‘Open networks more user-friendly than platforms’

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Pramod Varma, Chief Architect of Aadhaar and India Stack, said the platform-centric approach doesn’t work as digital solutions attempt to solve several societal problems. “The value created is concentrated with the intermediary and not with the service provider or the consumer. Digital intermediaries create monopolies ,” he said.

Addressing the R&D showcase at the International Institute of Information Technology (IIIT-Hyderabad) here on Saturday, he felt that networks didn’t allow concentration of value.

Relating the example of UPI, he said the UPI was a device-agnostic, authentication-agnostic and currency-agnostic network that revolutionised digital banking and digital transactions in the country.

In 2018, only 17 per cent of the population had access to the banking system. Within six years, over 80 per cent could access, thanks to the digital infrastructure. “It would have taken 46 years in the normal rate of growth,” he said.

Open networks

Strongly pitching for open network-based tech-based services against platform-based services, he felt that platforms acted as intermediaries, wresting the value generated on them. “Open networks do the opposite. It connects the service provider with the consumer directly without having to dealing with an intermediary,” he said.

Stating that the use cases can be many, he said open networks in areas like education, transportation, e-commerce and healthcare would open up immense opportunities and convenience. “They ensure trust and compliance. Open networks would reduce the cost of doing business and expand markets,” he said.

Referring to the examples of the UPI, COWIN and Aadhar, he said the country saved money and effort as it rolled out the digital projects in launching of schemes that involved direct transfer of money, universal Covid-19 vaccination and authentication of identities of 135 crore people. Besides helping crores of people access digital services, the digital infrastructure has brought them into the formal economy from an informal one.

He said the UPI services developed in India would soon be live in Singapore, Dubai and France. IIIT-H Director PJ Narayanan said the institute would increase the focus on research as it entered the 25th year of its existence.