Report
Public Tech
December 22, 2023

Proposing a Sector-based Handbook for Digital Ecosystems in India

This sector-based handbook outlines a guiding set of prompts to facilitate thinking and discussion between policymakers, researchers and other stakeholders on some of the nuances associated with the digital ecosystem.
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Proposing a Sector-based Handbook for Digital Ecosystems in India
illustration by:
Neeti Banerji

Following the release of the government’s white paper on National Digital Ecosystems (NODEs), the state articulated a strategy to develop various sectoral digital ecosystems that can assist in ensuring smoother and more efficient service delivery. Despite much policy optimism towards this approach, newly emerging data has questioned the suitability of this approach and identified potential risks associated with adopting a heavily technology-reliant means of service delivery. With this in mind DFL has developed a handbook that outlines a guiding set of prompts to facilitate thinking and discussion between policymakers, researchers and other stakeholders on some of these nuances associated with the digital ecosystem approach in India.

The framing of ‘Digital Ecosystems’ - i.e. a network of actors and sectoral regulation built around a technological intervention with the purpose of facilitating public service delivery - has emerged as a feature of modern Indian policymaking. Digital Ecosystems have been introduced and are operational in the payments and healthcare sectors, with proposals looking to implement ecosystems across agriculture, education, etc. While the narrative around these ecosystems has focused heavily on their proposed benefits, little attention has been paid to the suitability of such an approach to addressing sectoral policy problems or the risks associated with the introduction of technological interventions as part of public service delivery.

This handbook outlines a guiding set of prompts to facilitate thinking and discussion between policymakers, researchers and other stakeholders on some of these nuances associated with the digital ecosystem. Its purpose is twofold: i) to function as an ex-ante tool to help guide stakeholders through important considerations as they look to introduce or develop these ecosystems and, ii) in instances wherein digital ecosystems have already been implemented, the framework can be modified to function as a set of prompts to guide an ex-post analysis.

The framework has been divided into three segments. The first segment looks to determine whether the identified sector possesses the requisite characteristics to be conducive towards a digital ecosystem approach. The second segment takes stock of existing policy issues within the sector and analyses how the proposed ecosystem looks to address them. The final segment examines the specific technological interventions that constitute the ecosystem and assesses their suitability, governing frameworks and potential risks.

The framework is underpinned by numerous considerations across three categories: i) Technology, ii) Governance and, iii) Community

  • Technology: Openness, Interoperability, Modularity, Scalability, Privacy, Security, Scope and Evidence Driven 
  • Governance: Accountability, Transparency, Data Governance, Grievance Redressal, Community Participation, Financing 
  • Community: Inclusiveness, Engagement

Beyond outlining a series of prompts and questions, the report also provides a template that can be used to provide practical assistance to stakeholders who are looking to develop or assess a digital ecosystem. The report also outlines a proposed evidence matrix to help stakeholders better understand the nature and applicability of identified evidence in the context of the sectoral digital ecosystem.

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Neeti Banerji
illustration by:
Neeti Banerji

Proposing a Sector-based Handbook for Digital Ecosystems in India

This sector-based handbook outlines a guiding set of prompts to facilitate thinking and discussion between policymakers, researchers and other stakeholders on some of the nuances associated with the digital ecosystem.

Following the release of the government’s white paper on National Digital Ecosystems (NODEs), the state articulated a strategy to develop various sectoral digital ecosystems that can assist in ensuring smoother and more efficient service delivery. Despite much policy optimism towards this approach, newly emerging data has questioned the suitability of this approach and identified potential risks associated with adopting a heavily technology-reliant means of service delivery. With this in mind DFL has developed a handbook that outlines a guiding set of prompts to facilitate thinking and discussion between policymakers, researchers and other stakeholders on some of these nuances associated with the digital ecosystem approach in India.

The framing of ‘Digital Ecosystems’ - i.e. a network of actors and sectoral regulation built around a technological intervention with the purpose of facilitating public service delivery - has emerged as a feature of modern Indian policymaking. Digital Ecosystems have been introduced and are operational in the payments and healthcare sectors, with proposals looking to implement ecosystems across agriculture, education, etc. While the narrative around these ecosystems has focused heavily on their proposed benefits, little attention has been paid to the suitability of such an approach to addressing sectoral policy problems or the risks associated with the introduction of technological interventions as part of public service delivery.

This handbook outlines a guiding set of prompts to facilitate thinking and discussion between policymakers, researchers and other stakeholders on some of these nuances associated with the digital ecosystem. Its purpose is twofold: i) to function as an ex-ante tool to help guide stakeholders through important considerations as they look to introduce or develop these ecosystems and, ii) in instances wherein digital ecosystems have already been implemented, the framework can be modified to function as a set of prompts to guide an ex-post analysis.

The framework has been divided into three segments. The first segment looks to determine whether the identified sector possesses the requisite characteristics to be conducive towards a digital ecosystem approach. The second segment takes stock of existing policy issues within the sector and analyses how the proposed ecosystem looks to address them. The final segment examines the specific technological interventions that constitute the ecosystem and assesses their suitability, governing frameworks and potential risks.

The framework is underpinned by numerous considerations across three categories: i) Technology, ii) Governance and, iii) Community

  • Technology: Openness, Interoperability, Modularity, Scalability, Privacy, Security, Scope and Evidence Driven 
  • Governance: Accountability, Transparency, Data Governance, Grievance Redressal, Community Participation, Financing 
  • Community: Inclusiveness, Engagement

Beyond outlining a series of prompts and questions, the report also provides a template that can be used to provide practical assistance to stakeholders who are looking to develop or assess a digital ecosystem. The report also outlines a proposed evidence matrix to help stakeholders better understand the nature and applicability of identified evidence in the context of the sectoral digital ecosystem.

Browse categories

Scroll right