By Robert A Emmanuel
The approval of a memorandum of understanding (MoU) last week by the Indian government to share successful digital solutions will help the twin-island State “build innovative public goods infrastructure and enable efficient systems for government services.”
That was the view of former Indian High Commissioner to Antigua and Barbuda, Dr KJ Srinivasa who spoke to Observer media over the weekend.
According to Indian media, the MoU will promote closer cooperation and exchange of experiences and digital technologies-based solutions, namely India Stack.
According to the former Commissioner, the MoU will unlock new opportunities for economic growth on the island.
“This will pave the way, this MoU, for rapid digitisation and allowing both countries, especially Antigua and Barbuda, to climb up the technological ladder, as we call it,” he said.
“What we see in this is basically the partnership which will create an innovative and very robust system for developers, start-ups and also people who integrate these systems, especially the IT systems and the public infrastructure,” Dr Srinivasa also stated.
The Memorandum of Understanding will come into effect from the date of the signature of the Parties (13 June 2023) and is expected to remain in force for at least the next three years.
India Stack, according to its website, is the “moniker for a set of open APIs (Application Programming Interface) and digital public goods that aim to unlock the economic primitives of identity, data, and payments at population scale.
It also stated that, although the name of the project bears the word India, India Stack can be applied to any nation, be it a developed one or an emerging one.
One area of India Stack that would be of keen interest to the government of Antigua and Barbuda would be the digital payment system, which the former High Commissioner explained how the island could benefit.
“In India, for example, we no longer use credit cards; it is just a QR code, online transfer and that way your economy is streamlined…the government gets more revenue because suppression of income does not happen,” he explained.
The bedrock of the India Stack platform, meanwhile, is its set of digital identity products.
“What we are also doing in India is that most of this documentation…is through these digital wallets; you use those wallets and through that, all your data is locked properly and safeguarded,” he added.
He sought to allay concerns over the security of the India Stack platform, as he said, while the platform has noted some “small breaches,” large security breaches in the systems have not been found.
“When we do this digital payment system… the financial data, which is one of the most sensitive data and also personal data which is used to authenticate the transfers is done through multiple levels of security through internationally acclaimed level of data protection and that is something that we have been working assiduously on,” he explained.
He also noted that several countries including France, Singapore and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) have been interested and have used the platform.
Additionally, another part of the collaboration between the two nations would be the exchange of best practices and experts in digital solutions.
“I also suggest to the government of Antigua and Barbuda that they might want to explore the system of getting experts in who can try to [create] a training programme to get their people to be trained in India Stack,” he added.
Although the memorandum is slated to last for an initial three years, Dr Srinivasa said that any extension in collaboration “depends on the progress and willingness of both sides on how they want to take it forward.”
“Whatever the government of Antigua and Barbuda wants, they will have to put it to our High Commission in Guyana and the High Commission will collaborate with the Ministry back home in India to see how this can be expedited,” he noted.