Digital Public Infrastructure

Digital public infrastructure is a critical enabler of digital transformation and can help improve public and private service delivery at scale

Digital public infrastructure is described as a set of shared digital systems that should be secure and interoperable, and can be built on open standards and specifications to deliver and provide equitable access to public and/or private services at societal scale and are governed by applicable legal frameworks and enabling rules to drive development, inclusion, innovation, trust, and competition and respect human rights and fundamental freedoms.

Country examples:

1. Unleashing digital government services: India’s Aadhaar

The Indian government decided to create a digital ID initiative as a way for citizens to access government services and generate digital payments and signatures. In 2009, Aadhaar was launched and is now the world’s largest biometric identity programme, used by over 90 % of Indians.

India’s approach to universal IDs prompted rapid enrolment and adoption. The CEO of Aadhaar estimated that the initiative saved the government about USD 10 billion over the course of 2.5 years. Given this success, in 2023, India launched a partnership to share its experiences with peer countries who are eager to learn.

Key takeaways: Estonia adopted a holistic and foundational approach, investing in building a strong technological base guided by national development priorities. The country’s open-source data solutions ensured more universal and affordable access, a bulwark against corruption.

2. Interoperable data exchange: Estonia’s X-Road

The journey to creating X-Road in Estonia—a centrally managed, open-source solution for data exchange between organizations in the public and private sector—began with the country’s investment in computer access and network infrastructure in the early 1990s. In 1994, the government published the first draft of its strategic outline for ICT development, and over the course of that decade rolled out its digital infrastructure programme, the Tiger Leap Initiative. Then in 2001, the government launched X-Road, followed by a digital ID system in 2002. Today, Estonia offers a roadmap to cut red tape and manage essential state services. E-government and digital signatures, which have been in place for more than 20 years, allow 99 % of public services to be conducted online, saving people an average of five working days and the government 2 % of GDP. Each year, over 1.5 billion inquiries are made through X-Road. All of this is made possible through Estonia’s adoption of a holistic approach of investing in a strong technological base guided by national development priorities.

Data sharing & Models

Digital and data components that enable secure data transfer (which adheres to privacy-centric approaches such as data minimization and audit trails) and focused data models that enable peer-to-peer and public data-sharing. Examples include APIs to open-for-reuse AI and machine learning models.