Digital India

The post-Covid phase is seeing the birth of a data democracy: Anil Padmanabhan

(Anil Padmanabhan is a columnist with Economic Times and a Nieman Foundation Fellow. This column first appeared in Economic Times on October 14, 2021)

  • Last month, National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI) CEO Dilip Asbe claimed that annualised transactions on the payment platform, Unified Payments Interface (UPI), is poised to top $1 trillion (₹75 lakh crore). Actually, this is no idle boast. In September, UPI registered 3.65 billion transactions worth ₹6.5 trillion. This record – in terms of both volume and value – suggests that not only is the target achievable, but that the adaption of UPI is growing exponentially. This slice of data-capturing growing trend of low-cost, high-value transactions also mirrors a new process of inclusion through credit empowerment, which, in turn, is being enabled with the rise of what can be best described as data democracy. These digital transactions are capturing new credit histories belonging to a class of people who previously could never access formal credit. So, at one level, a generation of new consumers are availing of small-sachet loans and, at the other end of the spectrum, a new generation of suppliers are accessing credit sans collateral. This twin action is resolving the challenge that Nandan Nilekani, the man who spearheaded the rollout of Aadhaar, describes so well: Indians are economically poor but data-rich…

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