IHC called breakout meetings which explored the transformative potential of DPI for enabling service delivery, empowering communities by fostering inclusivity and enriching the economy by driving innovation.

Having underlined DPI as a vital enabler for the digitisation of the Sri Lankan economy, President Wickremesinghe emphasised the need for collaboration with India in this domain, highlighting the potential of fast-tracking growth by adapting India’s successful strategies domestically. India’s digital transformation and the significance of DPI and India Stack was elaborated upon by Jha and Dr. Pramod Varma, Co-Chair, Centre for Digital Public Infrastructure (CDPI) in his presentation during the opening plenary.

The other two sessions saw discussions amongst experts from India, Sri Lanka and the region, on the themes of Accelerating Digital Sri Lanka and Unlocking the Digital Stack, respectively. The former focused on roadmap for adoption of DPI in Sri Lanka and the resultant acceleration towards e-governance across the board, with the opening remarks by Kanaka Herath, State Minister of Technology. The latter went beyond foundational DPI to discuss use cases marrying technology, markets and governance with a special focus on the positive externalities in the startups domain. This session was opened by MP Dr. Harsha de Silva.The conference was particularly enriched with several breakout meetings between visiting experts from India and their Sri Lankan counterparts as well as other stakeholders. A key highlight of these was an interaction of the visiting senior officials from Government of India’s Ministries handling Digital India and Startup India programmes with Senior Officials who are leading the six Working Groups of Government of Sri Lanka on digital economy.

Futuristic linkages were also initiated in the startup and IT industries domain on the side-lines of the conference. In the afternoon Startup India’s team held a capacity building workshop for startups in Sri Lanka, including sessions by Indian experts on the art of pitching and effective marketing. The Chief of IIT Chennai’s Incubator ‘Parvartak’ interacted with key startup incubators in Sri Lanka. Chairman NASSCOM called on President of Sri Lanka.

Jha explained how DPI project changed India. Jha said: “India’s own journey stands as testimony to the power of DPI. The digital transformation in India over the last decade or so has been driven by these interoperable and open protocols of DPI. India’s DPI journey started with the basic need to provide direct access to public services and Government benefits to our citizens. This is what gave birth to India’s Digital Identity Number AADHAAR- and the Unique Identification Authority of India in 2016. This became the foundational building block of DPI … and the magic began.

At the heart of this magic is what we call India Stack: government-backed APIs, or Application Programming Interfaces, upon which third parties can build software with access to government IDs, payment networks and data. This digital infrastructure is interoperable and “stacked” together – meaning that private companies can build apps integrated with state services to provide consumers with seamless access to everything from welfare payments to loan applications and making investments.

Probably even the architects of AADHAAR didn’t envisage that India was on path to finding a world-beating solution for building out and regulating the online commons that is more equitable than the laissez-faire approach, more transparent and more innovative than some of the regulation-heavy models. “