The Centre for Digital Public Infrastructure to launch DPI-as-a-Packaged-Solution

By Yogesh Hirdaramani

A new approach to digital public infrastructure (DPI) aims to help countries roll out DPI solutions within three to six months using pre-packaged solutions. GovInsider speaks to the Centre for Digital Public Infrastructure to learn more.

CDPI works with countries to help implement localised DPI solutions. Image: CDPI

This story is part of GovInsider's special report on DPI. Click here to read more of GovInsider's coverage of DPI.

When India first developed its innovative Unified Payments Interface (UPI) digital payments infrastructure in 2012, it took four years to move from concept to implementation. The platform finally launched in 2016 – and by 2019, market applications that transact via UPI had commanded the lion’s share of the market.


Now, a new programme aims to help countries drastically speed up development of their digital public infrastructure (DPI) projects – to as short as six weeks. The Centre for Digital Public Infrastructure (CDPI) together with EkStep Foundation will be launching a DPI-as-a-Packaged Solution (DaaS) pilot this summer, with a number of countries already onboard.


This approach puts forth DPI as a cloud-ready “plug-and-play” solution that any country can use, cutting down on long periods of procurement and implementation, according to a paper co-written by Pramod Varma, Chief Architect of India Stack, and other DPI experts for Carnegie India. 


Housed at India’s International Institute of Information Technology, CDPI is a small team of DPI builders from across the world that provides pro bono tech architecture advisory to help countries co-design localised solutions that can scale. 


CDPI plays a key role as an “orchestrator” matching countries, service providers, and funders, and providing technical advice, its Chief Strategy Officer Kamya Chandra says to GovInsider.


“We wanted to help countries stitch [the ecosystem] together in a way that gets them to their results faster,” she says. 

Plug-and-play: DPI-as-a-Packaged-Solution


To create DaaS products, service providers package open-source solutions developed by other countries and institutions, which are available via the Digital Public Goods Registry, along with programme kits, policy documents, and other support. 


This aims to help countries rapidly deploy DPI in three to six months, rather than over traditional IT procurement cycles which may take years. It also reduces the need for governments to build internal tech capacity for execution, as DaaS comes pre-built with service providers and open-source solutions, says Tanushka Vaid, Co Lead - DPI for Justice & DPI Training at CDPI. 


“We're trying to reduce the complexity for you to get started on a small-scale pilot,” says Chandra.


CDPI aims to support countries, both through the DaaS pilot and their other initiatives, to clear obstacles for the implementation of DPI. 

“We actually measure our progress through this Excel table called ‘Aha!’ moments,” she says.


“The way we measure success is: ‘Have we helped you solve a problem? Have you thought about something differently because of a conversation you had with us?’” This could involve helping them build new use cases or find the right partners. 

The DPI Residents Programme. Image: CDPI

Having driven the development of digital identity programmes in West Africa and open finance initiatives in India, Kamya shares that her most important lesson learnt is that “just because something has worked in one or two different contexts… doesn’t mean it’ll look the same elsewhere”. 


This is why the team works with countries on an individual basis to help them customise DPI solutions to various contexts. For instance, the team is tech-agnostic and happy to work with both open-source solutions and private vendors, depending on existing regulations.


They also run a DPI Wikipedia, which condenses DPI resources, and a DPI Residents Programme, which offers masterclasses and peer group sessions for leaders interested in developing and understanding DPI.


Subscribe to the GovInsider Bulletin for the latest public sector and innovation updates.

An ecosystem play


One critical aspect of DPI they impart to the leaders they work with is that DPI doesn’t refer to a set of tech solutions – rather, it is “an approach to solving socioeconomic problems at scale, a lens through which you view the world and create solutions,” says Chandra.


This is an approach founded on principles such as interoperability between systems, data minimalism, data federation, inclusion, and privacy, says Vaid. 


Vaid encourages leaders to think of DPI as railways that can facilitate both public and private innovation with tools like open APIs – much as highways are agnostic to both public buses and private cars. 


“If DPI is only enabling government-to-government interaction, it is not DPI, it is digitisation. DPI rails have to allow private participation, because that is how your economy will thrive,” she says. 


For example, two-thirds of members connected to Estonia’s data exchange are private players, and fintech players like Google Pay and Walmart-backed PhonePe connect to India’s UPI


Chandra similarly notes that key to DPI’s success is the ability to navigate politics, build coalitions and create value for everyone within an ecosystem. Rather than investing in apps and portals, DPI is an investment in ecosystem-wide standards and protocols, she says.


Much like anyone around the world can access the Internet through a standard protocol – HTTP – countries can standardise the core technical functions around payment ecosystems, identity systems, and secure data exchange. What changes is each country’s use cases, governance, and market players.


DPI also needs to be built for inclusion to support the vulnerable, says Vaid. UPI transactions are available to last-mile users with no Internet connectivity through secured phone calls, while Bangladesh makes its DPI services available via Digital Centres located near villages.

A small team


The small pro bono tech advisory team comprises members across India, Buenos Aires, New York, and Kenya. Many of these members include former and current builders of global DPI, which include Daniel Abadie, who drove Argentina’s digital identity and credentials programme.

CDPI is a global team comprised of current and former builders of DPI. Image: CDPI

Though India’s DPI experience provides valuable lessons, the CDPI is not an extension of the India Stack, notes Vaid. 


“We need to have a diversity of different experiences that inform advisory,” says Chandra.


“CDPI is just one partner [leaders] can take advice from, in addition to many other partners they can tap into, whether it’s funders, development partners, or others… pull in as much advice as you can, because it’s too important to get wrong.”


Looking ahead, the team shares that the DPI approach may soon go beyond payments, data exchange, and identity, and can bring together integrated, interoperable ecosystems in realms such as transportation, climate solutions, and justice systems.