In the western world, we often forget that we are fast becoming a smaller part of Internet users than we might like to think. Despite lower internet penetration, India and China already have more actual internet users and this number is growing at an outstanding rate.
Technology is seeping into every crack and crevice of our society. While some governments and government institutions are slow to adapt, others embrace the change — typically smaller nations such as Estonia (who I have written about on multiple occasions). But larger nations can find it harder to turn a ship around, and with a population of 1.2 billion, there are few smaller than India.
I discovered IndiaStack at a meetup earlier in the year, and whilst you may not have plans for creating applications that target the Indian market, the example of such a large government creating such a platform is an interesting one to learn more about.
As part of the Digital India initiative, IndiaStack takes a refreshing and different stance: Instead of providing discrete service you are forced to use, it provides APIs to create services on top of. It's broken into four separate APIs, and use cases I will detail each one.
Identity and Authentication
Aadhaar is at the core of India Stack, giving users a way to authenticate by proving their identity with an identification number that every citizen has and is tied to biometric information. Estonia has something similar with its identity card program, as have other governments. These programs are not without their problems and controversy, but in these early days, we have to learn from mistakes made. Aadhaar is the largest biometric identity system in the World, with 99% of adult Indians enrolled, equaling over one billion people.
Accessing User Details
Know Your Customer (KYC) is a common process that businesses follow to verify, identify, and evaluate potential customers. eKYC provides a paperless alternative to businesses looking to confirm certain details of potential users.
The ability to securely sign documents digitally has become increasingly common over the past five years — but often, proving that a signature belongs to a person is in the hands of third-party services that you may or may not trust. For countries that provide authentication services, it makes sense to also provide signature services, with hopefully more trustworthy attribution to a real person. eSign provides this functionality in collaboration with the authentication and KYC components of IndiaStack.
Secure Document Storage
Governments and other large bureaucratic institutions like to send us lots of bills and letters. If you already have digital means of identifying people, it also makes sense to communicate with them digitally and only allow particular users to open, read, and respond to documents. A Digital Locker is provided to every IndiaStack user, and its API allows organizations to send documents, and for users to upload their own documents to it.
Digital payments (especially from smartphones) are often more popular in "developing" countries than "developed" ones, providing financial power to regions and people that previously lacked them. The Unified Payment Interface (UPI) connects to users bank accounts and provides a way for businesses and other users to send payments to each other from a smartphone app.
Getting Started With IndiaStack
Great! You’re on board with digital government and building applications to engage with the lives of one of the most populous nations on the planet. Now what? This is unfortunately where IndiaStack falls flat. Some verbose documentation aside, it’s not clear how to build your own applications apart from contacting the team. I think this is mostly due to the complex process of signing up for access, but for a little more detail I recommend reading/watching these blog posts.