Describing data as the “new oil”, Infosys co-founder Nandan Nilekani today said India has a chance to build a completely new paradigm as he made a strong pitch for democratising data so that it is available to everybody and not just a few organisations. Nilekani was speaking on the day that Reliance Industries chief Mukesh Ambani launched the Reliance Jio phone (JioPhone) effectively priced at zero with a security deposit of Rs 1500 that would be refundable after 3 year when the feature phone is returned.
“Data has become the new oil. Just like oil was the basis for transformation of the 20th century, data is the basis for 21st century. “But it is very important that if data is the new oil, then data is democratised (and) that data is available to everybody to use,” Nilekani said in his address at the 54th convocation of Indian Institute of Technology, Madras (IIT-M). What kind of policies the country has on data is very important and it has to be made sure that all this “massive data that is going to get created is not just in a few pockets of organisations but everybody has access to that”, he noted.
“In India, we have a chance to do that, thanks to the technology we have and what that means is that a consumer can get his own data to get a better loan, better health care, education. A business can use data to get better credit or better business. “So therefore, if data is the new oil, and if we can restructure data to benefit every individual and every business, then we can lead to enormous amount of activity and economic growth. So we have a chance to build a completely new paradigm on data which no other country can do,” he said. Nilekani, former Chairman of the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), said India, due to its “digital explosion”, was on the verge of enormous change which would create massive opportunities.
Over the last eight years, India has built a very sophisticated stack of software tools which a billion people can access, he said.
“It is based on everybody having a unique ID, the Aadhaar number. You can use that for doing authentication wherever you are (using) your phone, you can use that for doing a KYC (Know Your Customer) which allows you to open a bank account or get a SIM card. It allows you to electronically sign and store documents and it allows to access your own data,” he said. Such systems were now available at a ‘scale’ in India, he said, adding the Aadhaar system on June 30 did four crore authentications even as the direct cash transfer system built using the unique ID has crossed two billion transactions in the last three years.
These were really “large national scale systems” that have been built in India and will allow creating a new class of solutions, that would be dramatically cheaper than anything being done today. India was also building systems which were creating national level platforms for many things and the GST Network was a good example of this, he said. “We have talked about the GST and its impact on a single market and so on but it is also a huge source of data.
“Because, for the first time in India, eight million businesses will be on one platform, because earlier those who paid excise duty or VAT, they will all be on one platform. So all the taxpayers in India, the business taxpayers who pay indirect tax, they have to file invoice line item level returns into the GST network. “So if you have 8 million businesses in India who do 120 line items a month, we are talking about a minimum of one billion line items that are going to be recorded every month in the GST system.
“So suddenly you will have data on a billion transactions a month across the country for every product and service that is being transacted. This is a huge, huge move forward,” he said. This data will allow getting a real time sense of the economy, because there will be information on a daily or weekly basis whether the economy was growing or not and which regions were doing well and so on, he said. Digital transactions can also be used to avail credit. “Suddenly eight million businesses will become eligible for credit as companies will be able to demonstrate their performance, and there are many other such systems coming up,” he said.