Leveraging Digital Platforms – The Key to Enabling Impact at Scale
Published on :- June 10th, 2022The Government of India has adopted a digital-first approach in policy-making. It is enabled by the increasing smartphone and internet penetration in the country, with 2/3rds of urban Indians and 1/3rd of rural Indians having mobile and internet connectivity. With the basic infrastructure in place, the government is now leveraging digital platforms to facilitate utilities and service delivery. For a populous country like India, digital platforms can be the key to delivering value at scale, owing to the advantages that these offer. Digital platforms allow for modification and upgrades of existing digital common goods. The introduction of Aadhaar, for instance, has become synonymous with digital identity for 1.2 billion Indians. Since its implementation, it has not only acted as an identification mechanism, but also enabled access to welfare schemes for this population. The centrally administered ID has also helped reduce KYC (Know Your Customer) costs for financial institutions from $5 to $0.7 per customer. While Aadhaar simplifies disbursals through welfare schemes, employment guarantee schemes and PDS rations, its ubiquity raises concerns about user data privacy. The presence of digital identity, therefore, also highlights the need for digital platforms to develop stringent measures for data protection and security of public records. Digital platforms reduce systemic inefficiencies and delays, enabling value creation at population scale. The Government e-Marketplace (GeM), for instance, is a portal for the procurement of goods and services between the government and private sector enterprises. The barriers of a physical marketplace are eliminated on this platform, offering greater market access, and hence growth opportunities to businesses across the length and breadth of the country. The Digital Infrastructure for Knowledge Sharing (DIKSHA) portal unlocks value in a similar fashion for educators and learners across India. By allowing teachers all over the country to add and access e-learning resources, tutoring sessions and assessment aids digitally, the DIKSHA portal removes geospatial barriers between educators and learners, which has been especially important during the pandemic. Existing digital commons can be used to scale up and modify digital platforms. In recent years, this has been best evidenced by the development of the CoWIN app for Covid-19 vaccinations. The CoWIN portal evolved from the existing eVIN (Electronic Vaccine Intelligence Network) that was being utilised for monitoring vaccine stocks, cold storage movement and universal inoculation programmes by the Government of India. The cloud-based technology has been repurposed to streamline Covid-19 vaccination for the bulk of India’s population within a very short period of time. Digital platforms offer a unique advantage in the form of network effects. Network effects imply the incremental growth in value created on a platform as more users join it. With the increase in number of users, all actors stand to benefit from the value generated. The Ayushman Bharat Digital Mission (ABDM) seeks to leverage this phenomenon with the development of ABHA – Ayushman Bharat Health Accounts. ABHA integrates healthcare delivery by bringing all actors in the service delivery chain – doctors, allied health professionals, pharmacies, government agencies, patients – on a common platform. By digitising medical records of patients and allowing them to connect with other healthcare providers virtually, ABHA eliminates the barriers to health delivery posed by the unavailability of physical records or remote location of patients. As of March 2022, 11,325 doctors and 22,897 health facilities have been registered under ABDM. As the number of actors on this platform grows, it promises greater access to quality healthcare for a larger number of users. The popularity of UPI (Unified Payments Interface) is another evidence of digital platforms successfully enabling network effects. The ease of use and integration with bank accounts has simplified financial transactions for individuals and businesses alike, with record-high transactions of Rs 7.7 trillion reported in October 2021. Digital platforms are the key to simplifying everyday activities at population scale. While their uptake is contingent upon mobile and internet access, digital interventions designed with all user segments in mind can solve for the extant issue of scaling up welfare for the last mile in India. Data with Intent by Sattva is dedicated to delivering you insights that help you think and act in the impact ecosystem. The next Data with Intent series explores how India can leverage sustainable agricultural practices and systems (SAPS), which will be summarised in our upcoming blog post. For more data analysis and insights on digital platforms in the social sector, check out our data assets on India Data Insights (IDI).