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What is the DPI Approach?

18 May 2023

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By: Rahul Matthan (Partner), Keyzom Ngodup Massally, and Rudra Chaudhuri (Co-authors)

This article was originally published by Carnegie India

The aim of this essay is to clarify how the DPI approach can be institutionalised while providing negotiators, diplomats, and technologists the language that is potentially necessary to define an idea whose time has come.

Digital public infrastructure (DPI) is a brand-new approach to the digitisation of large-scale systems. It has the potential to revolutionise the way in which public services are delivered, since it is much more than a software or a technology infrastructure—it is a framework that encompasses technology, markets, and governance. It offers nation states unprecedented agency over their own digital journeys. It is designed to ensure the sovereignty of core public services, enabling capabilities that are critical to national growth. Crucially, it helps governments unlock the power of market innovation and entrepreneurship, creating competition and strengthening local and potentially global digital ecosystems.

Certain properties of DPI are instinctively understood in nations that have adopted the approach, even if they themselves do not as yet use the abbreviation “DPI.” Whether it is Brazil, Estonia, or India, there is an intuitive appreciation for the vast potential of DPI. Yet, for many parts of the world, this language is only beginning to be understood in its entirety.

This essay intends to describe the DPI approach. It is authored from the perspective of building bridges of understanding between communities, countries, and global institutions invested in interoperable and life-changing systems for the delivery of public service at scale. DPI is a relatively new theory of change. The language around DPI is only now being constructed for global absorption. Whether it is at the G20 or in bilateral negotiations between countries, this approach and the language that defines it are only now being established. The aim of this essay is to clarify how the DPI approach can be institutionalised while providing negotiators, diplomats, and technologists the language that is potentially necessary to define an idea whose time has come.

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